They’re roommates in Canmore, Alta. and champions in Thunder Bay.
Skiers Michael Somppi, Russell Kennedy and Chris Hamilton crossed the line in first, second and third place respectively on Sunday, taking all three podium spots in the Haywood Noram senior 15-kilometre freestyle skate race at Lappe Nordic Centre.
For Somppi, 24, it was also a measure of redemption.
“I had some good feelings this week and was really frustrated that I blew up in the final yesterday in the sprint,” said Somppi, born and raised in Thunder Bay and a member of Canada's national ski team.
Hamilton, a graduate of the National Development Centre team, now skis for the Alberta World Cup Academy.
“I took my frustrations out a little bit today on today’s race and really attacked it from the start," Somppi said.
It was Somppi’s first win on the Noram circuit, and should help push him a little closer to his ultimate goal, a spot on the nation’s world championship team.
He finished with a time of 36:56.5, 24.5 seconds ahead of Kennedy and 26.3 seconds in front of Hamilton, who finished in 37:22.8.
“I’ve never won a Noram, so my first victory here in Thunder Bay is pretty special.”
It was also Hamilton’s best Noram result, a satisfying end to a weekend of hard work, said the former Big Thunder Nordic racer.
“It’s kind of extra special that it’s at home in front of my family and friends,” Hamilton said.
“I just tried to go into it a little more relaxed and just go and make myself hurt instead of over-thinking it. And that made a big difference with me today.”
Hamilton said he was getting updates throughout the race and knew he was doing well.
“But I just tried to stay in my own head and attack each hill. It was a really good mix of extra info, but staying kind of centred,” he said.
Toronto junior Scott Hill, a first-year NDC-Thunder Bay member, finished 20th overall in the race, but his weekend of work paid off.
Hill, 18, was the fourth junior to cross the line Sunday, and combined with a ninth place Saturday in the sprint and a sixth-place result in Thursday’s skiathalon, earned himself a wild-card berth on Canada’s entry at the upcoming world junior Nordic championships in the Czech Repbulic.
“It feels great,” the Toronto native said. “I can’t even really describe it. It’s an amazing feeling.
“It was my goal all year. I knew I’d have a shot, but I didn’t know I’d be right on the edge.”
Hill said he doesn’t necessarily excel at any one event, so he knew he had to work hard in all three races to earn the trip overseas.
“I needed to have good races every race. It really came down today, to the last race, and I knew if I had a good one I would have a good shot. So I was happy to race well today.”
Raphael Couturier of Quebec was the top junior finisher, and collected the automatic berth. Kennedy grabbed the under 23 bid up for grabs in the race.
On the women’s side, Yukon’s Emily Nishikawa collected her second win in four days in the 10-kilometre free skate event, posting a 20:01.6 time, more than 35 seconds closer than her nearest competitor, Quebec junior Cendrine Browne.
As a consolation prize Browne got the final automatic berth for worlds, with Alberta’s Annika Hicks, the fifth overall finisher, nailing down the under 23 spot.
Thunder Bay’s Erin Tribe was 10th, while NDC teammate Andrea Lee, who captured a world championship berth earlier in the event, was 11th.
Alannah MacLean was the top local junior, finishing seventh in that category in a time of 31:41.8.
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