Haywood NorAm Canadian Eastern Championships, Buff Sprints and Paranordic Nationals
Paralympic hopefuls join other elite athletes to warm up at the Haywood NorAm Canadian Eastern Championships, Buff Sprints and Paranordic Nationals January 31 – February 1, 2014. As the largest Olympic-style competition in Canada, this event draws athletes from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon. Skiers bound for Canada’s national nordic races are looking for a last chance to compete against other top level skiers before meeting again on the race courses of Corner Brook, Newfoundland in March of this year at the Haywood Ski Nationals. The weekend, doubling as the start to Winterlude in Ottawa, features the Haywood Para-Nordic Nationals, the original date having had to be rescheduled so as not to conflict with the Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Para-Nordic skiers like Robbi Weldon, a standing skier led by Graham Nishikawa (who himself came close to attending the Sochi Olympics), Margarita Gorbounova, also a standing skier, and sit-skier Yves Bourque, have come to participate in this national event in Cantley, Quebec, working toward a hopeful nomination to the Olympic team, to be formally announced later in February of 2014. Local contenders from the Ottawa-Outaouais region are making their presence known on the national stage. With membership in cross-country ski clubs exploding, the region has become a centre of skiing excellence. Recently, a number of its athletes were nominated to the Junior National Team, among other achievements. Key Results – Friday January 31, 2014 Recent cold weather that has gripped most of Ontario the past few weeks gave way to more hospitable conditions as Ottawa-Outaouais region played host to the 2014 Haywood NorAm Canadian Eastern Championships, Buff Sprints and Para-Nordic Nationals with relatively warm -2 conditions. Friday, January 31 was the sprint event for the open and junior men and women, while the younger categories participated in a 3km Prologue later in the day. With notable skiers such as Lenny Valjas, and Perianne Jones already off to Sochi, Russia for the Olympics and not able to compete at this event, some of Canada’s up-and-coming stars had the chance to shine. Raphael Couturier, of C. N. Skibec, absolutely crushed the 1.5km qualifier as he won in a time of 3:20, 5 seconds faster than the next racer. Local talent qualifying in the top 30 to advance to the heats includes Ezekiel Williams, Dominique Moncion-Groulx, both of Nakkertok, Nicholas Pigeon, of Skinouk, Yannick Lapierre, of Nakkertok, Simon Lapointe, of Skinouk, Alexis Morin, C. N. of Skibec, Alexis Turgeon, of Skinouk, and Colin Foley, of Nakkertok. The Ottawa-Outaouais region is a mecca for cross country skiing, with many talented athletes. On the women’s side, Andrea Dupont, from the Rocky Mountain Racers, cruised in with the fastest qualifying time for 1.4km in 3.44, only one second faster than the next racer. Again, the Ottawa-Outaouais region was well represented with Alexandra Slobodian, Emilie Stewart-Jones, Gabrielle Lemire, Ingrid Hagberg, Sheila Kealey, Andrée-Anne Théberge, Holly Brown, Zoe Williams, and Liza Rozina all qualifying in the top 30 to advance to the heats. A certain amount of strategy is needed in the heats as pure speed is no longer guaranteed to help racers advance. The easy waxing conditions made for fast racing and the race course was hard-packed. This meant that the stronger skiers could really use their strength and hammer down on those poles, with no fear of poking through soft snow. It was a tough race course, having the racers go up the same massive hill twice before rounding a fairly technical turn and into the finishing straight, where racers must again push their limits and finish strongly. Raphael Couturier, of C. N. Skibec, did not tire from his earlier performance as he continued on to win the A final. Graham Nishikawa, of Whitehorse XC, and Michael Somppi, a Lappe Nordic racer, rounded out the podium. Alysson Marshall, representing Larch Hills Nordic, and Andrea Dupont, representing Rocky Mountain Racers, switched spots after the qualfier as Alysson managed to turn it on in the heats and narrowly win the A final. Andrea Dupont was second and Erin Tribe, of Team Hardwood, beat out three other women in a photo finish to round out the podium. The Para-Nordic events took place with some notable names in attendance. Summer and winter Paralympic athlete Robbi Weldon, of Lappe Nordic, took first place in the 1.25km standing skate race with a time of 3.26. Local