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Whistler skier on podium in J1 Nationals

Alberta, Ontario and Quebec claim most of the medals

If the Mars J1 Junior Alpine Championships were an indication of anything it’s that regional differences are not as big as they used to be with Canada’s main ski racing provinces – Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and B.C. – all landing spots on the podium.

The Junior Alpine Championships are in only their second year. They were created to retain skiers who have graduated from the K2 levels in the sport, building capacity among the older racers while giving athletes a venue to race against their peers. Previously, J1 skiers (age 15 and 16) were limited to participating in zone events, or advancing to the provincial and national level through the NorAm and Pontiac GMC series, where they would compete against older racers.

"A common theme felt throughout the ski world is that our sport loses a lot of athletes after the transition from K2 to J1," said Max Gartner, the chief athletics officer for Alpine Canada Alpin. "One of the reasons seems to be that after graduating, the athletes from K2 enter the big FIS world without an event tailored to their needs. The next benchmark event that is for a few elite athletes does not occur until after the World Junior Championships."

The first slalom event took place on Saturday with fog and blowing snow making things more interesting.

Kelly McBroom of the Banff Alpine Racers posted the best two-run time, finishing in one minute, 43.78 seconds. Brooke Bunston of Ontario was second in 1:44.72, and Eliane Duquet of Quebec third in 1:45.11.

The top B.C. skier was Whistler’s Katrina Dekur in eighth place. Her teammate Sandra Macdonald also cracked the top-15, finishing 13 th out of a field of 64 racers from across Canada.

Deborah Bayliss, Julia Murray and Kirsten Dekur were among the 20 racers that did not finish their first run.

In the men’s slalom, Tyler Nella of Georgian Peaks Ski Club and the Ontario Ski Team was first with a time of 1:40.84, just 0.12 seconds ahead of Travis Dawson of Alberta. Brandon Mudryk, also of Alberta, was third in 1:43.32.

Matt Holler, a WMSC graduate on the B.C. Team, was fifth overall, less than half a second back of the podium. Rey Stanislas of the WMSC also cracked the top-15, finishing in 15 th place.

Although rain was in the forecast for Sunday’s giant slalom, skiers enjoyed clear skies and almost perfect racing conditions for most of the day.

Kelly McBroom won her second gold in as many days in 1:46.96, over a second faster than the 1:48.18 posted by Marie-Michele Gagnon of Quebec. Kate Ryley of Ontario, who was fourth in the slalom, was third in the GS with a 1:48.25.

For B.C. the top woman was Georgia Simmerling of Grouse Mountain and the B.C. Ski Team. Jennifer Mah was the top Whistler skier in 15 th .

In the men’s GS, Travis Dawson and Tyler Nella switched places from the previous day to finish first and second respectively with times of 1:43.04 and 1:43.14. James-Douglas McLean of Whistler and the Whistler Mountain Ski Club was third in 1:46.16.

Whistler’s Matt Holler also cracked the top-15 with a 10 th place.

Monday’s super G, which looked like it might be called for rain and soggy course conditions, took place with better than expected conditions thanks to the efforts of event crews, Weasel Workers and parent volunteers.

Marie-Michele Gagnon of Quebec put an end to Kelly McBroom’s winning streak with a solid run. "The course has a beat," said Gagnon of the turns on the course, "and if you don’t get into that from the start you will have a slower race. I had to move a lot to stay on it, I had a good run."

McBroom did win the silver medal, while Quebec’s Eliane Duquet earned her second bronze medal of the week.

For Whistler, Jen Mah was once again the top racer, finishing 10 th .

Alberta’s Tyler Dawson won again, while Ontario’s Tyler Nella settled for second. Erik Anderson, one of the American racers to compete, finished third. The WMSC’s Conrad Pridy just missed the podium in fourth place, 0.39 seconds back of Anderson, while Matt Hollder and J.D. McLean tied for seventh place. The 10 th place finisher was later disqualified, moving the WMSC’s Stanislas Rey into the 10 th spot overall.

Tuesday’s super G was cancelled due to the rain, poor visibility and soft snow, wrapping up the last day of competition.

In all, B.C. ended the Mars Junior Alpine Championships with just one medal. Alberta took seven, Ontario five and Quebec four.

The top-five athletes in each event earned invites to attend the Pontiac GMC Canadian Championships in Quebec. The winners in each category also earned an opportunity to train with the national team this spring in Banff.