Maya MacIsaac-Jones collapsed in near tears after crossing the finish line on Saturday.
But they were tears of joy.
Moments later the Athabasca, Alta. skier was wrapped in the arms of her mother Jennifer Jones, who congratulated her daughter on winning the 1.2-kilometre classic sprint at the Haywood Noram World Junior and World Under 23 Trials at Lappe Nordic Ski Centre.
With the win MacIsaac-Jones is on her way later this month to the Czech Republic and the world junior championships.
“It feels amazing. This race, I really wanted it,” she said, gasping for breath.
The 17-year-old MacIsaac-Jones, a member of the national junior ski team, said the key to her win was getting a good jump out of the gate.
“I think I just had a strong start and kept really strong mentally and just managed to stay ahead of the pack throughout the race,” she said.
“This has been the focus of my entire season, to qualify for world juniors and with the win today I did, so it’s great.”
Sudbury’s Alannah MacLean, who skis for the National Development Centre-Thunder Bay team, was third in the race, and though she hasn’t yet qualified for worlds, the 19-year-old was nonetheless pleased with the result.
“It was absolutely amazing. It just made my day and I’m just so excited I’m over the moon right now,” said MacLean, who improved on a ninth-place finish from a year ago.
The race was scary she added, a slow start adding to her stress on the course.
A familiar face gave her the courage to fight on, MacLean said, finding away to narrow a 10-metre gap she faced most of the race.
At that point she’d resigned herself to sixth place.
“But I heard my sister on the corner and it was just one last climb left to go. She just started screaming at me, ‘You’re in it. You’re in it. Get in there.’ I said, ‘OK,’ and my body obeyed and I just moved right into third and held it,” MacLean said.
In the senior girls sprint, Alberta’s Emily Dupont completed the western sweep, but it was the Alberta World Cup Academy’s Marlis Kromm who claimed the big prize, the under 23 spot at the world championships.
Kromm crossed the line fifth, but was the only under 23 skier to make the final, guaranteeing a trip overseas.
“It feels great. This is a big goal for me to go to the Czech Republic and the U23s,” said Kromm, who will be making her fourth trip to worlds.
“I said I’ve got to get their first, so I’m glad I did it today. It was definitely tough. It was a huge climb on the course and a tricky corner before it, so you’ve got to stay on your toes and pay attention to what’s going on,” said the 22-year-old Calgary native.
NDC-TB athlete Erin Tribe fell on the course and had to settle for sixth.
On the men’s side, junior Alexis Turgeon was the top qualifier in the morning heats, and maintained his position throughout the elimination rounds.
Turgeon opened up a gap on the course and cruised to the win on Saturday, earning the second of at least four world championship berths up for grabs in his category.
Turgeon, making his second straight trek to worlds, said he didn’t get a lot of sleep this week, but finishing fifth-best qualifying time overall, including the senior skiers, gave him the confidence he needed to earn the victory.
“I told my coach before the final, believe me, I’ve got another gear to give, way much more to give. It was perfect,” said Turgeon, who skis for Quebec’s Skinouk squad.
NDC’s Scott Hill and Julian Freitag advanced to the B final, finishing ninth and 11th overall respectively in the 1.4-kilometre event.
Canmore’s Phillip Widmer took the senior final, with Patrick Stewart-Jones grabbing second spot and the top under 23 title, grabbing the fourth and final world championship berth up for grabs on the day.
Thunder Bay’s Michael Somppi qualified for the final, but crossed the line in sixth place.
Racing continues on Sunday.
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