Podium finish for Yukon at ski nationals

The 2022 Cross-Country Ski Nationals were held in Whistler, B.C., from March 20 to 27, and the 15 Yukon skiers who went combined to earn a third place finish for Whitehorse in the aggregate club rankings.

Racing at the nationals started with an interval-start free race on March 20, followed by an interval-start classic race on March 21. Following a day off, racers returned to the snow for the classic sprint on March 23 for U20 and senior athletes and March 24 for U16 and U18 skiers. Racing continued with the team sprints on March 25 and concluded with the mass-start free race on March 27.

Alain Masson, head coach of Cross Country Yukon, said the championships were a strong showing.

“Great results overall. I mean, better than expected I would say. It’s hard (to predict) because we have not a national championship since 2019 … but we had not seen all athletes in all age groups for almost two and a half years so it was hard to gauge where we were going to be,” Masson said. “So (I’m) happily surprised with many of our athletes in different age groups. In U16 we had three athletes doing top five results. I mean, two of the three got medals, the other one had a fourth place – her best result – so that’s really encouraging because those are athletes who will appear for the next many years, eventually becoming our top U20/senior athletes. That’s always super important for the program. And then great results obviously from our more established athletes like Dahria Beatty and our three U20 skiiers – Sonjaa Schmidt, Derek Deuling and Sasha Masson – who had a really good championship.”

He added that for the club to finish on the overall podium with such a small team is a credit to the effort and work from Yukon skiers.

“We finished third and we only had one senior athlete – otherwise every other athlete was U20 (or younger.) So to be able to be competitive with much larger clubs who had many more athletes, for the athletes participating I think that was the highlight,” Masson said. “And for me as well just to say, wow, with only 14 junior skiers and one senior athlete we’re able to rank this well. It just showed the quality of all the results because you not only score points if you’re in the medals, it’s anybody in the top 30, so every result every day counts and is important. I think for the athletes that participated that’s a huge achievement.”

The lone senior athlete, Olympian Dahria Beatty, set an example for Yukon skiers all week, finishing second in both the interval-start races, third in the sprint final, ninth in the mass-start race and first alongside Sonjaa Schmidt in the team sprint to finish first in the aggregate scoring.

Schmidt, who competed in the U20 women’s category, also won the free race, was third in the classic race, sixth in the sprint final and fourth in the mass-start to finish second in aggregate scoring.

On the men’s side of competition, Derek Deuling and Sasha Masson finished first and third in aggregate scoring for U20 men.

Deuling was fourth in the free race, fifth in the classic race, first in the sprint and third in the mass-start race. Masson was sixth in the free race, third in the sprint and first in the mass-start race. The pair combined to finish fourth in the team sprint.

Romeo Champagne also turned in a strong effort in the U20 men’s category, placing 26th in the free race, 19th in the classic race, 32nd in the sprint and 21st in the mass-start race.

At the U18 age level, four women and three men competed from the Yukon.

Constance Lapointe finished 10th in the free race, 11th in the classic race, eighth in the sprint and 10th in the mass-start race; Sophia Giangrande was 20th in the free race, 23rd in the classic race, 19th in the sprint and 23rd in the mass-start race; Maude Molgat was 25th in the free race, 27th in the classic race, sixth in the sprint and 45th in the mass-start race; and Bella Mouchet was 36th in the free race, 26th in the classic race, 33rd in the sprint and 30th in the mass-start race. Lapointe also finished ninth in aggregate scoring.

Noah Connell finished 61st in the free race, 51st in the classic race, 36th in the sprint and 78th in the mass-start race; Cole Germain was 36th in the free race, 52nd in the classic race, 62nd in the sprint and 43rd in the mass-start race; and Isidore Champagne was 59th in the free race, 64th in the classic race, 70th in the sprint and 63rd in the mass-start race.

Rounding out the team’s efforts were the three U16 skiers.

Minty Bradford – who would have been eligible to compete at the U14 age level – finished fourth in the free race, eighth in the classic race, 26th in the sprint, third in the mass-start and sixth in aggregate scoring. Cheyenne Tirschmann was 10th in the free race, fourth in the classic race, 16th in the classic sprint, ninth in the mass-start free and 10th in aggregate scoring.

Simon Connell finished 11th in the free race, 11th in the classic race, third in the sprint, 21st in the mass-start race and seventh in aggregate scoring.

Finally in the team sprint, Lapointe and Giangrande won the Girls B Challenge category with the team of Bradford and Tirschmann third, and Molgat and Mouchet fourth. Noah Connell and Isidore Champagne finished sixth in the Boys C Challenge category, and Germain and Simon Connell were fifth in the Boys B Challenge category.

Photo Credit: Alain Masson