Championship Season - Junior Nationals

April 13, 2024
Championship Season - Junior Nationals


Two EMXC athletes qualified for Junior Nationals based on their results throughout the season. Fran Tucker and Alex Taylor were selected to represent New England in Lake Placid to compete with the best athletes in the country.

Athletes arrived in Lake Placid 2 days in advance of the first race to do some training on the course and get to know their teammates and coaches. As everyone arrived, the slushy snow started rolling in and made for some interesting conditions on Lake Placid’s world class race course. After the storms were over, it looked like real winter again!

Monday Skate 7.5k Individual

The races kicked off with a skate 7.5k individual start race. When athletes arrived to preview the course, the groomed track was covered in a dusting of fresh powder, making the skiing slower than the day before. Fran and Alex had strong races, with Fran 30th for U18 girls and Alex 43rd. Both left the venue hungry for more, and began recovering and preparing for the upcoming sprints. This was a common theme among all of New England, and the team finished 3rd behind Intermountain Division and Alaska.

Fran braving the blizzard during the first race (Photo by Philip Belena)
Alex skating through the snow storm in the skate individual start. (Photo by Phillip Belena)

Wednesday Classic Sprint

With a day of rest behind them, the girls arrived at Mount Van Hoevenberg feeling motivated for the long classic sprint day ahead. Alex raced her first classic race of the season (she’s been off competing internationally in Biathlon) and was thrilled with her qualifier result. She felt that her preparation and recovery efforts paid off and she qualified 10th in a strong field of U18 girls. Fran has had an awesome season of sprinting this year and qualified close behind in 12th.

In the heats, Alex led most of her quarterfinal but was overtaken in the finishing stretch to place 5th. She ended the day in 23rd place. Fran won her quarterfinal and placed 2nd in her semifinal to make it all the way to the final. The final race was close, and she had a gutsy and confident race, placing 3rd and taking a podium spot for the U18 girls.

Alex in action during the classic sprint qualifier.
Fran striding up the hill in the classic sprint qualifier.

Friday Classic 10k Mass Start

Friday’s races were chaotic and all of New England’s athletes stayed resilient and at the ready. Due to warming temperatures, the snow on Thursday was extremely mushy, causing classic tracks to disintegrate and making navigating fast downhills difficult. The solution was for the course to be salted, firming up snow conditions so that the tracks would hold and downhills would be easier to navigate. After the U16 races in the morning, it was clear that the course conditions were too fast and were dangerous to athletes. Races for the U18s and U20s were delayed by over an hour so that the course could be re-groomed. The U18 girls had already finished their race warm ups by the time the news arrived. This did not stop them from being ready to race and they all ate a big snack and got off their feet until it was time to get ready to race again.

After seeing how the races went for the U16s, the older athletes created a race strategy that would keep them in the mix. Most of the athletes prepared to be conservative on the downhills so as not to risk crashing and losing time. Fran did just that, and placed 8th for U18 girls. She was proud of her tactical approach. Alex had a strong race as well, placing 38th and right in the mix with many of her New England teammates. Not bad for her first classic distance race of the year!

Saturday 3.3k Mixed Relay

Relay day arrived and the team spirit was high. New England had found success in the classic races and was ready to hold their position in 1st place. New England placed a team on the podium in every relay.

In the U18 relay, Alex and Fran were on different relay teams and helped their teams to 5th and 4th respectively, just 10 seconds behind the New England team in 3rd. Alex boasted a bruised nose after a big crash during her leg of the relay. Crashing was a theme in the relay, with members of other NE teams also taking tumbles.

Saturday Banquet

At the end of the day, teams were rewarded with a banquet and awards ceremony, honoring podium finishers, resilient athletes, and team New England for the overall win of the Alaska cup.

Next up

This championship week - from U16s to JN’s to EHS, was an inspiring week where athletes made new friends, gained race experience, and got to enjoy some classic New England weather. We are so thankful for the skiing community!!

We are looking forward to April recovery and time to wind down. Other than a mindfulness session with Pilar Doughty, we’ll be laying low for the next month and recovering for the start of training in May!