The Sprint day kicked off bright and early with the first woman starting at 9:00 am and first man off at 9:30. The starts were given at 15 second intervals and the racers had the joy of chasing down the person in-front of them over the 1.6 km and 1.4 km courses, for men and women respectively. Sprints are by nature short, fast and all-out, so it makes for a pretty exciting day, to add to the excitement was the fact that we would all be racing on the Olympic sprint course, in the same style as we had all watched on TV only a few years ago. Everyone was revved-up and ready to race! While the men were off warming up on the trails surrounding the race site, the women were already tearing it up on course and leaving everything out there in the qualifying round on a very long and demanding 1.4 km course. When the dust settled, this is how it ended up... Sheila Kealey made the top 30 to advance to the quarter-finals, qualifying 27th and moving up in the quarter-finals to finish 26th on the day. Despite no lack of effort and grit, Sheila would be the only XC Ottawa athlete to qualify on this Classic Sprint day. The other women finished closely together in a very respectable 36th, 37th, 39th and 40th (Liza Rozina, Ingrid Hagberg, Katie McMahon and Kyla Vanderzwet).
The men also battled hard on there 1.6 km course, and all were slow to there feet after the qualifier. Unfortunately it wasn't in the cards that day as none of us managed to advance past that elusive top 30. Coming up closest was Peter Beisel in 39th, which made him 4th CCUNC (Canadian College and University Nordic Championships). He was followed by the rest of the team who finished 43rd, 45th, 53rd and 57th (Matthias Purdon, Lee Hawkings, Andre Marchand, and Logan Potter). It was not the greatest day ever, but we competed against the fastest racers in the country and held our own. On the plus side, if the 1.6 km race wasn't your thing because it was too short, then there was the 50km skate (30km for the women) to look forward to as the penultimate test of ski fitness and strength! Not to worry, there is an article about the distance day coming soon!
Honorable mention to the other Carleton skiers who competed that day, such as Bronwyn Allan, Holly Jones and Kendra Murray on the womens side, and Patrick Van Walraven and Ben Wilkinson-Zan for the men. Both Kendra and Ben qualified 3rd junior and went on to finish an impressive 4th in the highly contested A-finals!!! Ben also finished 2nd CCUNC for Carleton!
Just for fun I looked up the time of the fastest qualifier for the Women at the 2010 Olympics on the 1.4 km course, and it was none other than Marit Bjorgen in 3:38.05, which was about 10 seconds SLOWER than the winning time of the day held by Dasha Gaiazova at 3:28.61! Likewise in the men, where Alexander Panzhinskiy was the fastest man on the 1.6 km course in 3:34.57 at the Olympics, Len Valjas finished in 3:23.82 about 10 seconds faster than him! Clearly we had faster tracks for our race, but it would be an understatement to say that the sprint field was very strong at Nationals this year!
These fast tracks only stuck around for the qualifiers, in the heats the top 30 racers were tested by slush and a heat wave before crowning Dasha Gaiazova and Len Valjas as Canadian Champions! Since we only got to race the qualifier we were grateful to simply sit back, relax and enjoy the rest of the day watching some very high caliber racing under the Callaghan sun!
Thanks for reading, and keep the shiny side down :)