Ottawa-Outaouais skiers, Margarita Gorbounova of Kanata Nordic and Caroline Bisson of Chelsea Nordiq, were close behind as they finished in a strong 2nd and 3rd place respectively. In the men’s 1.25km standing skate race, Kanata Nordic’s own Alexi Novikov took first place as he blitzed in with a time of 3:17. Louis Fortin, representing Wostawea, and Gabriel Denis, of Temiskaming Nordic, rounded out the podium. In the women’s 0.8km sit-ski event, Tanya Quesnel, of Walden Nordic, and Ana Lucas Osma, of Alberta University Nordic, rounded the course in very fast times as they enjoyed the fast track conditions. Tanya finished with a time of 3:01, while Ana finished with a time of 3:27. In the men’s 0.8km sit-ski event, Yves Bourque, of Mauriski, and Caelan Flannigan, of Temiskaming Nordic, set some very fast times as they finished in times of 2:31 and 3:44 respectively. The sit-skiers did not have an easy course. As an interesting aside, Graham Nishikawa appeared on the trails for a third time since yesterday, skiing as a guide for Robbi Weldon in the Paranordic 1.25km skate race, missing his podium appearance for the Men’s Open Skate race in order to do so. He has also recently been named as the back up guide for Brian McKeever, Canada’s multi-gold medallist who is already in Europe. All in all, the first day of Easterns set the bar high with phenomenal snow conditions, sunshine and a record 700+ athletes! Lots of spectators, parents, and coaches were out cheering the racers. It made for a perfect and festive atmosphere. Key Results – Saturday February 1, 2014 The second day of this prestigious nordic racing event began with huge numbers of racers in each category. The Midget category alone included over 140 contestants. Eleven of these young competitors finished in the top 30 of their category. Wide smiles spread across the faces of many finishers. Their enthusiasm fuelled the crowd of spectators which lined the route, ringing cow bells and cheering for each level of the Middle-Distance Free Technique races. Paranordic races began the day with both Standing and Sit Ski categories in which the skiers attacked the trails with determination. Yves Bourque, Robbi Weldon and Margarita Gorbounova, all Olympic hopefuls, made the podium in their respective races. As the morning progressed with freestyle races, the Juvenile and Junior girls and boys faced more demanding and lengthier courses than those of yesterday. The course partitions were increasingly lined with doffed colourful warm up gear as racers moved through the start line. The Juvenile 7.5km male race had 7 top thirty local finishers, and the Juvenile 5 km female race had 10 top thirty local finishers, both categories representing a field of over 160 racers. In the Junior events, the male 7.5km freestyle race and the female 5km race respectively included 8 and 7 local top 30 finishers from among the field of over 140 skiers. Special mention should be made of Alison Pouw, a local Nakkertok racer who won the Juvenile 5km race with a time of 14:44.4. These were very big cohorts of competitors from which to emerge. Congratulations to everyone. Mayor Madeleine Brunette of Cantley, Quebec attended today’s races to present the awards to these Juvenile and Junior winners. She expressed her admiration for the quality of competition and the impressive facilities seen today at the Nakkertok Nordic Centre. She also expressed her commitment to making outdoor sports, winter and summer, even more popular among her constituents. As the Open Women’s 10km Freestyle race began, the weather which had favoured the racers on both days, changed. Snow began to fall and those who were working hard in the waxing tents went to work intently. New snow is welcome whenever it comes, but when it arrives during a race, quick changes in waxing and strategy need to occur. A new buzz definitely filled the air as racing rounded a corner and presented new challenges for those competing in the longest races of the day. Stay tuned to learn tomorrow how both the Open Men and the Open Women fared under these new conditions.
