SKi Team Report – Western Canadian Championships

There were many tired smiles and sore necks on the return from the Western Canadian Championships in Red Deer, AB last weekend (Jan 28-30, 2022). Or there would have been sore necks if the medals given out weren’t made of wood…

Against the best skiers in western Canada, our Manitoba team brought home no fewer than 8 medals and an additional six top 10 finishes. Thank goodness the results were posted online because Imogen Nadlersmith (Downtown Nordic), William Vanden Berg (Boundary Trails), and Kate Sawatsky (Boundary Trails) would have otherwise taken the news of their performances to the grave.

Teammates celebrate Kate’s first medal of the weekend

Imogen opened the weekend in the U20 Women’s race on an icy course with a gold in the skate interval start event, followed by William Vanden Berg gliding into third in U18 Boys, and Kate Sawatsky dominating the U14 Girls in first. An exciting start to the weekend! Another thrilled team member, coach and wax tech Jeff McMillan, reveled in the athletes’ success on his ULLA glide wax. 

Saturday was a highlight for many athletes as the traditional sprint race format was tossed aside in favour of a “Ladder” or “King’s Court” edition. After the interval start qualifiers, athletes were assigned to heats of 6 with other athletes closest to their speed from all genders and age categories (though divided by race distance). After each round of heats, the top two finishers joined the faster heat, the bottom two finishers joined the slower heat, and the middle two remained. The result was each round of heats being closer than the last, pushing athletes to the max for each of their four races. Each athlete had at least one tough race, but turned around and improved on their next try.

Naomi about to stage a comeback as epic as her race face.

Imogen finished the long, exciting day with a bronze in the 1200m U20 Women. William Vanden Berg strategically landed himself in the fastest heat on the last round and also captured bronze in the U18 boys category. Kate Sawatsky faced off against teammate William Wintonwin in the last and most exciting heat of the U14 course, winning the heat and placing second overall in the U14 Girls. 

Imogen finding a fast line in the sprint heats.

There was much speculation over the fate of Sunday’s race due to the poor snow conditions, but race organizers and volunteers in Red Deer somehow found enough snow with over 350 volunteer hours to set a classic track. Wax extraordinaires Andrew Vanden Berg and Jeff McMillan accepted a few recruits (Pauline and Imogen Nadlersmith) to the waxing team to get klister on and off of race skis efficiently. William Vanden Berg had, in his modest words, “a pretty good race” but made every second count to pull out a first place finish. Kate Sawatsky, also modest in her evaluation of the race, added another silver medal to her quickly growing collection.

William Vandenberg with the best hair and fastest time on the 10 km classic course.

Through the weekend, both Mia Sawatsky (Boundary Trails, U18 Girls) and William Wintonwin (Downtown Nordic, U14 Boys) gave consistent top 10 finishes improving with each race. Mia went 7th in the skate, 6th in the sprint, and finished off with a 4th in the classic. William Wintonwi started with an 8th place in the skate, improving to 6th in the sprints, and finished again in 6th place in the classic race.

Mia cruising up a hill in the sprint heats and away from the moose (not pictured).

Other notable successes included learning to use a plunger, talking to Beckie Scott, handling pre-race nerves, finishing a race on iced up klister, battling back in the sprint heats after falls, cinnamon buns and muffins, and no Covid disruptions. 

Cleo powering through the conditions on the 10 km classic race.

With the final ski race done, the group started the most important race of the weekend – the race to stay ahead of the Alberta Clipper. The athletes pulled off a one-hour turnaround time from returning home from the race to being packed, fed, house cleaned and in the vehicles for the ride home. Pauline may have even been impressed. Dry roads and diligent drivers got the group home safely on Monday afternoon, mere hours ahead of the blizzard of the winter.

~ Alex Loeppky (Millennial Ambassador/generational liaison)