Cantley, QC – SPORTS – On the final day of the Haywood NorAm/Eastern Canadian Championships on Sunday in Cantley, QC. The old, transformed snow made for mushy track conditions and tricky waxing for the technicians, while the mass-start format created a tight battle for the podium. The men competed over 15km, while the men did one more lap for 20km, all in classic-technique.
There was a lot on the line for the top Senior men and women, as positions to race for Canada on the World Cups being held on Canada in March are one the line, while Sadie White was skiing for an unprecedented 3rd consecutive gold.
In the Senior Men race, the pace was very aggressive right from the start, the pack of 130 quickly split apart, with a lead group of 10 forming at the front after 10km, and included 5 NDC-Thunder Bay athletes. As they began the final 5km lap, NorAm leader Kevin Sandau increased the pace to try to thin out the pack, and NDC’s Andy Shields, Michael Somppi, and Scott Hill were able to cover the attack. Then, on the final steep climb, Shields made his way to the front and as soon as they hit the steepest section, he put in an astounding attack, immediately gapping the unassuming field. They tried to respond, but his tempo was vicious and no one could match his speed. He kept attacking all the way to the finish, increasing his lead to 12 seconds by the finish, claiming his 3rd career NorAm victory. Teammate, Scott Hill finished sixth and was the Top-U23 skier, while Michael Somppi was just behind in 8th.
An ecstatic Andy Shields explained that: “it was another good day for the team so we were able to feed off each other in the pack during the race. The body felt the way it needed to feel. I was able to save a lot of energy until the last for my attack at 2km to go. We had a big advantage with our skis today and they really helped me take a key victory.”
In the Sr. Women’s 15km, the field stayed together for the first 10km, with Jenn Jackson doing the majority of the work at the front. The pace quickened at the beginning of the last lap, and NDC’s Katherine Stewart-Jones moved into the lead pack of 6 with Jenn and Alannah MacLean. Again the pace increased with 3 km to go; Katherine keeping the leaders in sight and fighting side by side for 3rd place. On the finish stretch she sprinted away from 4th and almost caught the girl in front. Katherine was also the top University skier. After disappointing races on Friday and Saturday, it was a welcome return to her form. Jenn Jackson just missed the podium, only 2 seconds from the bronze. Alannah MacLean held on strong for 11th.
The team returns to Thunder Bay for a short rest and training before 5 athletes depart on Friday for Junior & Under-23 World Championships in Romania, while the Seniors head to Prince George for the final qualifying race for the March World Cups.
Full results available at zone4.ca