Key Results – Sunday February 2, 2014 For those who had skied the fast courses of the past two days, the cover of new snow which fell steadily throughout the night created different racing challenges. Trail groomers did an excellent job preparing trails under the new conditions for a third busy day. The most striking feature of the day was the energy pulsing through the athletes, from the colourful chevrons of each mass start through to the do-or-die double-poling of each finish. They were truly an impressive sight. The temperature was perfect for spectators and athletes alike, with many close finishes creating high excitement – competition at its best. The day’s events opened with the Open Men’s Classic 20km race. In the Senior category, Graham Nishikawa of Whitehorse XC completed his sweep of 2014 Eastern’s top honours after pulling away from the competition during the last 5 km of the race to open up a 30 second lead. Presenting Graham his award on Sunday was Deputy Premier Elaine Taylor, Yukon Territories. It was a heartwarming sight to see Yukon athletes congratulated by their representative. The race for second saw a thrilling ski-by-ski final sprint between Big Thunder’s Christopher Hamilton and Lappe Nordic’s Michael Somppi, with Somppi surging in the final metres to take the race by only one-tenth second. Kevin Sandau of Foothills Nordic took fourth and Colin Abbott of Whitehorse XC took fifth. In the Junior A category, Lappe Nordic’s Evan Palmer Charette laid down a very fast final lap to take first place, with Colin Foley of Nakkertok taking second and Julien Lamoureux of Montériski holding off Sam Morris of Hollyburn XC and Nicholas Pigeon of Skinouk for third. On the local front, two Ottawa-Outaouais skiers, Yannick Lapierre and Steffan Lloyd were top-10 finishers in the 20km Open Men’s Classic, with Zeke Williams and Dominique Moncion-Groulx, also of Nakkertok, finishing 13th and 20th. Karl Saidla of XC Ottawa finished 19th, and from Skinouk, Nicholas Pigeon, finished 25th, while Alexis Turgeon was 29th. Carleton University’s Peter Beisel came in 27th. Congratulations to these skiers who pushed to the fore of 113 competitors. In the Open Women’s Classic 15km Senior category, Larch Hills Nordic’s Senior women Alysson Marshall, Rocky Mountain Racers’ Andrea Dupont and Foothills Nordic’s Zoe Roy opened up a small gap between themselves and the field early in the race and gradually widened it to more than a minute to finish first, second and third, respectively, all within 9 seconds. The race for fourth place could not have been closer, with Alannah Maclean of Walden Nordic and Erin Tribe of Team Hardwood racing to a dead heat photo finish. On the Junior A side, Ember Large of Edmonton Nordic out-sprinted Nakkertok’s Emilie Stewart-Jones to take first place, and Andrée-Anne Théberge of C.N. Skibec skied to third place. Théberge’s teammate Gabrielle Lemire took fourth and Sadie White from Big Thunder Nordic outpaced Holly Brown of Nakkertok for fifth. Ottawa-Outaouais region was well-represented in the overall rankings of this Open Women’s Classic race by Emilie Stewart-Jones, of Nakkertok, continuing her impressive comeback with a top-ten finish. Look for her story in Le Doit. Sheila Kealey, of XC Ottawa, known as a skier extraordinaire and dedicated coach to young ski racers in this region, was not far behind in 12th place. Nine of the top-30 racers were Ottawa-Outaouais athletes. Para-Nordic racers came from across Canada to this Championship, hailing from New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, and Alberta. In the Para-Nordic Standing Classic (F) 7.5km, Margarita Gorbounova, from Kanata Nordic was the top finisher, guided by Emily Ertol. Margarita was joined as a first place finisher by fellow Kanata Nordic racer Alexei Novikov, winner of the Para-Nordic Standing Classic (M) 10km race. In the Para-Nordic Sit-Ski Classic (M) 7.5km Yves Bourque, of Mauriski, finished first and Caelan Flannigan, of Temiskaming Nordic, came second. In the Para-Nordic Sit-Ski Classic (F) 3.75km, Tanya Quesnel was first, followed by Ana Lucas Osma, from Alberta University Nordic. The Junior B Classic (M) 15km saw Caelan McLean of Whitehorse XC, Phillippe Boucher of C.N. Skibec, both in just their first year in the category, ski together until the last half-lap when McLean pressed for advantage to open up a gap and Boucher took a fall in pursuit. McLean skied on for a decisive win while Boucher recovered quickly and held off a charging Joey Foster of Team Hardwood. The category results split by year were as follows: Second year: Foster (Team Hardwood), Antoine Hébert (Montériski), Edouard Reed-Metayer (C.N. Skibec); First year: McLean (Whitehorse XC), Boucher (C.N. Skibec), Antoine Blais (C.N. Skibec). Ottawa-Outaouais top-20 finishers included: William Dumas, of Chelsea Nordiq, and Brendan Howard, Marcus Nussbaum, Maks Zechel, and Julian Alexander-Cook of Nakkertok. In the Junior B Classic (F) 10 km, Isabella Howden of Team Hardwood took top honours, followed by Laurence Dumais of Fondeurs-Laurentides and Delphine