JNs Day Two: Skate Sprints: Live Blog


Welcome to the live blog for today’s skate sprints. Today’s blog is going to be very abbreviated, as this reporter is leaving to take this reporter’s children to, as it happens, go skiing between the U16 finals and the U18 heats. Here are live results for the heats, and here is an updated schedule for today (scroll about a third of the way down the linked article. TLDR, U18 heats start at 3:50 p.m. with finals starting at 5 p.m.; U20 heats start at 5:40 p.m., with finals starting at 6:50 p.m. These are all Alaska Time, which does make for a late night for the East Coast, sorry.)

3:15 p.m., U16 girls B-Final has just gone off

3:20 p.m., U16 girls A-Final has just finished

Unofficial podium for U16 girls is:

1. Olivia Soderstrom (Alaska)

2. Taylor Nalder (Intermountain)

3. Lena Poduska (Intermountain)

Here is an extremely high-quality screenshot from the organizers’ Insta story showing an excerpt from the U16 girls A final (work with me here) (thanks to the race hosts for doing this much, I appreciate it).

Far left is bib no. 1, Lena Poduska. Far right is bib no. 11, Taylor Nalder.

3:25 p.m., boys U16 B final has just finished. Unofficial results: Vebjorn Flagstad, Lucas Barstow, and Logan Cuddy are top three there, or places seven through nine overall on the day. They will get a cookie, in the 10-deep podium ceremony, but not a bouquet or a medal. Strong Alaska theme for the B final, with both Vebjorn and Logan representing The Great Land; Lucas Barstow attends Gould Academy, and represents New England.

Vebjorn Flagstad beat me in multiple races last year, when he was all of 13, though that is not exactly the most impressive entry in his CV. Vebjorn Flagstad’s father, Trond Flagstad, is head nordic coach for the UAA ski team. Logan Cuddy’s father, Kevin Cuddy, was once among my supervising attorneys at a local law firm, if you are curious how many people live in Alaska.

3:30 p.m., U16 boys A final is in. Waiting for unofficial results to post before I announce anything here.

3:31 p.m., Quinten Koch is now listed for this race, with a time of 2:07.37 (which is really fast! this was the shorter sprint course, but it was still over one kilometer!), but no other names are currently loading on Zone4. It did appear that six athletes raced this heat.

Above screenshot from livestream shows Quinten Koch, unofficially, winning the A Final.

3:34 p.m., Zone4 now allows me to present the UNOFFICIAL podium for U16 boys as follows:

1. Quinten Koch, Pacific Northwest

2. Wells Wappett, Alaska

3. William Bentley, Rocky Mountain

3:40 p.m., to catch back up here a little, top six for U16 boys are: Quinten Koch (Pacific Northwest), Wells Wappett (Alaska), William Bentley (Rocky Mountain), Callahan Waters (Intermountain), Silas D’Atre (Pacific Northwest), and Campbell McLaren (Rocky Mountain).

They are followed, in places seven through ten, by Vebjorn Flagstad, Lucas Barstow, Logan Cuddy, and Ben Kaufman (Pacific Northwest). Again, podium ceremony for everyone listed in these two paragraphs, but some of them only get cookies. Top three get cookies and medals.

3:42 p.m., and for the girls, top six U16 girls are: Olivia Soderstrom (Alaska), Taylor Nalder (Intermountain), and Lena Poduska (Intermountain), for the podium. Amelia Circosta (New England), Cora Faye Scott (Intermountain), and Ally Wheeler (High Plains) make up places four through six in the A final.

Beyond them, best in the B final, and places seven through ten overall today, are Mary Harrington (New England), Britta Johnson (Far West), Isabella Waters (Intermountain), and Merridy Littell (Alaska). Disclosure, both Merridy Littell and Logan Cuddy’s families have donated to the GoFundMe that helped send me to Houghton and to Whistler earlier this winter.

Here is a file photo of Merridy Littell racing earlier this season, in a Besh Cup (Alaska JNQ race) at Government Peak Recreation Area in January. Photo by her father, Jeremy Littell, and used with permission from both photographer and subject.

2023 Junior Nationals Cross Country Ski Championships Classic Interval Start Race at Birch Hill Recreation Area in Fairbanks, Alaska Monday, March 13, 2023. Photo by Eric Engman

The above photo is a file photo, from yesterday’s classic race. Olivia Soderstrom, who (unofficially) won today’s race, is the athlete at right.

3:57 p.m., U18 girls heats are now underway. I need to tell my children to get their ski clothes on, again, and will eventually leave the house. I will be back online late tonight, or first thing tomorrow, with a results wrap up and photos (once I have them). Everyone is working very long hours on the ground in Fairbanks, and it is not warm there, so have some patience with the volunteers.

Oh, and current rankings for the Alaska Cup are here (also rankings for top high school and top club), since I know everyone out there is looking for these anyway. I, truly, have no thoughts on these overall standings; I’m covering JNs this year because I believe in celebrating the efforts of junior racers, and I know that there is (ample) interest out there from junior racers’ parents. But I don’t really see a healthy way to delve into overall or region-wide performance when we are ultimately talking about kids here. I wasn’t fast enough to make JOs when I was their age; I’m not fast enough to make JNs now that I am over twice their age; I am truly impressed by the effort and skills of every athlete in the field. You may debate amongst yourselves who “should” win, or who is on track to win, or what the first day’s rankings say about the current state of regional junior skiing, but I’m not about to delve into that here.

\end{soapbox}. I am now off to take my children for a ski in the sunshine. Congrats again to all racers, emphatically including those who did not make the heats today (I know very well what that is like), and to the support systems — parents, coaches, teammates, and many others — that have helped them to get there. It takes a village.

— Gavin Kentch


  1. Gavin, thanks for all the reporting you do, Olivia Soderstrom and our family enjoys the well written articles!

    • Thank you for the kind words; I sincerely appreciate it, and like to think that my efforts here are helping American skiing.

      I’m sorry to not be doing more “real” reporting for JNs this week. But at this remove (still being in Anchorage), and since everyone involved here is a junior athlete, I would be doing something like emailing six different junior coaches for each day of racing, asking them to have their athlete write back to me, cc’ing them, for comment. That seems like a lot to ask of coaches who are already working super hard in a condensed race week. And there’s also a valid argument that I should refrain from more involved reporting here because it puts more pressure on the kids; Olivia is an amazing athlete, but she is also (per her public FIS profile) still only 15 years old.

      Anyway, just thinking out loud here. Thanks for reading!

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