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Local cross-country skiers named to provincial teams

Thunder Bay skiers named to the Ontario Junior, Ontario Bridge Program and Ontario Ski Team rosters for next season.

THUNDER BAY – There will be a strong representation of local cross-country skiers on provincial teams for the 2024-25 season.

Lappe Nordic Ski Club members Willem Abbink, Mikkai Jamsa, Min Dobson, Tzipi Levkoe-Stephens, and Kiera Hall are part of the Ontario Junior Ski Team, which consists of skiers in the under-18 category.

“It’s pretty great to be part of that team,” said Levkoe-Stephens, who first made the junior lineup last year.

“You get to have so many cool experiences, such as going to training camps out west in Canmore (Alta.) and down south, and you get to be part of a really great community.

“I have made some great friends so far and this has been a fun experience.”

Meanwhile, Lappe Nordic’s Cedric Martel and Edgar Sarrazin – who are also part of the National Team Development Centre (NTDC) Thunder Bay – have been named to the Ontario Ski Team, which features competitors over the age of 18.

They are joined on the squad by NTDC teammates Clara Hegan and Mya Marshall, Big Thunder’s Max Hollmann and local skier Anna Stewart, who trains with the Alberta World Cup Academy in Canmore.

Big Thunder’s Sarah Cullinan, who is also with the AWCA, is part of the Ontario Ski Team Bridge Program, which is for female athletes over the age of 18 that just miss out on making the senior squad.

Sarrazin, who is entering his second on the Ontario Ski Team roster, said one of the biggest changes in moving up from the Junior squad is an increased amount of training.

“Last year, I did 584 hours and this year I’ll be upping that to around 600 and maybe a little more,” Sarrazin said. “Once you get to that National Training Centre level, that’s when you start to up the hours and the training gets a lot more serious.

“Every athlete’s development is different but you definitely do notice the difference with all of the training.”

Levkoe-Stephens and Sarrazin both agreed that it’s a great thing to see so many local skiers be a part of the provincial rosters.

“Thunder Bay has a really strong skiing community and it’s neat to have all the people that I’ve skied with since I was four years old now be on the same provincial and national level,” Sarrazin said.

“It’s pretty cool to have that Thunder Bay connection for almost a quarter of the team, especially when you have people of all ages training together,” Levkoe-Stephens added.

Although the competition season doesn’t begin until the winter, local skiers are already starting their preparations for the 2024-25 campaign.

“We focus a lot on roller skiing, running and walking up hills,” Levkoe-Stephens said. “It really helps you get into that mindset for a new season and you are already doing the training, so there’s not really a huge layoff before the snow starts flying again.”

“There’s a saying that skiers are made in the summer, because that’s where we train the most,” Sarrazin added. “Then in the fall, the hours will go down a little bit, but the intensity of our training will go up and then we’re back into racing season each winter.”

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