Cockney and McMurtry take national cross-country relay title 

Finish line crash leaves Kennedy and Widmer settling on fourth place finish

click to enlarge JOHN FRENCH - RELAY RACERS Jess Cockney and Brent McMurtry proved to be the team to beat at the Haywood Ski Nationals Relay Sprints event at Whistler Olympic Park on Saturday, March 23.
  • John French
  • RELAY RACERS Jess Cockney and Brent McMurtry proved to be the team to beat at the Haywood Ski Nationals Relay Sprints event at Whistler Olympic Park on Saturday, March 23.

A dramatic crash mere metres from the finish line at the Sea to Sky Nordic Festival Open Men’s Team Sprint event led to heartbreak yesterday.

Philip Widmer of the Canmore Nordics and Jess Cockney with the Foothills Nordic Ski Club (FNSC) came into the finish straight away on their final lap battling for first place. The two where trying to ski the same line in the final sprint to the finish. In the push for the best position Widmer lost his balance and fell. As Widmer got back up two other competitors passed him to claim second and third spots. Widmer and his teammate, Russell Kennedy, claimed fourth in the race, which had a total distance of just over 7km. The fastest teams covered the distance in just over 15 minutes and 30 second.

According to Cockney, Widmer skied strong the whole race.

“I was hoping for a nice tight battle for the line but unfortunately we didn’t get that today,” said Cockney after the awards ceremony.

Cockney’s FNSC teammate in the relay event was Brent McMurtry and he said he was pleased with the course, the same route used during Olympic competitions in 2010.

“It was amazing, it held up very, very well,” said McMurtry. “It was quite a bit colder this morning. In afternoon (during) the final it was getting wet but still really fast. It was perfect.”

Second place went to David Greer and Knute Johnsgaard while Colin Abbott and Graham Nishikawa placed third with only tenths of seconds separating first and third.

The team of Heidi Widmer and Marlis Kromm of FNSC took the Open Women’s Team Sprint. The pair finished almost 10 seconds ahead of Mary Thompson and Erin Tribe of Team Hardwood. Michaela Howie and Zoe Roy of Canmore placed third.

Saturday races also included University relay teams and younger skiers in the Challenge category.

The National Championships continue today with para-national sit events for men and women, a 10km free event for men, a 5km free ski for women and national races for junior and juvenile athletes.

By John French

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