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2007 Ski Nationals Report #4: Sprints
By:  Tom McCarthy   (2007/03/23)

Today was sprint day at National Championships in Mont Ste. Anne, and this year’s version was classic sprints. 

The organizers had designed a relatively long course – 1.3 kilometres, with one tough long uphill at the start and two smaller uphills interspersed with longer flat sections. Some warm temperatures and rain assaulted the course yesterday (Thursday), but it held up extremely well.  

Qualifying didn’t go so well for the XC Ottawa men – Tom, who fancies himself a bit of a sprinter, looked ‘a bit flat’ in coach John’s words, and finished 32nd in senior men – only the top 30 qualify for the knockout rounds, so Tom was just barely out of luck. Gavin, Brian and Craig also missed qualifying, by various degrees. Karl took a day off to focus on the upcoming 50k on Sunday.

The XC Ottawa women fared better. Both Sheila and Megan qualified for the afternoon knock-out rounds, Megan in 20th and Sheila in 23rd in Open Women. They both came back in the afternoon, but unfortunately didn’t proceed on past the quarter-final rounds. They were facing extremely tough competition – 2006 Olympic gold medallist Chandra Crawford flew in special from Europe, and American Laura Valaas, recently second in the U-23 World Champs, flew in for the race as well. Other skiers included multiple Olympian Milaine Theriault, World Championship team member Sarah Daitch, and others. The women’s rounds were fast and furious, and in the end, Laura Valaas came out on top, followed by Chandra in second and Dasha Gaiazova in 3rd. The Canadian independent elite team Indi 2010 had a stellar day, with their women (Tasha Betcherman, Karla Mika and Rhonda Sandau) placing in 3rd, 4th, and 5th respectively. 

The men’s field was equally strong – Russian-Canadian Ivan Babikov, Canadian Olympians Phil Widmer, Chris Jeffries, and Dan Roycroft, and a bunch of strong Americans were in the running. The heats were wild. In the end, Dave Nighbor of North Bay came out on top, for his first ever National Championship. Graham Nishikawa of Whitehorse came second, and Chris Jeffries, an Ottawa native and the current overall National points leader, came third. Phil Widmer, the favourite at the beginning of the day, had to settle for 6th. Dan Roycroft and American Colin Rodgers finished 4th and 5th.

It was a long day, but a good day, at the Mont Ste. Anne sprint course. A special shout-out to our dedicated wax and coaching team, John Suuronen and Liam Watson, for their very hard work on our behalf.

Next up: the grand finale distance races, 50k for the men, 30k for the women.

Chris Jeffries in qualifying round

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