Midwest 2017 Junior National and NENSA U16 Team Naming

MAYOR’S XC CHALLENGE, Minneapolis MN, served as the location for the last Midwest JNQ event of the season. The series of qualifying races started December 17th in Houghton, MI traveling to three other race venues for a total of 8 races where there was a potential to qualify for a spot on Midwest’s 2017 USSA Cross Country Jr. National Championship Team.

Both races Saturday and Sunday were classic discipline with sprint competitions on Saturday and a distance mass start on Sunday.

Though temperatures reached a balmy mid-50s both days, race organizers were able to hold the races on well covered man-made loops with tracks set throughout the day.

After the competitive weekend was over, the team gathered for the highly anticipated team naming for the Midwest 2017 USSA Cross Country Jr. National Championship Team and Midwest 2017 NENSA U16 Championships Team.


Photo Credit: Skinnyski.com

This year, members of the Midwest Junior National team travel to Lake Placid, NY for a week long series of 4 races against the nation’s top junior skiers. More information on the event can be found at www.xcjuniornationals2017.com/registration.

Members of the 2017 U16 NENSA trip will travel to Farmington, Maine for a weekend of three races.

A special congratulations to all Midwest qualifiers and, good luck in New York!


Photo Credit: Skinnyski.com

Full results from the weekend can be found at https://www.sportstats.us


U16 Boys
James Schneider
Peter Moore
Henry Hall
Alex Nemeth
Noah Bodewes
Joe Lynch
Matt Bourne
Eli Gore

U16 Girls
Sarah Olson
Kasia Bednarski
Olivia Dreger
Leah Rudd
Isabel Seay
Kaelin Jackson
Charlotte Brown

U20 Boys
Xavier Mansfield
Foss Kerker
Shad Kraftson
Jack Christianson
Sam Myers
Ian Ivens

U18 Boys
Patrick Acton
Luc Golin
Anders Sonnesyn
Cullen Chosy
Ryan Steger
Jackson Adler
Torsten Brinkema
Ben Olson
Alternate: Gavin Martell

U20 Girls
Renae Anderson
Dottie Anderson
Sadie Peterson

U18 Girls
Abby Jarzin
Lucy Anderson
Kelly Koch
Anna Johnson
Mara McCollor
Erin Moening
Rana Krafton
Jenna Parent
Regan Duffy
Anja Maijala
Mae Barnes
Alternate: Siri Bohacek


Photo Credit: Skinnyski.com


Cooper Lennox
Matt Clarke
Nick Parent
Garrett Walters

Lauren Lackman
Anni Skillicorn
Alice House
Ellie Munger



City of Lakes Loppet – the third stop on the CXC Avant Techno Marathon Cup Series


Photo Credit: Skinnyski.com

THEODORE WIRTH PARK, in Minneapolis, MN was packed with ski enthusiast for the City of Lakes Loppet.

Event organizers did a fantastic job in creating a course that would hold the 226 racers who came out for the Hoigaard’s Classical Marathon. The lack of natural snow did not stop skiers from completing the hilly 32km course, which was 5 laps around the 6km man-made loop.


Photo Credit: Skinnyski.com

In the men’s event, Matthew Liebsch (Orono, MN) 1:14:05 took the lead by over two minutes to second place finisher Chris Pappathopoulos from Sun Prairie, WI (1:16:09). Rounding out the podium was Krystof Kopal (Marquette, MI) with a time of 1:17:17.


Photo Credit: Skinnyski.com

On the women’s side with an astonishing lead was CXC elite team winner Felicia Gesior of Marquette, MI finshing the course in 1:28:51, nearly seven minutes ahead of Canadian skier Isabella Howden (Barrie, ON) 1:35:49. Kelly Skillicorn of Winona, MN skied to her third place podium in a time of 1:36:20.

With just three more races in the series, this weekend marked the halfway point in the CXC Marathon Cup point standing.

The series will continue with the last three races, including the highly anticipated American Birkebeiner just about two weeks away.


