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Locals find podium at Ski Nationals

Thunder Bay's Kai Meekis captures his second gold of the week, while Kenora's Lisle Compon grabbed top spot in the junior women's race and Michael Somppi took second in the senior men's pursuit.
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LAPPE, Ont. - Finding an intriguing local storyline on Day 4 at the 2018 Ski Nationals wasn’t tough at all.

There was high-schooler Kai Meekis, who captured his second gold in as many races, easily winning Tuesday’s junior boys pursuit race.

Kenora’s Lisle Compton broke through with victory in the junior women’s 10-kilometre pursuit and Thunder Bay’s Michael Somppi, racing in his final season, lunged at the line to edge out Lappe Nordic teammate Evan Palmer-Charrette for silver in the men’s 15-kilometre event.

Meekis, who had a 13-second head-start on his closest rival, thanks to his finish in Sunday’s classic interval race, posted the third-fastest time on Monday, but cruised across the finish line more than 17 seconds ahead of British Columbia’s Ian Williams to land atop the podium.

“I’ve been looking forward to this the entire season,” the 17-year-old Hammarskjold High School student said.

“It’s great to win in my hometown. It’s just an amazing feeling.”

Meekis, who completed the 7.5-kilometre race in 18:57.9, said a push off the start is what propelled him to pick up the pace and earn a second gold.

“I found on the first hill the two guys right behind me were catching me. It kind of got in my head a bit. My coach was yelling at me at the start of my second lap and I actually pulled away from them a bit. They made up a bit of time on me, but I made it back. That just really motivated me to push through the second lap and really get the time that I got.”

Compton, who skis for Kenora Nordic, started her 10-kilomtre race 18 seconds behind Sunday winner Hanna Mehain, but said she quickly made up ground on the course.

“I knew that from the start I had to push hard in order to catch her. There were a couple of girls in between Hannah and myself. My plan was to just pick them off and one-by-one get closer to Hannah. About halfway through the first lap I was able to get my eyes on Hannah and slowly close the gap.”

Teammate Annika Richardson took junior bronze, following silver on Sunday. 

American Caitlin Gregg took the senior women’s race and the corresponding cash prize, but was not eligible to win a medal because of her citizenship.

That left Quebec’s Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt, who clocked the fifth-fastest time of the day, in the gold-medal position. Alberta’s Annika Hicks took second and Katherine Stewart-Jones, who skis for the National Team Development Centre-Thunder Bay squad, claimed third, her third medal of the championships, having won the team sprint competition and finishing second in the classic interval race.

“It was super exciting race,” Stewart-Jones said.

“It’s been a great nationals so far and our team has also had some huge performances. We had two junior women on the podium on Sunday and me and Alannah (MacLean) on the podium too. I think we’re all really excited for the rest of the week.”

Somppi’s race might have been the sweetest of all. While he couldn’t catch Olympian Jesse Cockney, whose skis gave him an advantage on the descents, he was able to grab second spot, despite starting the race 29 seconds behind race leader Scott Hill, a former NTDC skier.

Somppi posted the fastest time of the day, at 36:54.5, edging out junior champion Ty Godfrey of Alberta by one-tenth of a second.

“It was a big goal to get a medal here. It’s my last nationals, at home, and it was really emotional. I’m really just overwhelmed that I was able to come through today.

“I gave everything I had to get Evan,” he said of the photo-finish for second. 

Racing continues on Wednesday.