Whistler Olympic Park saw its largest crowd of the season this past Saturday and Sunday, as the Callaghan Valley Ski Club played host to the second B.C. Cup race of the season. The turnout was massive, with athletes participating from the New Zealand development team, and clubs participating from as far away as Quebec. More than 350 individual athletes competed in one or both events over two days.
Rob Bernhardt, the chief of competition for the race and director of cross-country skiing for the Vancouver Organizing Committee, praised volunteers and officials for their efforts inputting together the event. He was also impressed by the number of clubs that participated, and the general interest in the new facility.
“When we host the national championships in March it’s going to be a much bigger deal,” he said. “We’ll have the full Canadian team here, the American national team, probably some athletes from other countries, and about 500 athletes from across the country. All the events we host are a warm-up for that event, and for the Games.”
While the event was about the size of other provincial events, Bernhardt says the sport is less developed in the region. But that’s changing, he said, as more people are taking up the sport at all ages.
“I’m looking at one category in the results, and every kid in the race is from the Whistler Nordics,” he said. “There were probably 60 kids from the Whistler Nordics out here on Sunday, which is something you wouldn’t have seen in the past. Then you have all the kids from Squamish and Pemberton. I think you’ll find that a higher percentage of the population is skiing than ever before because of club programs, and events like the Twoonies. Squamish has also gotten very involved.”
As for the number of skiers using the trails on a daily basis, Bernhardt says that the Whistler Olympic Park has exceeded their expectations so far, but should continue to grow in popularity.
“I think our numbers are going to get much higher,” he said. “Right now the venue isn’t done, there’s no signs on the highway, no marketing. By the time the venue is done, and there’s a comfortable lodge instead of cold trails, and more trails are built, I think it’s going to be a lot more popular in the future than it is now.”
The first day of competition was the individual sprint on classic skis on Saturday, followed by a free technique (skate ski) race on Sunday. Complete results are posted online at www.zone4.com.
In the Atom category, for racers eight and under, local skiers include Avery Hargitt, Troy Rozspalek, and Anthony Liakakos of the Pemberton Spud Valley Jackrabbits, placing second, sixth and eight respectively. From the Whistler Nordics, Graeme Bowers and Jackson Waller were fourth and 13 th .
In Pee Wee Girls, locals include Amhani Jones in sixth and Steffi Denroche in 11 th . For the boys, Pemberton’s Riel Tetreault was eighth.
In Mini Midget Girls, Hannah Leverton of Pemberton was 17 th .
In Midget, Pemberton’s Tachona Jones was 20 th for the girls.
In Senior Women, Whistler Nordics coach Maria Lundgren was first by more than 16 seconds on the one kilometer loop.
More locals participated in the free technique race than the sprints.
In the Atom race, which had 26 skiers in the start, seven Whistler Nordics skiers were in the top-10. Michael Murdoch was second, Sam Johnston third, Fraser Doak fourth, Graeme Bowers fifth, Aidan O’Heany seventh, Benita Peiffer eighth, and Ian Davidson ninth.
Julia Long was the top local in Pee Wee Girls, placing 12 th . For the boys, Owen Reith was eighth for the Whistler Nordics, and Thomas Rozspalek 10 th for the Spud Valley team.
In Mini Midget Girls the top Whistler skier was Jennifer McTavish in 14 th , while Braden Metza was 14 th for the boys.
For the Juvenile Girls, the top local was Akiko Clarke in 18 th .
In Midget Boys, the lone local was Birken Metza in 21 st . Tachona Jones was 23 rd for the girls, representing Pemberton.
In Master 31-40, Matteo Abel placed fifth for the Whistler Nordics.
In Master 41-50, Brent Murdoch was third.
In Master Women 31-40, Tobi Henderson was first and Wendy Waller third.
In Master Women 41-50, Maureen Harriman was fourth, while Cheryl Morningstar and Brenda Reith were sixth and seventh.
The next event on the Whistler Olympic Park calendar is the Biathlon B.C. Cup Jan. 26-27, followed by the Spud Valley Coast Cup on Feb. 16-17, and the Whistler Nordics Coast Cup on Feb. 17-18.
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