Saturday, February 11, 2017 Vasaloppet USA 58km Freestyle, Mora MN
Saturday, February 25, 2017 American Birkebeiner, Hayward WI
Saturday, March 11, 2017 Great Bear Chase Ski Marathon, Calumet, MI



Nordic Rocks in Schools Across the Country

Over 5,000 Midwest elementary aged children have recently tried skiing for the first time as part of their physical education classes this winter. 


Thanks to the generous support of the National Winter Sports Education Foundation and the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, the CXC Nordic Rocks for Schools program continues to grow at a steady rate, including 95 schools in the Midwest, and over 40 schools across the country.

In four short seasons, the CXC Nordic Rocks for Schools program, along with the Knicker Nordic Ski Bumps program in Wausau, (WI) have made an impact on thousands of new skiers.

Your program is reaching 120 kids in a community that has an abundance of trails but a scarcity of use. When asked: 119 of these 120 kids had never been on cross-country skis. That all changes with Nordic Rocks. Outside next week!

– John Gravlin, The Top of Michigan Trails Council

There are over 3,500 elementary schools across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan with an interest in teaching children the joy of winter sports.

With questions about the CXC “Nordic Rocks for Schools” program, please contact Bruce Manske.

Behind the Gold


This is a story about the dream of four teenaged girls. It’s a story about best friends who came from different backgrounds in sport from across America. It’s a story about inspiration and the power of sport heroes. In a way, it reads a bit like a fairytale. Except that it really did happen, just as they had dreamed.

2017 USANA FIS Nordic Junior World Championships - women's 4x3.3k relay (U.S. Ski Team - Tom Kelly)

2017 USANA FIS Nordic Junior World Championships – women’s 4×3.3k relay (U.S. Ski Team – Tom Kelly)

Katharine Ogden and Julia Kern, both 19, are New England natives who cross country ski race together at Stratton Mountain School. Hannah Halvorsen, 18, is a California girl from Truckee, skiing out of Sugar Bowl. Hailey Swirbul grew up in Carbondale, CO skiing with the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club before moving to Alaska.

The dream they shared was a bit different than that of most teens. Walking around the streets of the Adirondack Olympic village of Lake Placid in September, 2015, they talked about their heroes – the American girls on the World Cup tour. They envisioned themselves with USA painted on their faces and glitter on their cheeks. And then there were those crazy relay socks their heroes wore.

“We’ve just loved seeing the girls in the relay,” said Ogden. “The four of us have been really close friends for a long time. It was our dream to have the four of us on a relay team together just like the national team.”

A decade ago, the USA was not a player in international cross country ski racing. Today, seven different women have stood on World Cup podiums. And in the relay event held twice a year, the USA has now become a threat. What the U.S. women have done to achieve that level goes well beyond athletic training. It’s about team. It’s about supporting each other. It’s about dressing up for relay days to build team spirit. And it’s about winning.

“We’ve taken a ton of inspiration from the World Cup girls,” said Swirbul. “All four of us have watched those races together. It’s important to feed off each other as a team. Our World Cup girls do that very well. They take each other’s positive energy and it spirals into more positive energy and into a good result.”

So, together, the four best friends set a goal. It wasn’t just any goal. They knew the Junior World Championships was coming to America. And they knew the date when they would ski together in the relay: Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017. On that afternoon in Lake Placid nearly two years ago, they stopped in an outlet store and bought their relay socks, tucking them away until that Sunday in February. At every camp and every competition, they reminded each other of their goal.


A cross country relay is complex. The first two athletes ski classical technique, or diagonal stride. The final two ski freestyle technique, or skating. Every athlete has a role. Every athlete must perform. It doesn’t mean you have to win your leg, but each corresponding athlete needs to move the team forward.

It was not lost on Hailey Swirbul, the youngest of the team, the importance of her leadoff role. A few minutes before the start, Coach Bryan Fish talked to her on the trail. “Just ski your own race – don’t worry about anyone else,” he told her. “You’ll stay in contact.” She did her job, positioning the USA 15 seconds from the medal.

