Annie Pokorny here. The domestic contingent of SMS T2 is currently stationed in Houghton, Michigan for the 2016 US Cross Country Nationals. This week, we have two sprints and two distance races over the course of seven days to determine our spots on the U23 World Championship and World Cup teams.
We are two races deep into that series and things are going well! Yesterday we stepped to the start for individual classic distance races. The men raced 15K in the morning and the women 10K in the afternoon. In stark contrast to last year, where constant precip and subzero temperatures had us shivering under layers upon layers of long underwear, we’ve enjoyed downright temperate weather in the Upper Peninsula. That combined with great tracks provided by the Michigan Tech grooming crew (we’re currently staying with one of the groomers, Jim, and his wife Betsy) and five pairs of ripping boards from Pat provided a great day for the group.
Paddy finished 14th and Ben 28th both well within their goals for U23s. Annie and Erika battled together all race, pulling each other along and getting to the line quickly, with Annie finishing 8th and Erika finishing 10th. I didn’t have the race I wanted, finishing 26th, but was lucky to have such fast skis to make up on the downs what I lost on the ups. Our junior skiers also skied well, with Katharine Ogden finishing 4th overall and our PG Julia Kern finishing 18th, 4th junior.
Today we woke up ready to rip around one of the longest 1.5K sprint courses in the US. From the start, you roll on a downhill slope into a 90degree left corner, before dropping another handful of meters. From there, it’s all climbing to the finish, about 44 meters of climbing.
The SMS T2 women started the day qualifying well, with 3rd, 5th and 9th place finishes for me, Annie and Erika, respectively. The boys went for it as well, with Paddy qualifying in 18th (his best sprint quali ever). Ben unfortunately didn’t have the day he was looking for, as he qualified just outside of the heats, but his energy and positivity was tangible despite. His encouragement had us fired up as we went into our heats.
Unfortunately, Paddy and I didn’t make it through to semi-finals. Pads battled in the fastest heat of the day and couldn’t quite get to the line, while a tangle in the middle of my heat had me tapping into my Mario mushroom boost to catch back up to the group. Both of us came close to getting through, but no dice. However, the performances of our teammates later in the day have us totally fired up for the rest of the week.
Both Annie H. and Erika made it to the A-final, which upped our chances of having red, white and blue at the top. In what was one of the most exciting 3 minutes and 45 seconds of my life, let alone theirs, those girls put their hearts out on the course and received payback (literally.) Annie finished in second place, behind BSF’s Jennie Bender, and immediately threw her arms into the air in celebration. Erika was close behind her, finishing the day in 5th, pretty good for a girl who wore a sling for much of the fall.
From there, it was all smiles and snow and sunshine for SMS T2. Now we have a couple of days take in our successes and let go of our failures while gearing up to go again in the 20/30K mass starts!
Keep an eye here for further updates. Thank you for your cheers!