Alison Mackie is just 17 years old. She probably worries about a lot of things that most teenage girls do. Yet most of her high-school peers certainly cannot fathom doing what she did on Jan. 30: place 13th in a 20-kilometre mass start at the World Juniors.
As the youngest member of Team Canada in Whistler this week, Mackie crossed the line in a time of 1:03:26.9. It was a career breakthrough for the Edmonton, Alta. native.
“Oh my gosh, it’s amazing. I never would have expected this,” she gushed after the contest. “It’s my best race of the season so far.”
Starting near the back of the 53-skier field in the chaotic mass start, Mackie wasted no time navigating her way into the lead group where she raced for her first lap. Then, with a group of 10 separating from the pack, she put herself in “the pain cave” at the front of the second chase group for the next 10 kilometres of the Nordic marathon.
“The mass start is always a little bit rough. I was really lucky I was able to stay out of the mess,” said Mackie. “I was in a good pack, working together and taking our turns at the front. It was really cool. I was able to ski with that group of girls, going at a good pace and even catching the leaders a bit.”
With the lead group breaking away in the final charge for the medals, the chase group also began to stretch out with young Mackie holding her own, churning her arms and legs for a more-than-respectable top-15 finish.
Two days prior to her milestone effort in the mass start, the Edmontonian had also competed in the junior women’s 1.2-kilometre sprints. She fought her way up the first hill while matching strides with the world’s best, but couldn’t keep up with the intense last rush down into the horseshoe finish. Her result: 23rd overall in the classic ski sprint.
Mackie has her entire career—not to mention high school graduation—ahead of her. She is excited to be participating in her first World Juniors, excited to be raising eyebrows against older opponents. Most of all, she is excited for Nordiq Canada’s potential going into the next Olympic cycle.
“I think we really have an amazing shot at doing well,” Mackie said. “You know, we started our ‘We Believe’ campaign back in the fall. I think it's really motivating us as a country, and I think we have great momentum.”