Bulkley Valley Nordic racers Zoe Hallman, Gregory Baxter, Connor Murphy and Jesse Smids participated in the 2019 national championships in Gatineau, Quebec last week.
They have been training hard all year and have been looking forward to this opportunity to ski at the national level at the Nakkertok Nordic Centre with their peers. Klister conditions made race wax challenging, but by teaming up with Matt Smidder of the Revelstoke team, coach Alan Baxter provided fast skis to the racers.
Zoe is an amazing hill climber, and is fearless on the downhills. Her strength in the sprints really shone through, with an eighth place finish in the Junior Girls Individual Sprint race, and an inspiring performance in the Mixed Relay Sprints with teammate Jesse Smids, the most exciting race to watch for Bulkley Valley.
Jesse and Zoe were on their game and really showed how well they can ski. They dominated their heat and were dominating the final until Jesse had a minor fall. Falling dropped them from first to fifth, then Zoe lit it up on the climb to get back to first. Jesse held it on lap three. Zoe then brought it home on lap four and we watched an amazing double pole to finish between Zoe and a boy from Kimberly. Unfortunately, the boy’s legs were longer and he outstretched Zoe for the finish by .02 of a second.
Jesse had his strongest races of the season this week, with several finishes in the top 20. His favorite races are the distance, and the closing day 15 km Classic was no exception. He skied this one smart and executed his plan well. He wanted to be in the front group to avoid being boxed in with slower skiers and to avoid crashes. This worked for the most part; he did get boxed in a couple of times but was able to get around without significant hold ups. He did have to avoid one crash where he stepped over a fallen skier who was spinning down the trail on his back (mass starts are mayhem). Jesse started out 28th in a field of 95 racers and skied up to 18th for an awesome finish.
Imagine a mass start Pursuit Race with 200 competitors. Gregory broke a pole 600 m out, got a replacement pole 10 cm shorter but it did the trick. After some intense skiing he finished in 12th place, and 10th place combined.
This fighting spirit and quick tempo shone throughout the competitions for Gregory. With the exception of the Individual Sprint, in which he became airborne on a corner (still placing 15th), Greg’s finishes moved steadily faster. The final day he finished sixth in the 10 km Classic Juvenile Boys category. Overall, Greg placed ninth for aggregate points at this competition out of 112 juvenile boy competitors. Top 10 in Canada is a fine showing for a skier from BV Nordics.
Conor dealt with a sinus infection early in the competitions, so what he was not able to put on the course he put into cheering his B.C. team. He was able to get a taste of the competition later in the week. In the classic distance race, he had a tough starting position 85 out of 105 competitors. However, he skied well to move up 25 places to 60th. This experience will serve him well next year.
This crew have been very focused and self-directed in their training this season. Huge nod to coaches Geoff Recknell, Lisa Perry and Irene Ronalds who prepared them well, and to Alan Baxter for supporting them throughout the event.