Ravens look to double down on double gold as championships head up north
BURLINGTON, Ont. – After claiming the women’s championship in 2016, the Carleton Ravens flexed their muscle on both the men’s and women’s side last year, claiming double gold in Nordic skiing. But as perennial powerhouse Lakehead plays host to the 2018 edition, the Thunderwolves and the rest of the OUA crop of skiers will be looking to etch their name into the history books and halt the Ravens in their tracks.
Details surrounding the upcoming championship can be found in the 2018 Nordic Skiing Championship Fan Guide.
Despite not earning gold in any one event, the 2017 overall champions were impressive to say the least at last year’s event and they will look for similar results with yet another talented bunch in 2018.
After securing 12 All-Star nods last year, the team will see seven return for another podium push. Among those returning standouts are Zoe Williams and Aidan Kirkham, both of whom earned a trio of podium finishes at last year’s finale. Joining the pair as the previous medal winners are fellow All-Stars Colin Ward and Brendon Howard – who joined Kirkham to place 3rd in the Men’s Team 3x3km Relay – as well as Emily Jones, Isabelle Maclean, and Maggie McClure, who all found the podium with their respective teams in the Women’s Team 3x3km Relay.
Certainly, there is no shortage of star power for the reigning champion Ravens, but there will be plenty of others looking to dethrone Carleton and keep them from soaring high once again.
One such competitor is Lakehead, who is no stranger to success at the provincial finale. The Thunderwolves will be turning to a collection of decorated returnees to once again take them to the top of the podium. One such returnee is Gavin Shields, who enters as the reigning gold medalist from the Men’s 10km Freestyle Interval Start. Fellow gold medalist Noah Thompson (Men’s 15km Classic Mass Start) will also be returning for the Thunderwolves, but the team goes well beyond just the individual successes.
Both the men’s and women’s squads managed to top the podium in 2017 in their respective 3x3km Relay, with the trio of Shields, Thompson, and Geoffrey Way-Nee all coming back for the 2018 edition and after taking home the title for the men, and Makaila Hudson and Erika Mihell looking to help Lakehead repeat on the women’s side. Ultimately, behind an All-Star laden squad from top to bottom, the Thunderwolves should once again be a threat to add to their storied past of winning ways.
Nipissing, meanwhile, will be entering the strongest team the school has ever had, which says a lot about the reigning bronze medalists. The men’s team is no stranger to the third place position, having slotted in third for the past three seasons, but they’ve got gold on their mind this time around.
2017 All-Stars Jordan Cascagnette and Shelby Dickey, both of whom are former members of Team Canada at the 2017 FISU Games, each won individual bronze medals last year. And after their podium finishes in the Men’s 15km Classic Mass Start and Women’s 5km Freestyle Interval Start, respectively, the pair will be ones to watch out for as medal threats once again.
Joining Cascagnette, who is in his final year with the team, is fellow contender Alex Maycock. The rookie will be looking to make a splash in his first provincial championship and will surely be a key part of the Nipissing team for the coming years, leading a talented bunch of new recruits.
While the previous three schools were the only ones to reach the podium at the 2017 championship, there will be plenty of impressive skiers looking to make tracks this time around. One such threat to crack the podium are last year’s fourth place finishers – Laurentian. The Voyageurs couldn’t quite crack the top three in 2017, but with a talented crop of both new and returning members, Laurentian will surely be looking to take that next step.
Returning for Laurentian after helping team to top ten finishes in the Men’s 3x3km Relay will be Matteo Reich, Thomas Gore, Mitchell Slobodian, and Colton Labine. The team will have their work cut out for them, entering the championship without a pair of their top finishers from a year ago, but the experienced men’s team has what it takes to be a medal threat.
The women’s team features a host of newcomers, as a trio of first year skiers have joined the Voyageurs this season. While the team is young, they can still turn to a pair of skiers who found success on the province’s biggest stage, as two of three members from the 5th place finishers in the Women’s 3x3km Relay – Heather Wilson and Laura Williams – as well as the entire 8th place finishing squad will be back to rise the ranks and share their experience at this year’s event. Williams also brought home a 13th place finish in the 15km Classic Mass Start, but with the hopes of more favourable racing conditions this time around, the veteran will surely be looking to go above and beyond that result this year.
The Guelph Gryphons will look to turn some in-season success into championship triumphs this weekend, and will be turning to the likes of Robert Simpson-Spook on the men’s side and Allison Lull on the women’s side to lead the charge toward a return to the podium.
Simpson-Spook turned in a top performance at the Ontario Cup this season, placing 1st in the Senior Men’s Division and 2nd in the OUA category, while Lull tallied a 3rd place finish in the Senior Women’s Division and 2nd place results in the OUA category. Joining this dynamic duo will be the likes of fourth years David Laurie and Celeste Noble, who will also be looking to build on their successful skis at the event to find similar success at provincials.
Under the guidance of reigning OUA Coach of the Year, Colin Rhodes, the Waterloo Warriors will look to ski their way to an improved outing this weekend and will once again be led by veterans Isaac Alexander-Cook (third year) and Orion Austrup (fifth year), who will lead an otherwise young squad into the championship.
Despite rounding out the standings last year, the Varsity Blues have seen some promising results this season that should provide some momentum for the Toronto squad. Most notably for U of T, the Ontario Cup showcased some of the potential that their Nordic skiers boast, as Andrei Vovk and Isabelle MacLean both earned top ten overall finishes at the event.
The team from Algoma will also be hoping to make their presence felt this weekend, sending a group of five Thunderbirds to compete at this year’s event. Among those making the trek will be Marissa Ditoro and Annabell Storch, both of whom secured impressive results at Vasa Loppet in Traverse City, Michigan earlier this season. The latter, a newcomer from Germany, topped the podium in both the 11km Freestyle and 34km Classic races, and she’ll look to continue her strong rookie campaign with championship success. Rounding out the Thunderbirds roster is Anik Graves, Roberto Lake, and Justin Rhude.
Also competing in the 2018 Nordic Skiing Championship will be the Queen’s Gaels, who placed fifth at last year’s event.
The event will kick off with the first races – Men’s 10km and Women’s 5km Interval Start Classic – starting at 10:00am on Friday, February 23, followed by the Men’s and Women’s 3x3km Relay Classic on February 24. Competition wraps up on Sunday, February 25 with the Men’s 15km Mass Start Free Technique (9:30am) and Women’s 10km Mass Start Free Technique (10:30am).