The Intermountain Division including Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Nordic skiers celebrated a gold medal in the 3x3.3-kilometer classic relay for the J1 (ages 16-17) women Tuesday, March 12 during the weeklong USSA Marriott Junior Nationals at Birch Hill in Fairbanks, Alaska.
In the closest finish of the day’s six relays, the Intermountain J1 women’s team of Sun Valley’s Laurel Fiddler and Maggie Williams (3rd fastest of 24 skiers in her leg) along with Annika Miller of McCall’s Payette Lake Sports team clocked a final time of 34 minutes and 11 seconds.
That put Intermountain just four seconds behind the top time of the Norwegian guest team (33:07) that included 16-year-old twins Tiril Weng and Lotta Weng from Lillehammer, Norway. The Wengs had dominated Monday’s women’s freestyle 5-kilometer opener, placing 1-2.
Because the Norwegian guest teams at this week’s competition are ineligible for Junior National medals and team points, the Intermountain girls won the gold in the 24-team J1 women’s class over a Midwest trio.
After two events, Intermountain’s J1 women with 120 points have picked up the lion’s share of 424 points Intermountain has accumulated in the race for Alaska Cup team points. Host team Alaska, winner of three of Tuesday’s six relays, leads the way with 747 points over New England, 645.
Intermountain trails only Midwest 126-120 in total J1 women’s points.
“The kids all skied to their potential,” SVSEF Nordic Director Rick Kapala said. “It was great to get some of our kids back up to the top. Maggie skied the second leg and was fifth or sixth and started picking girls off right away. By the time she tagged off the Americans were first. She skied a really great leg. Maranda skied a really excellent leg as well.”
Kapala added that SVSEF coach Chris Mallory is head of the Intermountain service team and had the athletes’ skis ready to roll.
Other Intermountain Division relay highlights from Tuesday:
In Older Junior (ages 18-19) women, the Intermountain team of Sun Valley’s Jesse Knori (2nd-fastest first leg) and Maranda Stopol along with Tristin Lowe of Montana’s Bridger Ski Foundation placed second at 34:51 for a silver medal behind the winning team from Alaska (33:35);
In J2 (ages 14-15) men, Zach Williams (6th-best anchor leg) of Sun Valley joined the second-place Intermountain team with Logan Diekmann of Bridger Ski Foundation and Fischer Heimburger of Utah’s Soldier Hollow. Their silver medal time was 30:30, behind Alaska’s winning 29:53.
There were 120 teams in Tuesday’s competition. Other SVSEF racers helping their relay teams were Eli Jensen, Tom Gillespie, Peter Wolter, Annika Landis, Nicholas Lovett, Zach Lindahl, Luke Costley, Cole Greenberg, Jake Adicoff and Katie Feldman.
After today’s rest day, Junior Nationals continue at Birch Hill with freestyle sprints Thursday, March 14 and classic mass start 15k/10k/5k races on Saturday. Visit jn2013fairbanks.us for details.