Nationals Distance Race

Corner Brook, Newfoundland The last day of Canadian Nationals started bright and early at 9am with the senior men’s competition. The day being the long-distance event, the men raced a 50k, women and junior men a 30k and junior women a 20k, all mass-starts. With skiers already having completed three other races this week, some doing four with the team relay, the distance race is not only a good indicator of endurance and pure race-fitness but also a test of who has recovered the best throughout the week of racing.

Newfoundland came through with some pretty exciting weather for the final race. Blowing snow was the name of the game for most of the morning and made for interesting conditions for the competitors.

Ivan leads the senior men
Senior Men
Fighting through the snow the senior men stayed in a pretty big pack for the first two-thirds of the race until Ivan Babikov, of the Canadian World Cup team and Foothills Nordic, pulled ahead to win the 50k with a 40 second gap on second place.
Second place finisher Kevin Sandau of The Alberta World Cup Academy and the NST answered some comments on the race and about his experience at Nationals this year. 
2nd place –Kevin Sandau
1)What was your race plan going into the 50k? Stick with the pack? Push the pace and string things out?
“I didn’t want to have a relaxed and passive pace for much of the 50km. Sometimes 50’s just aren’t hard enough until the last 10-15km, so they end bunching up quite a bit, and it can get frustrating and sketchy skiing with a big pack like that. I took my turns in the front, kept the pace high. When Ivan attacked on the second last lap a group of three of us tried to pull him back, but well he sort of crushed it that lap and put some big time into us.”
2)Looks like you had a pretty good week of racing. How do you feel about your performance this year at Nationals?
“Best national’s for me by far. I was actually most nervous about the team sprint and defending Foothills Nordic’s gold medal streak in that race. Also it was the first time I did the sprint race since maybe 2009 at National’s and I managed to sneak into the A-final, so I was pretty excited about that.”
3)How many Nationals podiums do your currently have to your name? How many titles?
“Seven podiums including two team sprints titles. The National Champ title still eludes me in an individual event, but I did grab this year’s overall title so pretty pumped for that.”
4)I hear you are racing at the Alberta Cup “Shark-fest” final. Safe to say that this upcoming set of races is your big focus for the season?
“Pretty much the biggest focus. You’re only as good as your last race, right? And I figure it will be some good motivation to ski on the weekend.”

Top 10 Senior
1) Ivan Babikov, Foothills-NST
2) Kevin Sandau, Foothills-AWCA-NST
3) Graham Nishikawa, Whitehorse-NST
4) Andy Shields, Lappe-NDC TBay
5) Graeme Killick, Ptarmigan-AWCA-NST
6) Knute Johnsgaard, Whitehorse-Yukon Elite
7) Colin Abbott, Whitehorse-Yukon Elite
8) Frédéric Touchette, Laval
9) Michael Somppi, AWCA-NST
10) Colin Ferrie, Kimberley
Emily skis to the front in the senior women’s start
Senior Women
The senior women’s race played out quite differently. Amanda Ammar of Canmore and Team Ninja broke the pack early on, with only Emily Nishikawa of Whitehorse being able to match her. These two skiers worked together, opening up a big gap over third place skier Chisa Obayashi of Madshus Japan, until Ammar pulled ahead in the final laps to take the win with a 54 second gap over Nishikawa.
Amanda Ammar took a moment to answer some questions on her performance in the races this past week.
1st place –Amanda Ammar
1)You really broke the field pretty early on in the race. Was that your game-plan before hand or did you decide off the start-line that you felt great and you’d just go for it?
“Winning the Nationals 30km was a goal of mine all year, but obviously not the most important. Olympics was first  And yes, it’s always boss to break a field in a long distance event…i.e.. Johan Olsson’s boss move in the 50km at World Champs. So breaking the field was always in the back of my head, but you can only make that decision really on the day of….you need to gage your energy and that day I felt awesome in my warmup, so it was an easy game plan. The simplest really! As a distance skier, I absolutely hate tactics, and would love to have the luxury of always just blasting off the start.”
2)It looks like you’ve put down some really solid races at Nationals this season. Do you think that your experience at the Olympics put you in a good place physically for Nationals or do you think that you went into Nationals pretty fatigued?
“The Olympics was physically and mentally exhausting. Leading up to the Olympics was stressful for me with the appeals,  Brittany and I had a horrible travel schedule, and then while traveling to Sochi the airline company broke most of my skis. So I wasn’t in the best headspace. It was hard to enjoy at some times cause I was just that exhausted. That being said, the Olympic course was one of the most challenging that I have ever raced on. After completing all of my events, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and confidence. I knew if I could start and finish a race on that grueling course, then it would be an absolute piece of cake on any other course. 
   When I got home from the Olympics I was pretty toast. I had no desire to go to Nationals, but I  knew that once I got there that my frame of mind would change, and that I would have fun no matter what. So did I have energy going into nationals? NO, but does anybody really??? It’s a long season, especially an Olympic season. We are all tired, and I feel that every athlete is in the same boat.”
3)Any thoughts about your Nationals races this year? The 30k was your first Nationals title, correct?
“I couldn’t be more excited about my results at Nationals this year. A Ninja winning the nationals aggregate?!!! SO STOKED!! This is the first time I have ever medalled as a senior, and I managed to get top 5 in every race! In 2012, I was 9mins and 30secs behind in the 30km classic event, so that is just one example of how far I’ve come in 3 years. These results mean so much to me in that I’ve always wanted to be a positive role model for the young women coming up in sport.
 These last 3 years I’ve done it my way, no carding, no national/development team, no rules!! hahaha! Chris and I made the training plan, and worked together with other athletes in the bow valley. We kept it sublimely simple.”

