Vernon’s Heather Mehain leads her classic sprint qualifier in Saturday’s race at Sovereign Lake.

Vernon’s Heather Mehain leads her classic sprint qualifier in Saturday’s race at Sovereign Lake.

Sovereign slides into sprint season

Participants from across North America competed in the first Haywood NorAm Teck Sprints of the season at Sovereign Lake Nordic Resort.

Everyone had smiles on their faces as a weekend of racing wrapped up at Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre in the sunshine.

Participants from across North America competed in the first Haywood NorAm Teck Sprints of the season, including skiers from Sovereign Lake.

“It’s my first time in Canada in a couple of years, actually since the Olympics,” said 6-foot-2 Torin Koos, of the Leavenworth, Wisc. “Last time I raced here was the World Cup races 2005 so it’s really cool to come back to Sovereign Lake.”

Koos, 31, was 26th in the individual sprint classic at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, helping Team USA to ninth spot in the sprint relay.

Added Koos, who learned the sport in Washington State: “This is an incredible place to go ski, for a week, a weekend or a month.”

Sovereign’s Heather Mehain had a good start to her season in the sprint races Saturday.

“She was well dialed in. In her words, she had a perfect race for her qualifier,” said coach Darren Derochie. “So it was a fantastic start to the season that way. In her heat, I said, ‘Just go do what you do’ and she did. She duked it out, so she knows she can ski with those girls.”

The Haywood race trialed a new format, holding two classic races together. Saturday was the sprint races and Sunday featured a 15-kilometre distance race.

In Mehain’s 15-km classic race, she said: “I focused on staying long and loose. I felt I could have pushed myself sooner on the last lap, but otherwise it was a pretty good race for me.”

Vernon’s Matt Wylie, who lives and trains in Canmore with the Alberta World Cup Academy, qualified 12th in the 1.4-km sprint.

“I felt really good in the quarterfinal and won it, then got a bit bogged down in the semifinal and ended up fifth in the B final,” he said. “So overall I ended up 11th, so not such a bad day.”

On racing back at Sovereign Lake, he added: “It’s really nice. I love the trails here, and I don’t think there’s anywhere better in the world to ski.”

A team of more than 100 volunteers helped make the weekend a success, helping with everything from timing, marshalling, course preparation, ski patrol and food preparation to feed the volunteers.

“We had a very happy crew, as you heard,” said Sharon Clarke, chief of race. “Volunteers, we really need a big team to run an event like this and we have a very good team.

“We’ve been building a team of chiefs now for five or six years so experience is key. Of course it gets easier the more often you’ve done it and I’d say we have an experienced crew of chiefs.”