This past week is one of the most important race weeks for domestic skiers every year; all international start spots from the junior level all the way up to World Cup and World Championship level are decided. To make things even more exciting, the Canadians joined in on the racing at U.S. Nationals, resulting in over 600 racers total! That is one of the largest fields ever at U.S. Nationals.
Not only is U.S. Nationals the qualifier for important races later on the season, this year it was an opportunity to practice on the World Junior Championship/U23 World Championship venue and courses that are also being held in Solider Hollow, Utah in 2 weeks. This is the first time in over 30 years where the U.S. had held these championships because it is usually held in Europe somewhere, so this is something really special. Also, this is venue and courses that were raced at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics! To top it off, the Park City area is one of my favorite places to train and race, and at this point, feels like another home to me.
For me, this past week was my chance to qualify for World Junior Championships as well as getting familiar with the new courses. This was my fourth time racing at Soldier Hollow, and one of many times in the area, but the courses are new to me. I ended up sitting out the first race since I had been battling a cold since my return back from Germany and I wanted to ensure that I was able to at least race the sprint. Although I hate skipping races, I played the patience game and waited until the next day to race so that I could pushed myself towards healthy side of things.
On day 2 was the classic sprint, my favorite event and also something I was really looking forward to doing since I knew that the course will be the exact same for World Junior Championships. There is so much to learn about a sprint course and you can truly only do it by making mistakes in the heats and learning from them. The weather was our wax techs worst nightmare, around 32 degrees, a mix of rain, sleet, snow, and ice pellets, but they still crushed it! Although my prelim was not as great as I was hoping for, it was not bad for feeling flat. I quickly kicked things into gear in my quarterfinal, feeling much more explosive energetic than the qualifier, moving on to the semis. In the semi final, I just didn’t quite have the energy mentally and physically to kick it in to gear early enough, and I made my move once it was too late. Although I was disappointed with how I skied the semi final, my result still ended up being my best ever Nationals results of 7th, as 5th American on the day. I took away a lot of mental notes to keep in mind for the sprint at World Juniors and ended up with a great result, especially for how I was feeling.
We got one day off before our last World Juniors qualification race, a 7.5km classic mass start…also one of my favorites! There were over 140 starters just in our juniors race which was pretty crazy! I started off the race nice and controlled, with my plan just to ski behind the leader and relax until the end. However, my plan did not go at all as planned. On the big climb on the first lap out of two, I suddenly pulled away from the pack without the intention to. At the top I decided I might as well keep the ball rolling and continue to ski well. It was another tricky day of skiing, with the tracks all wiped out from the other 3 races before us, leaving us mushy, wet snow. I focused primarily on technique during the race, standing tall and keeping a narrow herringbone when needed so that I wouldn’t bog down too much. Around the second lap I started to feel consequences of an unintended fast first lap, but I just continued to focus on skiing relaxed and smooth to the finish.
The last day of racing was not of much importance for me because nothing was on the line, but it was still good practice. We only did a skate sprint qualifier, and once again the weather started to throw a curve ball and start dumping snow right before the race. A huge shout out to my coach Pat, the SMS coaches Jeremy and Boobar, and Caldwell Sport (Zach, Amy, Steve, and Gunner) for making us some kick ass skis all week in the hardest conditions possible! They truly work harder than anyone out there and I am forever grateful!
Overall, the week went pretty well for me. I qualified for World Juniors and put up some encouraging results. Although on paper my results were good, I feel like I have more put out there and I am looking forward to the races in Truckee, CA this weekend so I have a chance do that! I am in Truckee for a week now and then I head right back to Park City, UT for World Juniors pre camp with only 2 short weeks away until the races start! It is time for some last minute tune-ups before I start to chill before my biggest races of the season!