Junior Nationals PreviewMarch 4, 2022
Eleven years ago, Junior Nationals (more frequently referred to back then as Junior Olympics) was held at Theodore Wirth Park. The racing that year gave us a taste of how good Jessie Diggins was going to be as she came out the victor in every race she entered. And, the event helped re-establish Theodore Wirth as one of the premiere skiing venues.
A lot has changed in the last decade. Both Theodore Wirth’s trail system and snowmaking capabilities have greatly expanded. The Loppet Foundation has grown from a handful of employees cramped into the upper chalet offices, to a major organization that spearheaded nearly all the improvements, including the incredible Trailhead building. Together they hosted a Masters World Championship and nearly pulled off the first Midwest World Cup race in the 21st century before a worldwide pandemic stopped them.
Now, in 2022, Junior Nationals returns to Theodore Wirth (originally scheduled for 2021). Over 400 skiers will come to the Twin Cities to compete in races starting Monday, March 7th, and concluding Saturday, March 12th.
Volunteers Needed: The organizing committee is still seeking volunteers to help make this a great event -- if you can donate a little of your time, it will be greatly appreciated!
- Sunday, March 6 Opening ceremonies - Stone Arch Bridge
- Monday, March 7 Freestyle Individual Start
- Wednesday, March 9 Classic Sprints
- Friday, March 11 Classic Mass Start
- Saturday, March 12 Relays
The red and blue courses announced for the distance races almost entirely utilize the snowmaking trails at Wirth. Both courses offer little recovery, as there are a number of climbs, and many of the descents do not have long runouts. For those new to Wirth, the La Squadra loop is the longest sustained climb, and where many race-winning moves have been made. The North Finger and climb to the Upper Stadium also offer a chance to separate yourself from the pack.
Most of the course is not technically challenging, but should very fast conditions arise (think icy, transformed snow), the descent next to the Trailhead has proved troublesome in the past.
The sprint races use a modified version of the distance courses, cutting out the North Finger and La Squadra. Most of the action will happen on the climb to the Upper Stadium, and if you’ve got a fast set of skis, the descent through Stadium 18 and past the Trailhead could slingshot you into the lead.
There are eight teams participating in Junior Nationals, covering regions across the United States. Podiumwear, based out of the Twin Cities, has had a long relationship with junior racing and produced seven of the eight team suits being used this season, including the brand new Midwest uniforms. New England's suit is produced by Swix.
New England and Alaska have traditionally been the superpowers, dominating the competitions. In stronger years, the Midwest has challenged them. And, at a club level, the Loppet’s own Loppet Nordic Racing, has frequently been one of the top performers.
The Midwest and Great Lakes teams have a solid mix of stars that could crack the podium. Leading the way in the U18 boys division, Minnesota state champion Cooper Camp. He’ll be joined by Adrik Kraftson and Davis Isom. Sydney Drevlow, the Minnesota girls state champion, should be battling it out with the leaders in the U16 division. Other names showing Minnesota firepower include Maggie Wagner (U18), Molly Moening (U18), Daniel McCollor (U16), plus some U20s like Jasper Johnston, Cooper Lennox, Sam Stertz, and Lauren McCollor.
From the Great Lakes, both of the Wisconsin State Champions will be competing: Casey Van Hefty (U18) and Fran Peterson (U18). Keep an eye on Mia Case (U20), Jakob Craig (U20), Noah Straka (U18), and Ryan Thieme (U20).
There will be livestreaming of all the races provided by Engage Broadcasting (available online or on your smart TV with the Livestream app). Superior Timing will be handling the results, as well as the start lists and standings. And of course, we'll have our usual same day coverage on Skinnyski.com.
Many athletes have been training all season just for this event, and almost anything can happen at Junior Nationals. Hopefully the Midwest and Great Lakes skiers have a bit of “home turf” advantage, but we wish all the competitors the best for a great week of racing! Come out and line the courses to cheer them on, and perhaps witness the next “Jessie Diggins”!