If they seemed unusually sleepy in classes on Monday, Nordic ski racers from the Tahoe-Truckee area weren’t up late playing video games Sunday night.
Far West Nordic ski racers returned late Sunday from Junior Nationals in frigid Fairbanks, Alaska, having slept little the night before so that they could enjoy closing ceremonies and the northern lights that made an appearance at roughly midnight on the team’s last night in town.
They were up again at 4 a.m. Sunday, making their move to the airport, having endured sub-zero temperatures and four days of high-pressure racing against the best competition in the country.
For some, Junior Nationals was undoubtedly a learning experience, a humbling opportunity to learn how far they have to go still before they can hope to fulfill their lofty goals.
For others, it was a chance to shine on the biggest stage available at their age.
North Tahoe junior Peter Holmes led the Far West contingent with a second-place finish in the J1 10-kilometer classic race — one spot away from a national title — while his North Tahoe teammate, senior Patrick McElravey, finished fourth in the OJ sprint despite losing a pole at the start of the race. J2s Sam Zabell, Dylan Syben and Julien Bordes also teamed up to finish fifth in the 3x3 Classic Relay race.
Sugar Bowl Academy freshman Hannah Halvorsen was consistently among the top finishers in Fairbanks as well, her strongest finish coming in the J2 skate sprint heats, where she placed third in the country. Perennial powerhouse Katrin Larusson, a senior at the Sugar Bowl Academy, also had a third-place finish, hers coming in the 5K freestyle on the first day of racing.
The North Tahoe High School boys won the Roger Westin award for the highest scoring male high school team, and the Sugar Bowl Academy girls team took third place.
As a whole, the Far West team recorded an impressive sixth-place finish at Junior Nationals while increasing its final points total from 2012 by more than 60 points. It was truly a team effort, with the coaches applying elbow grease all day at the waxing stands.
Said trip leader Mark Nadell: “There is a ridiculous amount of behind-the-scenes work that goes into an operation of this size, work that’s mostly unseen even by most of the athletes that are there, from hours and hours in the wax room, to the wax testers skiing kilometer after kilometer until their legs die, to late-night coaches meetings.”
Last Monday marked the first day of competition, kicking off with the 5K and 10K freestyle interval start.
McElravey finished fifth among the MOJ field, Larusson finished sixth in her FJ1 division and Holmes was eighth among MJ1 racers, Bordes was eighth among MJ2 racers, Syben was 10th in the MJ2 field and Halvorsen was 10th in the FJ2 division.
Norwegian skiers swept the boys division and took two of the top spots for the girls. But because they were ineligible for medals, all the J1 results were bumped up accordingly, giving Larusson third place and Holmes fifth.
Aside from the fifth-place finish in the classic relay by Zabell, Syben and Bordes, the MOJ team of Holmes, Christian and McElravey took seventh.
The Far West squad awoke to minus-9-degree temperatures for the freestyle sprints Thursday. The frigid temps did not deter Halvorsen, as she raced to her third-place finish. McElravey recorded his fourth-place finish on this day, while Syben was sixth. J2 boys Zabell, Bordes and Peter Carroll all skied into the quarterfinals, as did Larusson, Joelle Romo and Holmes.
Junior Nationals wrapped up Saturday with the classic mass start, in which Holmes earned his second place. After removing the guest Norwegian skiers from the results, McElravey finished 12th, Larusson was 11th, Halvorsen 16th and Zabell 18th in their respective divisions.
The Far West coaching crew included Ben Grasseschi, Jeff Schloss, Kara LaPoint, August Teague, Martin Benes, Holly Whitney and Joel Chew. Kelly McElravey provided administrative help, while parents Stacy Bordes, Stacey Herhusky, Michelle Syben and Janet Hardy also helped out on the trip.
“I think we’ll remember this trip for a long time,” Nadell said.
Sierra Sun sports editor Sylas Wright contributed to this report. Information was used from www.farwestnordic.org.