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National Relay Memories: Hoisting the Pepsi-Cola Trophy
By:  David Zylberberg   (2005/03/09)


February 24, 2000 was a misty morning with a light drizzle and temperatures around 1 C at the Lappe Nordic Ski Centre, just north of Thunder Bay, Ontario. This was the morning of the Junior National Club Relay Championships. Conditions were hard-packed melt-freeze snow with a film of water on top. There were a lot of really fast older

Juniors that year who were all hoping to lead their clubs to victory in the relay. Laurentian Nordic was a team of considerable depth with three good skiiers, though slightly younger than the very top ones. I, being part of the Laurentian team, was to be skiing the first of 3 5km Skating legs with Rob Bewick doing the second and Devon Kershaw the final one.

The race began and after the first downhill, with about 10 skiers iin a group with me at the back. In front of me, Steve Hart of Hardwood Hills was dropped, but I managed to get around him and back into the group. My job that day was not to lose time to the very strongest skiers. (namely Timo Puiras of Lappe and Adam Kates of Soo Finnish, since Devon was scared of their last skiers: Riku Metsaranta and Brady Dunne) On one of the major climbs my effort began to be successfull as a number of strong skiers were dropped from the group. At some point, Drew Goldsack of Rocky Mountain and Adam Kates got a small gap on me and Tom McCarthy of Nakkertok, but ours skis were running well and we pulled them back. By the final climb, there were four of us in the lead when Tom and Drew got a small gap; I was content to stay with Adam, especially considering that he had beaten me by 6 minutes the day before. We came into the stadium with 3 seconds seperating the two groups, the result of a day when the body and skis seemed to run well and make everything effortless.

The second leg began with Rob Bewick catching Andrew Leoni of Rocky Mountain within 300 m. In this 300m they also dropped Nakkertok and Soo Finish, who lacked the depth of the leading teams. Rob and Andrew skied the leg together and put a lot of time between them and the other teams, so that for the third leg Devon was given over a minute lead on Soo Finish and Lappe. Devon and Mike Bourree started the last leg together, with Devon skiing behind him until the final climb when he put in a strong attack for a 12 second victory. Whitehorse came in for third place ahead of fast-finishing Lappe and Soo Finnish. We had succeeded based on depth (our 3 lap times were within 4 seconds).

That night we were awarded the Pepsi-Cola Trophy for the best relay team at the Junior National Championships. I remember looking at the trophy and seeing the legendary names on it; Mckeever, Farley, Blanchard, Bouchard, both Dustin brothers together and Wayne's name on many occassions. This is my best experience from the club relay and one we are all looking to see replicated on March 14 as XCOTTAWA seeks the national relay championship.

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