Swirbul tagged Kern for the second classic leg. Battling illness that week, Kern was not at 100 percent. But she gutted through her leg, moving the USA up two spots to sixth and kept the gap to medals at 25 seconds – still achievable with the skating prowess of Halvorsen and Ogden.

Now it was crunch time. Next up was Halvorsen who tore through the field, battling up every hill with Sweden and France. Tucking the long Cabin Downhill, Halvorsen burst between the Swedish and French girls and attacked on Horseshoe HIll to move into third. She would lose one spot coming into the stadium, but left Ogden in a viable position to seal the deal.

Classic Sprint Finals 2017 USANA Nordic Junior World Championships - Soldier Hollow Photo © Steven Earl

Classic Sprint Finals 2017 USANA Nordic Junior World Championships – Soldier Hollow Photo © Steven Earl

Ogden saw Halvorsen coming into the stadium for the tag in fourth. It was now in her hands to achieve the dream. “The podium was right there and I couldn’t not just send it,” said Ogden. As much as she wanted that medal, Ogden knew she had to be smart. She paced herself behind France, waiting for the long sustained climb on the back reaches of the 3.3k course – powering herself into medal position and building a gap that could not be overcome.

It was at that moment that life moved in slow motion. Ogden’s three teammates were in the finish anxiously watching for the racers to come into view. Suddenly, there she was, hauling down Cabin Hollow and up into Horseshoe Hill – no one behind her. At first they pinched themselves – was this a dream? Then came the reality.

“I was crying,” said Swirbul. “This has been a dream for us for more than two years. To see that dream come true – I was crying, happy, hugging and screaming – all in one emotion.”

Ogden rounded the final turn into the stadium – the bronze medal uncontested – as her friends came to greet her at the finish with American flags. It was a finish area filled with emotion – family, friends, fans who all knew how hard these four girls had worked for this one day.

Together, as teammates, they had accomplished something that had never been done before.

“This didn’t just happen organically,” said U.S. Ski Team Coach Bryan Fish. “This was a part of a plan that these four athletes have worked on for nearly two years. Today they put it together on the snow.”

And the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team athletes the four girls admire so much? They showered the juniors – who they jokingly call “guppies” – with praise. “Relay days are the BEST days, because that’s when the true strength of a team comes out! SO proud of our junior girls for taking the #relaysocks out for an exciting ride. #oneteam #guppiepower,” wrote two-time World Championship medalist Jessie Diggins. Kikkan Randall echoed the sentiment. “Looks like the relay socks worked their magic! World Junior podium for the US in relay! So proud! #oneteam #youngguns.”

“We got all our motivation from the World Cup girls,” said Kern after the big win. “They’re the ones who set the precedent and we just try to follow and make them proud.”

Proud, indeed.

by Tom Kelly, USSA Communications

The Final JNQ Weekend at Theodore Wirth Park

The Mayors Challenge race will be held this coming weekend at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis, MN.

Currently the course is in good condition but with the expected warm temperatures the rest of the week, schedule changes are likely. It is imperative that athletes and parents refer to the website for up to date information. Our organizing committee has back up plans in place so that the best quality experience can be had.


Please note:
This is the final USSA Junior National Qualifier for the Midwest region and the Midwest Junior National team will be announced following competition on Sunday.  All participants are required to have a USSA license to participate (ages u16 and up).


Day licenses are available at www.ussa.org. Day of registration will not be available. All participants are expected to review the registration list (posted on Wednesday) to confirm their registration information is accurate.

The course will be closed to recreational skiing before and during competition.


Please note:
  • Both Saturday and Sunday starts have been moved up, and the Youth SkiX start has been moved to 9 am on Saturday.
  • Saturday’s sprint race has been changed to classic technique.  SkiX is still Freestyle.
  • The 83% pole height rule for classic races will be in-effect and enforced for athletes ages u20-u16.  For questions please visit http://www.fis-ski.com/cross-country/news-multimedia/news/article=maximum-classic-technique-poles.html
  • Official start lists are subject to change due to weather and course conditions.  Please visit www.loppet.org for up to date information.
  • A coaches meeting will be held on Friday Night @ 6:00pm and Saturday night at 4:00pm at Theodore Wirth Park Race Headquarters.

