There was a lot riding on cross country U.S. Nationals, held this past week at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska. Results from the races help determine roster spots for Olympic, FIS Junior World Championship, U23 Championship and U18 Nordic Nations Championship teams. The event draws the top junior and senior athletes from across the country, who all have the potential, through their performance, to represent the U.S. in international competition.
Based on their results at Nationals, two SVSEF junior racers (under age 20) have been selected to represent the U.S. at international events this season. Sydney Palmer-Leger, 15, and Johnny Hagenbuch, 16, both posted top-five results in the junior distance freestyle and sprint freestyle races, confirming their selection to the U.S. U18 Nordic Nation Championship team and World Junior Championship team (with the option to attend one of the two events).
“The Anchorage courses featured steep climbs followed by fast twisting downhills, on snow conditions that demanded and rewarded aggressive, dynamic skiing,” said Program Director Rick Kapala. Sydney and Johnny were able to adjust their tempo and energy to the terrain and the conditions, and had solid races among 200 top junior competitors as a result. Sydney was the second U18 finisher (27 overall in a field of 147) in the women’s 10km freestyle on January 3. She secured a win in the women’s junior freestyle sprint on January 5, breezing through qualifiers and three rounds of heats. Johnny, like Sydney, was the second U18 finisher (28 overall) in the men’s 15km freestyle race on January 3. He also made his way through junior sprint heats, finishing fourth overall.
Both athletes have chosen to compete at the Nordic Nations Championship, which consists of a distance, sprint and relay race with the top U18 skiers from across the Scandinavian countries. They will be part of a six male, six female team representing the U.S. Sydney and Johnny leave for Vuokatti, Finland, on January 21 for the series. Their focus when they return to the U.S. will be on the U.S. Junior National Championships, which will be held at Soldier Hollow, Utah, in early March.