Wiley, Muhonen lead Teacup Nordic in Bend race, pursue Jr. National invitation

TEACUP NORDIC racers (also HRVHS nordic team members) competed last weekend in the Sunnyside Pursuit Classic.The group of (from left) Valerie Fischer, Nils Engbersen, Lauren Robinson, Sam Wiley, Juho Muhonen, Daniel Fischer, Mason McDowell and Jesse Wiley.

The Hood River Valley was well represented last weekend as Nordic skiers traveled to Bend to compete in the Sunnyside Pursuit Classic and Freestyle Junior National qualifier.

The pursuit format featured a mass start skate race on Saturday, then a pursuit start for the classic race on Sunday. In the pursuit start each skier started the classic race with a time gap equal to his or her time behind the winner from the skate race.

In Saturday’s 10K skate race, skiers worked to gain the best time possible to ensure a good start on the following day. Sam Cordell, of Parkdale, conquered the challenging course with an impressive lead to win the overall race in a time of 24:13. Teacup Nordic team member Sam Wiley had an excellent race as he out-skied all other racers in his age class on the hilly course. Wiley’s final results were a first place in the U18 division and third overall in a time of 25:11. Juho Muhonen, also representing Teacup Nordic, had the fastest start of the day, leading the field of 67 skiers around the first corner. He continued to ski well and finished 3rd in the U18 class and seventh overall with a time of 25:25.

On Sunday, the classic waxing conditions were challenging and some racers struggled to find the perfect combination of kick and glide, but Teacup Nordic’s wax techs, led by coach Robert Schlichting, used a combination of experience, skill and experimentation to ensure their skiers had another strong showing. Muhonen overcame a start deficit of 1:12, passing many in the first 3K of the race. He climbed the hills at a blazing pace and was able to catch the lead racer, Cordell, on the final to win the overall weekend title in thrilling fashion. Cordell took second in the overall pursuit. Wiley put in another impressive performance to hold off the talented field and finish the pursuit in third overall and second in the U18 age group. Teacup Nordic was also represented in the 10K pursuit by Nils Engbersen who finished the weekend in 12th place in the U18 category and Mason McDowell (U18) finishing 18th.

The U16 boys and girls skied the same challenging course in a 5K competition each day. Teacup Nordic’s Daniel Fischer took sixth place in the two-day pursuit and Jesse Wiley (Teacup Nordic) finished in eighth place overall. Lauren Robinson (Teacup Nordic) finished the overall pursuit in 14th place.

In the U14 girls 3K races, Teacup Nordic’s Valerie Fischer finished in third place both days of the pursuit to take third place in the overall pursuit. New team member Maya Berkowitz took seventh in the pursuit.

Young racers also had a chance to compete at the Sunnyside Pursuit. Rex Cordell of Parkdale took third place in the 750M Stampede skate race on Saturday and Max Cordell, also of Parkdale, placed sixth in the 3K U12 skate race.

The Sunnyside Pursuit races were part of the Junior National Qualifying race series. Skiers (U16, U18, U20) who earn a qualifying time in five of eight races will receive an invitation to represent the Pacific Northwest Ski Association at this year’s junior nationals in Stowe, Vt. Wiley and Muhonen each earned two qualifying times and Fischer earned one during the weekend races.

The next junior national qualifying race will be the Western Region Super Qualifier held at the venue for the 2002 Olympics in Soldier Hollow, Utah. This Super Qualifier is the largest gathering of junior ski racers in the Western United States.

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