Yesterday’s junior sprint competition was the opening event of the Junior World Championships here in Erzurum, Turkey. Erzurum is a town surrounded by large bare mountains which somewhat resemble the mountains of Utah. We woke to -20 C temperatures and bright sunshine and made the hour commute to the race venue at the Kandilli Ski Center.
The junior women led out the day in qualifying on a 1.3k course which had basically one large uphill at the start and gradual downhill and flat to the finish around the large stadium. Needless to say it was a tough course that did not offer much respite to the lungs or legs. Corey Stock led the American crew in 41st followed by Emily Hannah 49th, Stephanie Kirk 51st, and Mary O’Connel 58th. All the girls are second year J1’s and having their first international racing experience, so the day was a good chance to set some benchmarks for years to come.
By the time the junior men started it had warmed to a manageable temperature for the trip around the 1.6k loop. The men’s course had two long gradual uphills and didn’t offer much rest either. It was a fast day, however with times around 3 minutes. Logan Hanneman and I went 34th, 35th both about a second out of the heats. Will Wicherski was next in 72nd and Forrest Mahlen finished 87th losing a lot of speed and time with a crash coming into the stadium.
Both Logan and I were a little bummed about narrowly missing the heats but the day was a really good learning experience testing ourselves against the best in the world. Today the U-23 crew heads out on the same courses for their sprint competition filled with many top World Cup athletes.
The next race for the Juniors is on the 22nd with the women doing a 5k classic and the men traveling 10k. Aside from the racing and skiing, we have been enjoying some delicious food from a giant buffet 3 times a day. We have been playing some intense ping pong games as well. We are all a bit jealous of Will who has been impressing the Norwegian ladies with his fluency in their language. We also attended the opening ceremonies last night where we were treated to over an hour of traditional Turkish dancing. Other than that we have been relaxing a fair amount and hope to make a trip into Erzurum sometime this week to check out the local culture.
It’s a pretty amazing experience being here and on behalf of everyone on this trip I would like to thank NNF for their generous support. Without their help many of us would not have been able to partake in this event.