Duvernay Tardif of Monterski. The category results split by year were as follows: Second year: Howden (Team Hardwood), Tardif (Monterski), Camille Hamm (Big Thunder Nordic); First year: Dumais (Fondeurs-Laurentides), Marie Corriveau (Club Nordique MSA); Laura Leclair (Chelsea Nordique). Top-20 finishers from the Ottawa-Outaouais region included Laura Leclair, and Leanne Weller of Chelsea Nordiq, and Alyssa Stowe, Zoe Williams, and Claire Grall-Johnson of Nakkertok. In the Juvenile Classic (M) 10km category, Antoine Laforte of C.N. Skibec skied to first, edging out Levi Nadlersmith of Downtown Nordic by a mere 1.8 seconds. Etienne Hébert of Montériski finished a close third. In the Juvenile Classic (F) 7.5 km, teammates Alison Pouw and Katherine Marshall of Nakkertok sprinted to a close finish, with Pouw winning by only 1.5 seconds. Heidi Ohrling of Highland Trailblazers took third. In the Midget 5km categories, Finn Dodgson of Team Hardwood, Sebastien Gingras of Soo Finnish Nordic and Malcolm Thompson of Georgian Nordic skied to top places in that order on the boys’ side, while Rosalie Vermette of Fondeurs-Laurentides, Anne-Catherine Blais of C.N. Skibec and Kailey Young of Nakkertok did the same on the girls’ side. Juvenile female racers from the Ottawa-Outaouais area continued their dominant performance. Seven of the top 20 were represented by Nakkertok: Alison Pouw, Katherine Marshall, Bronwyn Williams, Reilley McClure, Tove Halvorsen, Hanna Smith, Shelby Howard, and Chelsea Nordiq’s Alia Sanger. Watch for these young skiers in the years to come: Juvenile males, with 78 racers competing, had broad geographic representation among the top 10 finishers, including athletes from Quebec, Alberta, Ontario, Yukon, B.C., Newfoundland and Labrador, and Manitoba. Local area athletes within the top 20 were: Antoine Cyr Benjamin Turgeon, both of Skinouk, and Pierre Grall-Johnson, Mitchell Slobodian, and Nicholas Schute, all of Nakkertok. Conditions during the Open 15km Men’s and 10km Women’s Freestyle courses Saturday afternoon had changed quickly, with contenders for the podium facing the added challenge of fresh falling snow. In the Men’s race, Graham Nishikawa of Whitehorse XC finished first in a field of 130 racers, crossing the finish line 13 seconds before Raphael Couturier, of C. N. Skibec, and Michael Somppi, of Lappe Nordic followed in third place less than 20 seconds later. In the Women’s race, Andrea Dupont, of Rocky Mountain Racers, took first place with Zoe Roi, of Foothills Nordic, in second, and Erin Tribe, of Team Hardwood, edging out Alana Maclean, of Walden Nordic for third. Four racers from the Ottawa-Outaouais region ranked in the top 20 of Saturday’s Open Men’s category: Ezekiel Williams, of Nakkertok, Alexis Turgeon, of Skinouk, Colin Foley, of Nakkertok, and Steffan Lloyd, also of Nakkertok. Notably, Colin Foley came first in his age category by more than a 20 second margin. In the Women’s Open competition, local racers Sheila Kealey, Ingrid Hagberg, and Liza Rozina, all representing XC Ottawa, were top 20 finishers, ranking 8th, 13th, and 14th in their age category. Numerous finishes in the Women’s Open category were separated from one another by only seconds. The action was fast and furious. Several government luminaries visited today. From Ville de Gatineau, Daniel Champagne toured the site and had time to watch the races. Also from Ville de Gatineau was Linda Sabourin, accompanied by camera operator, Alexandre, who came to take footage of the Para-Nordic racers. Former cross-country ski racer and Nakkertok Learn-To-Ski coach, Councillor David Chernushenko, met a number of his Ottawa constituents during his second visit to the Easterns this weekend. These guests praised the remarkable facility at which this event was hosted and the amazing volunteer organizing committee that coordinated an international-quality event. Their comments included the importance of bringing Ottawa-Gatineau citizens into the outdoors to enjoy summer and winter exercise. A vision expressed by the Gatineau guests recognized the value of continuing the development of infrastructure and services with this objective in mind. Special recognition must be made of the hundreds of volunteers from all of the Ottawa-Outaouais nordic ski clubs. They worked long and hard to produce a top-notch, Olympic-style competition. Collaboration in planning and execution between Carleton University Nordic Ski Team, Chelsea Nordiq, Club Skinouk, Kanata Nordic, Nakkertok Nordic, XC Ottawa, and XC Chelsea Masters yielded fruitful results. Thank-you, everyone!