Because of the shortened, three-event format of the 2023 Junior Nationals, the JN’s will close with the mass start event, rather than with the traditional relay event. With the move to equal distances across genders, the male and female skiers of a class will compete over the same distance. U16 skiers will compete over 5Km and U18 skiers will compete over 10Km. Those distances remain unchanged from the past several JN’s. Both male and female U20s will race over 15Km, which marks an increase in distance for the female skiers.
THE COURSE – SOUTH TOWER 5Km
The race will be held on the South Tower 5Km course, the distinguishing feature of which is the South Tower A climb which begins 750m into the race and climbs 39m over 365m at an average grade of 10.7%. After descending the twisting descent of the Tower Loop they flash through the exit of the Tower Loop and make a sharp right turn onto Roller Coaster, with a quick drop into a right turn up the Medivac B climb (12m ascent over 93m at 12.9%).
Over the top of Medivac the skiers begin a technical descent of Medivac and Roller Coaster, with a fallaway 180-degree left into a right-left S curve and a sharp drop into a roller (the same climb and descent as was used in the interval start classic event). Returning to the stadium via Roller Coaster, at the halfway point of the course, skiers make a 180-degree left around Roller Coaster Island, then begin the ascent of the East Ramp-Sprint Elbow B Climb (20m of vertical over 290m at an average grade of 6.9%).
At the top of the climb skiers make a 180-degree right and descend the Sprint Wall and the Ramp, with a slight detour around the Ramp Elbow before traversing the east side of the stadium. With 1800m remaining on the race course racers turn right down Sidewinder and begin a descent of Sidewinder, Roundabout and White Bear and over a couple of rollers to the West Range/Pre-Range cutoff where they make a sweeping left turn before heading back to the stadium.
After rolling over the top of the “Two-Step” the course descends and turns right down Big Surprise before beginning the second A climb on the course, the Big Surprise A climb (31m of ascent over 274m at 11.3%) which takes skiers back up to the NE corner of the stadium at which point they have 750m to go. If a pack is still together at this point, a skier who wants to thin out the group a bit might want to throw in a surge on this climb, which has a few grade changes but has a long, straight, wide stretch which is perfect for passing.
As skiers reach the stadium they descend the Warmup Loop to Dark Alley, which sets up the final, and often decisive, climb to the finish. After a left turn the course begins to ascend with 330m to the finish, and continues ascending at an average grade of 9.0% for 200m. At that point the “official” climb is over, but the final 130m of the course continue at a gentle 2% grade all the way to the finish. The final climb is wide enough for easy overtaking, as is the final 130m zone to the finish.
The top of the Ramp is a great place to watch the race. If you are at the top of the Ramp before the start you can see the start of the race and the first 250m-300m before the skiers head out Relay Alley and Relay toward the South Tower climb. You can see the skiers flash by again as they exit Tower and head out Roller Coaster (at the 1.8Km point of the course). You can see the skiers two more times after they return from Roller Coaster Medivac as they emerge from the East Ramp (at 2.6Km) and ascend the Sprint Elbow to the top of the Sprint Wall, and then see them again as they descend from the top of that climb at about the 2.9Km mark.
If you watch from the south end of the stadium, you can see the skiers three times: as they emerge from the start tracks, then again at the halfway point of the loop as they round Roller Coaster Island, and again as they descend the Ramp (at 3.0Km) and head across the east side of the stadium. It is also a short walk from there to the finish line.
In the northeast corner of the stadium you can also see the skiers three times: first, as they turn down Sidewinder, next, at the top of the Groomer Ramp as they top out on the second A climb on the course, then finally, with a short walk across in front of the Birch Hill Cross Country Ski Center you can watch the competitors enter the stadium and head down the lap or finish lanes.
In the two-lap or three lap races, with a little planning and a bit of patience at the points where the spectator routes cross the competition course, a spectator could watch from two or more locations, seeing the skiers at multiple points on the course.
Awards will be presented following each race, or possibly to both male and female skiers after each gender has completed its races. Stay tuned for details.