For The Morning Star
Winter has arrived in the Okanagan Valley, and approximately 436 elite cross country ski racers couldn’t be happier.
The Sovereign Lake Nordic Club hosted the Haywood NorAm Buff Sprints and U.S. SuperTour last weekend, an International race circuit attracting North America’s fastest nordic skiers.
“Skiers seem very pleased with the condition of our trails, and the overall organisation of this large event,” said Sovereign Lake GM Troy Hudson.
“It is inspiring for spectators to see the next generation of Olympians and World Cup racers give it their all out there (on the course).”
But not all are hopefuls as some of the skiers racing at Sovereign Lake this weekend have ‘been there, and done that.’
Caitlin Gregg of Winthrop, Wa. competed at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and loves training and racing here.
“I have started many of my seasons here in Vernon, and staying at Silver Star’s unique village and being able to train right outside my door really sets the tone for the race season,” she said.
Gregg placed third in a field of 62 women, while her husband and 2014 Olympian, Brian Gregg, placed fourth in a field of 112 men.
The weekend’s races included the Classical style Sprint on Saturday, and an interval start Freestyle (skate) event on Sunday, where the men completed 15-km, and the women 10-km.
“The sprint heats are set up much like the sprint competition for track events,” said Dudley Coulter of Sovereign Lake.
“It begins with a qualifying round, and then the top-30 finishers make it to the quarterfinals. From there, the top two finishers in each heat proceed to the semi-finals and this pattern continues on to the final rounds.”
In that event, Vernon’s Hannah Mehain took the win in the Junior Women category.
“I felt really good, and the conditions were perfect for Classic, said Mehain. “I think having the home course advantage definitely helped a little bit too.”
Mehain, who turns 19 next May. is a member of the Sovereign Lake Nordic Club and the Canadian National Junior Ski Team.
In Sunday’s distance events, Alaska skier Scott Patterson was the fastest man around the course with a time of 40:00 for 15-km.
For the women, Alaska’s Chelease Holmes won the Open Women category with a time of 30:42 for 10-km.
“The trails were in great shape this weekend, and I couldn’t be happier about all of this snow and my good early season results,” said Holmes of Anchorage.
The next stop on the Haywood NorAm and U.S. SuperTour race series is in Rossland this weekend, before taking a break for Christmas.
The skiers will meet again in 2017 in Park City, Utah for the World U23/Junior Trials, a race that will see a select few qualify for the World Championships.