Volunteers are still needed, please contact Nancy Nelson at volunteer@loppet.org or register at http://www.loppet.org/mayorschallenge/volunteer/

For event questions please contact Mike Bono at mbono@brocade.com







Noquemanon Ski Marathon – the second stop on the CXC Avant Techno Marathon Cup Series

The CXC Avant Techno Marathon Cup Series will continue with the City of Lakes Loppet in Minneapolis, MN on February 4th.

SCHEDULE OF LOPPET EVENTS (all races at Wirth Park)

• Finn Sisu Sprints: Friday 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
• Hoigaard’s Classic Marathon: Saturday 9 a.m.
• Columbia Sportswear Skate Marathon: Sunday 9 a.m.

** CXC will be providing race wax services for CXC Master Team skiers, and to skiers who either won or purchased wax support certificates. CXC Race Wax Service will include HF race wax and Top Coats; plus, kick wax application. Skis will be ready at the START area before each race.


Rain and warm weather leading up to the second stop on the CXC Maraton Cup race series – the Noquemanon Ski Marathon in Marquette MI did not stop race organizers and volunteers from hosting the event for the 19th consecutive year. Race distances were shortened, however, the 50k turned to a 31k while the half marathon (24k) was altered to 23k.

CXC Elite team member Kyle Bratrud preserved his champion title, winning the 31k Classic event coming to the finish line with a time of 1:31:35.3.

“The 2017 Noquemanon was a great opportunity for me to get a longer workout in. The beautiful race course was complimented nicely by a dumping of fresh snow the night before the race which made for some serious trail blazing for me at the front. That being said, I got a great workout in and was fortunate enough to win my second Noque in a row, so I have no complaints,” said Bratrud.

The race was close between Kyle and second place finisher Chris Pappathopoulous, who took second by a mere 1.1 seconds. Rounding out the podium in the men’s classic 31k was Norther Michigan University skier Frederik Schwencke with a time of 1:31:46.3.

In the men’s freestyle division, Zachary Nelson took first in another close race just 1.4 seconds ahead of Zach Varty with a time of 1:30.53.6.

The 31k classic title on the women’s side went to Isabella Howden (1:44:38.6) crossing the finish line just 11.2 seconds ahead of CXC Elite Team member Felicia Gesior, and Rebecca Davis rounding out the top three.

In the women’s freestyle 31k, Jenna Dickinson took home a win with a time of 1:44:14.9, followed by Vicki Asmus in second and Lindsey Kriete in third.

Andy Liebner took home the 23k classic title with an astonishing lead of nearly 9 minutes ahead of second place finisher Mike Wiitala and third place Jeremy Steele. Liebner completed in the course in 1:17:50.0.


Classic 23k women’s winner was Joan Rundman who completed the course in 1:33:36.8 followed by Amelia Schankwitz and Molly Stewart.

The freestyle 23k title went to local Marquette skier Daniel Dehlin with a finishing time of 1:03:35.6, nearly three minutes ahead of Kevin Tarras and Marquette high school senior Ethan Hall.

On the women’s side, Lindsey Dehlin took the 23K freestyle title with a time of 1:07:07.1 making a couples sweep for the Dehlin family. Hanna Torvi and Jan Haase took second and third respectively.

We are half way through the CXC Youth Cup for this season.

With the conclusion of the Duluth Hilltop Invite races this past weekend, we are half way through the CXC Youth Cup for this season.

The individual start freestyle races went off without a hitch in beautifully sunny weather on challenging courses at the Marshall school venue. The Duluth Cross-Country Ski Club put on a great event and the entire Central region was glad to be racing in Duluth.

“Its been many, many years since Duluth has seen an event of this caliber. We are glad to be here and hope to be back in the future”, stated Amy Cichanowski, CXC Youth Coordinator.

The CXC Youth Cup resumes in a few days at the Friday evening FinnSisu Sprints (Loppet Festival) at Wirth Park in Minneapolis.