A pack of skiers takes a sharp bend in the men’s sprint final of the Haywood NorAm and Buff Sprint races last weekend at Sovereign Lake Nordic Club.

A pack of skiers takes a sharp bend in the men’s sprint final of the Haywood NorAm and Buff Sprint races last weekend at Sovereign Lake Nordic Club.

Nordic racers fight cold at Sovereign Lake

Athletes battle extreme cold at Sovereign Lake Haywood NorAm and Buff Sprint races.

Athletes faced an extra test last weekend at the Sovereign Lake Haywood NorAm and Buff Sprint races. Not only did they have to perform their best physically and skillfully, they had to contend with – 20 C temperatures.

Saturday’s agenda included a 15-kilometre classic race for open men and 10km for open women. With a delayed start Saturday morning due to extremely cold temperatures, it was worth the wait as the men’s 15km FR started at noon in the sunshine, warming the snow slightly and allowing skis to glide.

Following another delay, American skier Brian Gregg took first in 15-kilometre open men’s classic, finishing in 41 minutes and three seconds, just ahead of teammate Matt Liebsch. That helped Gregg increase his FIS (International Ski Federation) points standing. In third place was Graham Nishikawa of Whitehorse.

Heidi Widmer of Calgary’s Foothills Nordic topped the women’s 10km classic, followed by Amanda Ammar of Canmore and Foothills’ Zoe Roy.

Widmer described her race to be “cold, with lots of climbing, but it was so beautiful out there, it was hard not to focus on the trees.”

The junior/juvenile categories were cancelled Saturday and moved into Sunday’s schedule.

In the women’s sprint, Allyson Marshall of Salmon Arm, now training in Canmore, squeaked in behind Andrea Dupont of Canmore.

Marshall had to jog to stay warm between heats. She usually tries to charge in the end, but found it a challenge in the cold.

Dupont said staying relaxed was the key to victory.

“The last uphill you have to kick on it and the finishing stretch you have to finish strong.”

Emily Nishikawa of Whitehorse, sister to Graham, placed third.

Patrick Stewart-Jones of the Nakkertok club in Quebec shaded Philip Widmer of Canmore in the men’s sprint final.

Widmer described Stewart-Jones as the stronger skier of the day

“Coming up the last hill, Patty pushed harder at the top and took the lead there, held on to it and even increased it to the finish,” said Widmer.

“My hat’s off to Patrick because he raced really well.”

Many of the racers are headed to Rossland next weekend to gain Olympics qualifier points.