VANCOUVER – The UBC Nordic ski team conclude its season next week at the Canadian College and University National Championships in Thunder Bay, Ont. The Thunderbirds overcame remarkably poor skiing conditions and warm weather to post strong results over the course of the season on the B.C. Cup and Coast Cup series.
The first two Coast Cups of the year in Whistler, B.C., got the season started for the Thunderbirds. Kirsten Bock (100 Mile House, B.C.) claimed gold in the opening 7.5-kilometre classic race before teaming up with Hannah Xavier (Anchorage, Alaska) to take first place in the team sprint. In the men’s team sprint, UBC had two relay entries, which came through for first and fifth place.
The first B.C. Cup of the year for the Thunderbirds was in Revelstoke, B.C. On the women’s side, Bock won the women’s 5-km classic race by 45 seconds over her closest competitors. She also won the University category where UBC’s Kate Woods (Smithers, B.C.) and Xavier placed second and fourth respectively. The next day in the 8-km freestyle race, Bock placed second behind three-time Olympian and World Cup medallist Zina Kocher in the women’s race. She was closely followed by Cara McCulloch (Smithers, B.C.), who trailed Bock by a mere 2.7 seconds. In the University category, UBC took the top three spots on the podium with Bock and McCulloch winning gold and silver and Woods coming through for bronze.
The men posted strong results in Revelstoke, though they were unable to match the women’s podium sweep. In the 10-km classic race, Robert Ragotte (Brampton, Ont.) was UBC’s top racer, earning fourth in the men’s race and second in the University category behind former Junior National Team member Thomas Hardy of UBC Okanagan. Behind Ragotte, Daniel Moore (Entrelacs, Que.) and Alistair Hardy-Poirier (West Vancouver, B.C.) came through for third and fourth in the University race. In the 15km freestyle race the following day, Ragotte, Moore and Hardy-Poirier once again placed second, third, and fourth behind Hardy.
After a successful set of races in Revelstoke, the Thunderbirds moved on to the final leg of the College and University race series in Kelowna, B.C. On the first day of competition, McCulloch won the women’s 10-km classic race by an enormous margin over Elise Putnam of Methow Valley Nordic. Woods came through for bronze with Xavier and Jennifer Wildi (West Vancouver, B.C.) placing fourth and fifth. The following day, McCulloch once again claimed gold in the 7-km freestyle race with Woods, Wildi and Xavier placing fourth through sixth respectively.
In a highly competitive men’s field including racers just back from the World U23 Championships, Hardy-Poirier produced UBC’s top result placing seventh overall in the 15-km classic race with Samuel Puddicome (Stowe, Vt.) in ninth. The following day, Hardy-Poirier skied exceptionally well to place fourth in the men’s race. Moore, Ragotte and Puddicombe came through for seventh, eighth and 10th, respectively.
The team now looks to the National Championships in Thunder Bay where they will conclude their season. They will be in tough against perennial favourites and hosts from Lakehead University, as well as strong contingents from Nipissing and Carleton. The championships consist of four races where teams acquire points based on their top three finishers: a freestyle team sprint, distance classic, distance freestyle and a classic sprint . UBC last won the Championships in 2009 when they were in Duntroon, Ont.