Elite skiers play catch up

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Big Thunder Nordic’s Mia Serratore (369) climbs a hill followed by Madison Fraser (370) of North Bay Nordic and Alexandra Slobodian (371) of Nakkertok, Ont., during the open female 10 km free pursuit race Monday in Ontario Cup action at Lappe Nordic Centre. (Brent Linton)
Big Thunder Nordic’s Mia Serratore (369) climbs a hill followed by Madison Fraser (370) of North Bay Nordic and Alexandra Slobodian (371) of Nakkertok, Ont., during the open female 10 km free pursuit race Monday in Ontario Cup action at Lappe Nordic Centre. (Brent Linton)

Cloudy? Windy? Snowy? That’s just the way Andy Shields likes it.
Especially the snowy part as the Thunder Bay National Development Centre skier overcame a six-minute disadvantage to win the 15-kilometre pursuit race at the Ontario Cup event held at Lappe Nordic Ski Centre on Monday.
“We had a lot of accumulation, a lot of wind during the race, but that’s good for me. I’m a lighter guy so I can float over the snow a lot better,” said Shields.
Shields, ranked in the top 10 in Canada, and six other NDC members were stateside this weekend to compete amongst other elite skiers — skiers just below the Sochi-line. Race organizers decided on six minute later start time for the NDC members who were unable to compete Saturday in the sprint event, or Sunday in the classic event.
“It made sense to join the high level team here,” said Shields, who moved four years ago from Kitchener-Waterloo. “Good coaching, great program plus (Thunder Bay) winters are a lot better than they are in southern Ontario. The skiing community is great up here, tons of support.
“2018 (South Korea winter Olympics) is a big goal, but for now, I’m focusing on Nationals in March, and the World Senior Championships next year in Sweden,” he added. “Lappe always runs a great race up here. I’d like to thank the organizers for running a great event,” he added.
Finn Dodgson of Barrie, Ont.,-based Team Hardwood won the midget boys 5.1K event on the day’s first race. A Norwegian family friend who also loved to ski was his namesake, so the 14 year old is doing what was meant to be. “The Pursuit was definitely really fun. You don’t see that often in skiing races. Especially here at Lappe the track set is really nice, they really know how to put on a classic race. That was fun to do as well.”
Alison Pouw, 15, of the Nakkertok, Ont., club captured first in the classic and free pursuit on the weekend in the juvenile girls category.
“Friday we pre-skied each course. I only skied the course the 5k once so I didn’t know it very well,” said Pouw. “I definitely want keep skiing throughout high school. Then I’ll see which University will be willing to accept me, I’ll see where it goes from there.” Pouw believes she’ll land a scholarship academically or athletically.
Joey Foster, 17, of Team Hardwood captured the junior boys 10K pursuit.
“(Sunday) was a nice bluebird day,” he said. “Today the snow was coming down pretty hard. It made for some soft tracks and some interesting racing. It was a grinder climbing up the hills. It was super hard on some of those climbs,” he continued. “They were just so big and so long to get up them.”
Foster captured all three Lappe events.
“For the 2018 Olympics I would be 21 years old,” said Foster. “I’d want to make it for sprints personally. And that’s probably the best chance I have for making it. I hope it’s realistic. I’m not really sure. If it is, that’s probably the race to do it in. That’s what I’m aiming for.”