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Hard work and perseverance finally paid off for Andrea Lee.
On Thursday the National Development Centre-Thunder Bay skier punched her ticket to the World Under 23 Nordic Championships later this month in the Czech Republic with a seventh-place finish at the Haywood Noram World Junior and U23 Trials at Lappe.
Lee, who also skis for Lakehead University, was the top finisher in her category, earning her an automatic bid to worlds, something she’s been working toward for years.
“It feels amazing. It’s just really exciting. I’ve been wanting this all year and for it to finally come together, it’s really exciting,” said Lee, who crossed the line in 46:41 in the 15-kilometre skiathalon race that combines classic skiing with the more modern skating style.
“For the last five or six years, every year it’s my main goal to make worlds and I haven’t done it yet. This is my last year to make it for under-23. To make it in my last year is just really satisfying.”
NDC-TB’s Erin Tribe was the No. 1 local skier, finishing fifth in 46:49.4, more than a minute behind winner Emily Nishikawa of Whitehorse, Yukon.
Lee wasn’t the only NDC member to earn a spot overseas.
Hours later teammate Andy Shields, a veteran of the world championship scene, earned a place on the national team with a seventh-place finish in the senior men’s race as the top skier 22 and under in the competition.
All but worn out after a mad dash for the finish line Shields jubilantly yelled “Yes” as he completed his race and enthusiastically pumped his fists in the air in celebration after the 30-kilometre skiathalon race.
“This was my big goal for the year, to qualify for worlds for U23s. It’s my first time going,” the Kitchener-Waterloo native said, finishing in 1:17:13. “I’ve been to the world juniors a few times, but now it’s going to be in the category.”
Lappe was the perfect setting for Shields, who two years ago qualified for world juniors on the same course.
“The course was really hilly in the skate, which is great for a smaller guy like me. I have less weight to go up the hill. It was a home-course advantage as well. I’ve been skiing out there for weeks and I knew the ins and the outs really well and that really paid off well today.”
Senior national team member Michael Somppi was the top local finisher in the race, clocking in at 1:15:57.6, less than six seconds behind winner Graham Nishikawa, making it a sibling sweep in the senior events. Alberta’s Kevin Sandau was third.
Quebec’s Frederique Vezina earned the automatic world championship berth in the junior women’s race, roaring through the 10-kilometre track in 30:41.5. Sudbury’s Alannah MacLean of NDC-TB was seventh.
Raphael Couturier, also of Quebec, easily earned the junior men’s berth in a time of 52:24.5, almost 23 seconds faster than his nearest competitor.
Results from the Ontario Cup races also being staged at Lappe this weekend were not yet available.
The trials will take Friday off, with sprints being held on Saturday and distance interval races going Sunday. World championship berths will be up for grabs on both days in the junior and U23 categories.
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