Black Jack shines, Grey narrowly misses gold in a thrilling weekend of high calibre skiing
While the weather should be praised for cooperating at last weekend’s NORAM race (organizers describe it as the best NORAM to be hosted at Black Jack yet), it could also be blamed for snatching a home town win from local Olympian George Grey.
On the third and final day of a weekend that saw 150 high level Nordic racers take to Black Jack’s trails, Grey narrowly missed victory in a dramatic photo finish. Fellow Canadian National Team racer Stephan Kuhn took the honours, but a barely visible margin of five tenths of a second separated the two after Kuhn put on a late charge over the final 100 meters to overtake Grey, who had been leading the race.
As leader, Grey was fighting the elements to the benefit of those behind him: they were following in his now slicker tracks.
The times from Friday’s sprints were used to determine Saturday’s start order. The combined times for the first two races were then used to see racers in the final 16 kilometre pursuit on Sunday. That put Grey in the first seed for Sunday and in the lead position to be chased by all other racers. The falling snow on Sunday proved to be an advantage for those coming behind Grey as he had the duty of plowing through the virgin tracks.
“It was a frustrating race for me today. I really wanted to win,” commented Grey.”It was slow out front and I got nipped at the line by Steph.”
Earlier in the weekend Grey finished third in Friday’s springs, 4.08 seconds behind Kuhn, and second in Saturday’s 15 kilometre race.
Although he wasn’t prepared to make an official announcement yet, Grey noted that the combination of having recently become a father and post-Olympic depression has got him seriously thinking about his future and perhaps hanging up his skis as far as competitive racing goes.
The rest of the Black Jack team enjoyed the home-town racing as the club’s Junior Racers jumped up into the open categories for some experience racing against the best Nordic skiers North America has to offer. Along with the home town jitters, these young racers were fighting for qualifying spots on the BC Canada Games team.
Rising to the challenge Geoffrey Richardson and Rebecca Reid both qualified for the Canada games with strong weekend performances. At just 16 years of age, Jillian Richardson skied her heart out and qualified as the first alternate for the BC Canada Games team.
Overall for the weekend Geoffrey Richards finished 40th, Peter Locke 65th and Julien Locke 72nd out of the 85 racer field. On the women’s side overall Rebecca Reid was 28th and Jillian Reynolds 38th in a 55 racer field.
Coach Dave Wood was impressed with his squad as the young racers performed above expectations. “Geoffrey and Rebecca qualified for the Canada Games team and Jillian was excellent qualifying as first alternate for the team. The others were really good, too. considering the younger ones were really racing above their level. It was a good chance for them to build some experience. The course was longer than anything they’d done before and the competition was stronger than they’ve ever faced before but they stepped up to the plate really well.”
Comments and feedback from spectators, racers and coaches alike at the event was all positive as the little club that could pulled off their best event ever to rave reviews. Over 70 volunteers worked hard to pull it off and with Mother Nature’s cooperation the weekend resulted in high marks all around.
“The races went extremely well,” added Dave Wood. “The club did a hell of a good job. The organization was perfect, the tracks were perfect and the Black Jack racers were very good. Overall the Black Jack club had a great three days. The organization should be really proud of themselves. The reception of Rossland from the people coming to the race was very very high.”
Race Organizer Ian Sibbald echoed that sentiment and was particularly please with the performance and reception of the new sprint course that was reworked and renovated over the summer.
“I think it’s safe to say that this was the best event that we’ve ever hosted here at Black Jack and that is in part due to the changes that we’ve been able to make out there on the course. It really flowed well. The Sprint course received rave reviews and everyone loved it.”
Starting from the flat stadium area the 1.6 kilometre sprint course runs up the hill to the rock quarry back down the hill along part of the Fisher’s Loop and back into the stadium area.
Already fairly well known in the Nordic world with the likes of George Grey carrying the Black Jack name around the world, the club served Rossland well with the solid new course, excellent performances by local racers, and hard work from the volunteers. The good word about Nordic skiing in Rossland continues to spread.
“It is so great to see this high caliber of racing and such a high caliber of skiers performing here in Rossland. I give my sincerest thanks to our volunteers who did an amazing job and our sponsors for pulling off the most successful event we’ve ever had here. The athletes all really enjoyed Rossland, enjoyed racing here and enjoyed the town and all were saying how much they would like to come back again.”