Celebrating teammates at Whistler Olympic Park. (Submitted photo)

Celebrating teammates at Whistler Olympic Park. (Submitted photo)

BV Nordic skiers close out season at nationals

Ava Wimbush, Finley Gagnon and Chloe Williston placed well against the country’s best

The Canadian Cross Country Ski Championships wrapped up at Whistler Olympic Park on Sunday March 27, with Bulkley Valley skiers placing very well.

U16 athletes from Smithers, Finley Gagnon and Ava Wimbush, covered 10 kilometres of the Olympic-level course, while U18 skier Chloe Williston had 15 km to cover. The races were mass start with nearly 100 athletes in the starting grid.

With warm temperatures and rain on race day, officials salted the course with fertilizer at 5 am to firm up the trails. The senior men and women racers were on the course first and lapping four times to cover 45 km. With so many on the course before the U16 and U18 races, the trail conditions were soft and slow by the time Smithers’ athletes got their turn, effectively turning the race into a grim battle of determination.

Not afraid of hardship, the three girls battled on, and raced well.

“Ava, Finley, and Chloe skied their hearts out this week,” reflected coach Patrick Williston.

“This is their first National Ski Championships and all three showed that they can compete at the highest level.”

“I am very proud of how the three Bulkley Valley girls were able to ski, compete, and soak in the entire experience,” said head coach Andrew Brisbin.

“Their participation has excited the younger generation of athletes at our club to aspire to compete at Nationals in the not-too-distant future,” Brisbin continued.

Earlier in the week, during the classic individual start, Ava raced to 12th among females born in 2006, while Chloe raced to 19th among 2005 females. Former BV ski club member Greg Baxter raced to 3rd among Canadian males born in 2003.

At the 1 km classic sprints, Chloe placed 23rd for her age, and Finley 39th. The snow conditions were challenging, and coach/wax tester Williston covered more than 20 km on a 500-metre test hill as the team dialed in the best klister for the hilly course.

“I’m getting to know that hill pretty good,” observed Williston.

Friday featured a skate relay with multiple laps of a 750-metre course. Chloe and Finley teamed up to take 16th in the B Final, with Finley finding her top gear and passing several teams on the final straight stretch.

Later in the day, the team got a chance to watch Olympic skiers Julia Kern (US) and Dahria Beatty (Canada) battle head-to-head the women’s sprint relay final.

READ MORE: Bulkley Valley Nordic skier earns bronze at nationals

“It is inspiring to see the National- and Olympic-calibre athletes compete alongside up and coming U16 and U18 skiers,” noted coach Josh Wimbush.

The Canadian National Cross Country Ski Championships mark the end of a long racing season that began way back in early December.

“April is a month for rest and recovery, and a time for these girls to begin setting new goals. Soon they will be back training hard all spring and summer long to take their skiing to new heights next winter,” said Wimbush.

“Remember to give them a cheer when you see them out trail-running, road-riding, or roller-skiing in your neighbourhood. They are dedicated athletes, kind and considerate teammates, and terrific ambassadors of Smithers wherever they travel to train and race.”


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Ava Wimbush takes third in the Canadian Cross County Ski Championships March 27 in Whistler. (Laura Wimbush photo)

Ava Wimbush takes third in the Canadian Cross County Ski Championships March 27 in Whistler. (Laura Wimbush photo)