Whistler athletes on top at Apex 

The Whistler Mountain Ski Club cranked things up a notch last weekend as they participated in the Pontiac/GMC Cup Speed Series. FIS coach Brett MacFarlane summed it up as "Eight days of downhill, seven medals, and results all around."

Prior to the Cup, the WMSC held a speed camp on Whistler and Blackcomb, dividing racers into two groups; first-time downhillers and experienced speed racers. The track featured high speed turns, good drops, and "terrifying" air. The idea was to give athletes a safe but challenging way to try out or train for speed events.

Said head coach Jordan Williams, "We really forced the athletes to elevate their skill level by building a challenging but safe course. Rather than make an easy course that was comfortable for everyone we pushed their abilities with good speed, strong turns, and air. We, along with most other coaches in the province, are very pleased with the results."

After three days of training at Apex, the first race came down to a margin of two one-hundredths of a second between WMSC racers. Jamie Finlayson, a former national team prospect who was forced to quit competitive skiing with arthritis a few years ago, got one step closer to being reinstated to the national team by taking gold in one minute 18.44 seconds.

Brian Bennett was second in 1:18.46, edging out Manitoba’s Brooks Magnowski in the senior category.

WMSC skier Marcus Waring also impressed coaches by finishing 11 th overall as the second J1 Junior (ages 15 and 16) with a time of 1:19.73. Other strong performances came from Blake Jamieson (16 th ), Ben Chaddock (19 th ), Trevor Conroy (20 th ). Michael Messeguer, James Charlton, and Jerry McArthur also competed.

In the women’s downhill, Christina Lustenberger, a WMSC alumni who is racing with the B.C. Ski Team, took the gold medal in 1:20.87. Yota Lambropoulos of Banff was a close second in 1:20.92, followed by Canmore’s Katie Fukushima.

WMSC racer Charlotte Whitney was seventh overall, but good for a silver medal in the junior category. Anatasia Skryabina was 16 th overall or seventh among juniors.

The second race was postponed by one day to clean up the course after a snowfall, and on the whole Whistler racers weren’t able to get back in the same groove as the first day.

Bennett finished third behind Sean Cochrane of Prince George and B.C. Ski Team racer Aaron Civitarese of Trail, B.C. with a time of 1:18.07 – 0.39 seconds back of Cochrane and 0.04 back of Civitarese. Finlayson was fifth in 1:18.55.

With a silver and a bronze, Bennett took the season title in the Western Pontiac/GMC Cup and leads in points heading into the national championships in Whistler next month.

"I was looking for the win each day, but considering the mistakes I made I am pleased to have placed where I did," said Bennett. "I am now where I want to be for the nationals and I will take the next few weeks to refine my skiing and build up for Whistler."

Waring moved up a couple places to finish ninth overall and earn his second medal as a junior.

Other promising finishes include Blake Jamieson (14 th ), Trevor Conroy (16 th ) Ben Chaddock (18 th ). Other WMSC racers to finish include Michael Messeguer, Jerry McArthur, and Jesse Charlton.

In the second women’s race, the WMSC’s Charlotte Whitney moved up into fourth place with a time of 1:23.34, just 0.14 seconds off the podium. It was good enough to win her second medal of the competition. Anastasia Skryabina moved up one spot into 15 th place.

Unfortunately the snow conditions forced the cancellation of two giant slalom events on the following day.

"The top-notch speed training that Whistler-Blackcomb organized for us over the last month definitely gave us a leg up on the competition," said MacFarlane. "No other team in the country can train on a hill such as the Lower Dave Murray, which is more challenging than any race we will run this season."

The final events on the Pontiac/GMC calendar before the championships in Whistler are scheduled from March 3-6 in Ontario.

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