Top 10 Senior
1)Amanda Ammar, Canmore Nordic-Team Ninja
2)Emily Nishikawa, Whitehorse AWCA-NST
3)Chisa Obayashi, Madshus Japan
4)Brittany Webster, Highland Trailblazer
5)Alysson Marshall, Larch Hills-AWCA-NST
6)Erin Tribe, Team Hardwood-NDC TBay/Lakehead
7)Anne-Marie Comeau, M.S.A.-CNEPH-NST
8)Heidi Widmer, Foothills-AWCA-NST
9)Kendra Murray, Carleton-Whitehorse
10)Marlis Kromm, AWCA-Foothills

Scott (left) and Colin lead the Junior race
Junior Men
In the junior men’s 30k it was NDC T-Bay that ruled the roost once again, taking the top 3 podium spots. Pulling off his 3rd National title this season Scott Hill, also of Team Hardwood, raced to victory in a very decisive 1 minute 51 second win over the rest of the field. His NDC teammates Evan Palmer-Charrette, of Lappe Nordic, and Nakkertok skier Ben Wilkinson-Zan rounded out the podium in 2nd and 3rd places respectively.

Top 10 Junior
1)Scott Hill, Team Hardwood-NDC TBay/Lakehead
2)Evan Palmer-Charrette, Lappe-NDC TBay
3)Benjamin Wilkinson-Zan, Nakkertok-NDC TBay
4)Alexis Dumas, Skibec-QCST
5)Colin Foley, Nakkertok-CVTC
6)Julien Lamoureux, Montériski-QCST/Cégep Édouard-Montpetit
7)Conor Thompson, Montériski-QCST/Cégep Édouard-Montpetit
8)Nicholas Pigeon, Skinouk
9)Gavin Shields, Lappe
10)David Askwith, Georgian Bay

Sorry about no junior women photo… my phone died before I could take a picture of them.

Junior Women
Much like in the senior women’s race the skiers of the junior women’s competition got spread out pretty early on. This made for a mentally challenging race as most of the competitors pushed through the pain alone for much of the 20k distance.
Upsetting this trend the top 3 skiers, Dahria Beatty of the AWCA and Whitehorse, Katherine Stewart-Jones of Nakkertok and Annah Hanthorn of Whitehorse, worked together for much of the race setting up a comfortable lead on the other racers. In the 3rd of 4 laps Stewart-Jones and Beatty slowly pulled away from Hanthorn and the last lap became a two-skier battle. 
In the hills on the last lap Dahria Beatty pulled away to take her 2nd National title this season.

Top 10 Junior
1)Dahria Beatty, Whitehorse-AWCA
2)Katherine Stewart-Jones, Nakkertok Nordique
3)Annah Hanthorn, Whitehorse-YTST
4)Frédérique Vézina, M.S.A.-CNEPH
5)Sophie Carrier-Laforte, Skinouk-QCST
6)Jennifer Jackson, Team Hardwood-NDC TBay/Lakehead
7)Emilie Stewart-Jones, Nakkertok Nordique
8)Sarah Beaudry, Caledonia
9)Maya Macisaac-Jones, RMR-CNEPH
10)Ember Large, Edmonton

Thanks to Kevin and Amanda for the comments today and congratulations to all the athletes who took place in this week’s event!!
For full results see Zone4

Dream Big.

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