Youngsters Shine in Team Sprints at Canadian Cross-Country Ski Championships
WHISTLER, B.C.— Dahria Beatty and Sonjaa Schmidt teamed up to win women’s gold at the Canadian Cross-Country Ski Championships, while Xavier McKeever and Tom Stephen continued an impressive dress rehearsal for the 2023 World Junior Championships at Whistler Olympic Park, while winning their own national team sprint titles in the free technique on Friday.
Whitehorse residents skiing for the Yukon Team, Olympian Dahria Beatty and Sonjaa Schmidt, captured the women’s crown after finishing second in the overall category.
“It was awesome today. Sonjaa has been skiing so well all year, so I was happy to do the team sprint with her. She set the tone in the first leg giving her all and handed off to me in good position, so I went out hard in my leg too,” said Beatty. “The last corner the whole crowd was cheering my name, so it was extra motivation to push. I was happy to ski strong and be the top Canadian team.”
The team sprint races consisted of each athlete skiing a 750-metre loop four times. Athletes tag their teammate between each leg.
Just 18 years old, Schmidt lined up against many of the sport’s elite from North America and didn’t back down.
“It was a little intimidating, but I couldn’t have done it without Dahria,” said Schmidt. “Being with those top athletes and seeing the speed, there was no time to think about it. My plan was to go out super hard. Having some fast skis helped me get out in front and it was really good.”
The Canadian duo were sandwiched on the podium between two American teams. Stratton Mountain School’s Alayna Sonnesyn and Julia Kern finished on top of the open category. Sydney Palmer-Leger and Karianne Dengerud, from of the University of Utah, were third.
Canadian teenagers, Xavier McKeever and Tom Stephen, from the Foothills Nordic Ski Club were crowned Canadian Team Sprint champions after finishing fifth overall in a chaotic men’s race.
“Plan was to ski a bit more conservative in first lap and then also in the last corner into the exchange but at same time we wanted to keep our positions,” said Stephen. “I just wanted to give it everything I had on that final lap and leave it all on the course to set Xav up to be able to put that strong sprint in that we know he has.”
McKeever, of Canmore, Alta., was feeding off taking the nation’s best down earlier this week in the individual sprint race.
“It was super fun to be out here today. There were lots of nerves because we didn’t want to let each other down because we are such good friends, but the nerves dissipated as we got in the race and we did a fantastic job as a team,” said McKeever. “It was super fun to go toe-to-toe with this competitive field.”
Noel Keeffe and Luke Jager, of the University of Utah, won the men’s race. Scott Patterson and Logan Hanneman from APU Nordic Ski Center, were second. Northern Michigan University skiers, Kjetil Baanerud and Kristoffer Karsrud, completed the international sweep of the podium in third place.
The Canadian Cross-Country Ski Championships wrap up on Sunday with the distance races.
The first National Championships to be staged since 2019, skiers from across Canada and the United States are taking part in the event which combines the Canadian Cross-Country Ski Championships and US Super Tour Finals, from March 20-27, at Whistler Olympic Park. A full schedule is available at https://skinationals2022.ca/#