Athlete of the Month: Johnny Hagenbuch and Sydney Palmer-Leger

Our SVSEF Athletes of the Month are Johnny Hagenbuch, 16, and Sydney Palmer-Leger, 15, who are both cross country Comp Team athletes. The two athletes skied to top-five finishes at U.S. Nationals at the beginning of January, resulting in selection to international competition as representatives of the U.S. Johnny and Sydney have demonstrated unwavering dedication to their growth in the sport of cross country skiing, and are keenly aware of the steps and progression necessary for success. This, along with their natural athleticism, are a recipe for success.
“Sydney and Johnny exhibit the same drive and work ethic that is common to top level cross country skiers,” explained Cross Country Program Director Rick Kapala. “They apply themselves to the best of their abilities at practice, whether they are at team training or working out on their own. Both are students of the sport and are constantly trying to figure out ways to improve. Lest one think they are carbon copies, they are not. Johnny is a homegrown guy while Sydney is a new arrival. As such, Johnny is more familiar in our team routines and scene while Syd is starting to settle in as she figures out the lay of the land. Of course, our program is fortunate to have both of them with us as they show what is possible when you throw yourself into the pursuit of excellence.”
At U.S. Nationals, held in early January at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska, both skiers posted top-five results in the junior distance freestyle and sprint freestyle races. This success, in fields boasting the best competitors from across the country, confirmed 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). 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.