US Elite Racing: World Junior Championships Recap

by Adam Bodensteiner
February 13, 2023

News Roundup

Although there were no SuperTour events on the calendar, many Midwestern elite racers took the opportunity to line up for some marathons around the country.

In Ketchum, Idaho, Hannah Rudd claimed victory in the Boulder MountainTour. The women’s race came down to a four-way sprint with some familiar faces from the SuperTour circuit. Rudd beat Erika Flowers, Annika Landis, and Mariah Bredal to the line. On the east coast, Michaela Keller-Miller finished 2nd in the Craftsbury Marathon freestyle event just behind her Craftsbury Green Racing Project teammate Annika Landis. In Minnesota, Brian Gregg of Team Birkie took 2nd in the 42 km Vasaloppet USA. Ingrid Thyr also finished 2nd in the women’s division behind her Team Birkie teammate Julie Ensrud. Midwest skiing fixture Matt Liebsch won the men’s 48 km Vasaloppet Freestyle. Team Birkie coach Caitlin Gregg was the winner of the women’s freestyle race. Gregg is recently back from her World Cup internship with the U.S. Ski Team. Listen to her thoughts on Period II of the World Cup in the February 7th episode of the Threshold Podcast with Chad Salmela.

Hannah Rudd wins the Boulder Mountain Tour after a four-way sprint (Credit: Boulder Mountain Tour)
Annika Landis and Michaela Keller-Miller after the Craftsbury Marathon (Credit: EnjoyWinter)

Taking things overseas and slightly away from cross country, Craftsbury GRP skier Margie Freed took a short break from classic skiing to dabble in biathlon and the IBU Open European Championships. She raced the 7.5 km sprint and 15 km individual events.

Two Midwestern skiers were nominated to their first World Championship team: Alayna Sonnesyn and Zak Ketterson. However, after months of hard racing on the World Cup circuit they have opted to decline their nominations to return home. Skiing fans will perhaps get to see them compete at the Birke in a couple of weeks. World Championship Events get underway in Planica, Slovenia on February 23rd and run through March 5th.

World Junior/U23 Championships

The United States had strong results at the World Junior and U23 Championships. The best young skiers from across the country made the trip north to the 2010 Olympic cross country venue in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. The U.S. team included Minnesota native and Northern Michigan skier, Adrik Kraftson. Between the junior and U23 skiers, there was a range of experience from Olympians to those new to international racing.

The U.S. delegation at the World Junior/U23 Championships

The juniors started the week with a classic sprint on January 28th. Samantha Smith started the strong for the United States women posting an 8th place finish. Nina Schamberger was the next U.S. finisher at 19th, followed by Ava Thurston in 25th and Hailey Brewster in 32nd. For the men, Max Kluck was just short of qualifying for the heats at 32nd, Anders Weiss was in 43rd, and Jack Conde in 47th. Stillwater, Minnesota’s Adrik Kraftson finished in 51st. The U23 skiers took to the classic sprint course the following day. Novie McCabe had the top U.S. result at 23rd. Sydney Palmer-Leger also qualified for the heats in 30th. Anabel Needham was in 34th and Katie Oldham in 41st. Luke Jager had the top U.S. men’s finish. He made it into the semi-finals and finished in 12th. Gus Schumacher was in 16th, Zanden McMullen was in 43rd.

Monday brought distance racing for the juniors. Smith kept up her top 10 ways in the 20 km classic mass start, finishing in 9th. Thurston was the next U.S. skier in 28th, Rose Horning was in 42nd. Luka Riley was the top junior man for the U.S. coming in at 34th. Kraftson improved on his sprint placement at 39th, Kluck was in 57th. The next day was for U23s. Palmer-Leger had a strong performance and finished in 8th. McCabe finished not far behind in 14th, Needham finished 33rd for the United States. The U23 men followed up on the strong showing from the women: Schumacher came in 7th place, just 6.3 seconds back from the leader. McMullen was next at 18th, Hagenbuch at 23rd, and Jager 33rd.

After a couple of days to rest, the juniors faced the 10km freestyle individual start on Thursday, February 2nd. The junior women again were close to the top of the results sheet. Samantha Smith posted her best result of the week in 6th place. Hailey Brewster was not far behind in 10th and Hattie Barker was in 14th. Nina Shamberger was 36th. For the junior men, Jack Lange almost cracked the top ten, coming in at 11th. Adrik Kraftson was next to finish for the U.S. in 30th. Anders Weiss was in 33rd and Jack Conde in 51st. On Friday the U23 skiers took on the same event and, like the juniors, the women had their best results of the week with three in the top ten. Sophia Laukli was in 5th, only 17.9 seconds back from the leaders. Novie McCabe finished in 7th, 40.7 seconds back, and Sydney Palmer-Leger finished in 9th just three seconds behind McCabe. Katie Oldham finished in 40th. The men also had a respectable showing. Gus Schumacher was in 14th, Zanden McMullen finished 15th, John Steel Hagenbuch in 19th. JC Schoonmaker was in 29th.

The last event of the week was a 4 x 5 km mixed relay. The U.S. came in 7th place in both the junior and U23 events. For the juniors, Samantha Smith led off, followed by Luka Riley, Hailey Brewster, and anchored by Jack Lange. The U23 relay team consisted of Sydney Palmer-Leger who handed off to Zanden McMullen. Sophia Laukli was next with John Steel Hagenbuch on the last leg.

Upcoming Races

SuperTour racing picks up again with a weekend at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis, MN on February 18th. Then it's onto Cable/Hayward, WI for the American Birkebeiner 50 km freestyle on February 25th to wrap up Period III.

About the author...

Adam Bodensteiner is an Iowa native but fully accepted the cross country skiing lifestyle in Madison, Wisconsin. He is currently based out of North Liberty, Iowa and still finds snow as much as possible despite the almost tropical latitude. In addition to skiing, Adam enjoys running and taking his road bike on gravel rides.