Hailey Swirbul turned down World Cup starts for Period 1 of this season to begin the year racing on the domestic SuperTour circuit, in an attempt to “find my peace with skiing again on my own terms,” as she wrote on Instagram.
I feel guilty segueing from that to a straight results rundown, but Swirbul (USST/APU) did win a classic sprint at Sovereign Lake, in British Columbia, Canada, earlier today, so I do need to talk about her results here. I’ve reached out to Swirbul for comment about how she is feeling, and will update this results-focused story with her thoughts as soon as possible.
Update: see next section for Swirbul’s thoughts.
Swirbul was joined on the podium by Sydney Palmer-Leger (USST/SMS T2) in second and Anna-Maria Dietze (Colorado) in third.
Magnus Bøe, a senior at the University of Colorado who has won roughly half the RMISA races he has entered during his college career, won the men’s race. He was joined on the podium by Zanden McMullen (USST/APU) and Xavier McKeever (Canadian National Team/Foothills Nordic). Bøe is a relative senior citizen with a birth year of 1998. The rest of the podium was born this century, McMullen in 2001 and McKeever in 2003.
Hailey Swirbul won the qualifier, on the 1.3-kilometer sprint course at Sovereign Lake, in 4:10.99, by more than three seconds over Dietze, a German national skiing domestically for the University of Colorado. While Swirbul has lived in Anchorage for the past six-plus years, while skiing for first University of Alaska Anchorage and then APU, she grew up in Aspen, and is no stranger to altitude. Karianne Olsvik Dengerud, a Norwegian skiing for the University of Utah, was third in qualifying.
Swirbul elected for the first quarterfinal, which she won by 0.67 seconds, and the first semifinal, which she won by well over a second. By far her closest race of the day came in the final; Swirbul won that in 4:02.05, with Palmer-Leger close behind, 0.35 seconds back, for second. Dietze was third in 4:05.10.
“I’m happy with today, and I am so relieved to be starting my race season in North America,” Swirbul wrote to Nordic Insights via email late Wednesday. “Being in Europe has been hard for me in various ways, and I wanted to check in with what skiing is all about for me again: pushing my body hard, being outside and gliding on snow, being surrounded by a small, safe and supportive community that are stoked about racing on a smaller scale. I’m proud to be part of the APU team here in Silverstar. The energy of my younger teammates has been really fun! It’s almost like getting to relive my first few Super Tours through them, and there’s no place I’d rather be starting off my season.”
Dietze, in third, was also happy: “Bronze today felt like a World cup-win to me!,” she wrote on Instagram. “A big day for a small German! I am so happy to finally hit the podium again and rediscover my sprint abilities!”
The rest of the women’s final saw Margie Freed (Craftsbury), Weronika Kaleta (Colorado), and Dengerud (Utah) take fourth through sixth.
Peter Wolter (SVSEF) set the pace in qualifying, covering the course in a speedy 3:32.38. Second and third to start the day were Noel Keeffe (Utah) and Russell Kennedy (Canadian National Team/Canmore Nordic). Of the top three in qualifying, however, only Kennnedy made the final, with Wolter finishing fourth in his quarterfinal and Keeffe finishing fifth in his semifinal.
The palmarès of the athletes in the men’s final were sound. Among others, Bøe won the classic sprint at this year’s U.S. Nationals; McMullen won the classic sprint at the December 2021 Besh Cup over a deep field; McKeever won the classic sprint at this year’s Canadian Nationals; Koch won the skate sprint qual at this year’s U.S. Nationals; and Kennedy has made 52 World Cup starts, with an individual best of 12th in a skate sprint.
After 1.3 kilometers of racing, Bøe could add the season-opening SuperTour race to his name, as he won the race in 3:23.83. McMullen was second, 0.46 seconds back, supplanting a fifth in Sun Valley last January as best SuperTour or national championship result of his career. The pair was well ahead of McKeever in third, who finished two-plus seconds back of McMullen.
Koch finished roughly another second back for fourth, with a gap of 10-plus seconds to Kennedy in fifth. Graham Houtsma (BSF) was well over a minute back in sixth, implying some sort of fall or broken equipment in the course of the final.
Racing at Sovereign Lake continues tomorrow with a 10km mass start skate for both men and women.
— Gavin Kentch
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