Author: Jason Hettenbaugh
It was another great winter for RNR athletes. With the return of USSA Junior Nationals, this season was as important as ever for athletes who are skiing at a high level. Due to the cancellation, after 1 race, of the Junior Nationals in the spring of 2020 and the complete cancellation of Junior Nationals in 2021 everyone was looking forward to getting back to the big show!
Leading up to March and Junior Nationals in Minneapolis, MN, athletes had to qualify to represent the Mid-Atlantic team via the Mid-A JN qualifying races. These races are the highest level of junior racing within NY state. It brings all of the best athletes together to race in their respective age groups.
The first race of the year was in North Creek, NY at the Gore Ski Bowl. RNR athletes came out of the gates hot on day 1 with Braden Bellizzi U16 Men, Emelia Jordan U18 Women, Gordon Fagan U18 Men, and Omar Armbruster U20 Men all taking home the victory in the 5k classic race. Day 2 Emelia Jordan, and Omar Armbruster were able to repeat as age group winners. Other podium results included Gordon Fagan and Simon Goldstein in the U18 men’s race, Braden Bellizzi and Miles Mattern in the U16 men’s race, and Maeve Bernhardt in the U16 women’s race!
This was also our first chance to use our new wax trailer!! With temperatures well below zero each day it was a real test to the build out and functionality of the trailer. Everything worked great and all of the coaches were more than happy to be inside where it was nice and warm to prep skis.
The second race in the Mid-A JN qualifiers was a really great weekend at the new Van Hoevenberg Nordic Center in Lake Placid. In addition to the races in Lake Placid being a Mid-A JN qualifier it was also a NENSA Eastern Cup, along with a USSA Supertour. This event not only brought together the best juniors in the East but also the best collegiate and professional racers from across the country. We are lucky to have such a high-level event in NY state and if you did not attend you really missed out on not only a great race but also the opportunity to see some of the best athletes in the US racing head-to-head.
After the Lake Placid weekend, the Mid-A JN qualifiers were over and the team was named. RNR had 8 of the 20 qualifiers. The following athletes accepted nomination to compete at Junior Nationals Minneapolis: U16 Men Braden Bellizzi, U18 Women Emelia Jordan and Cate Anzellotti, U18 Men Gordon Fagan and Simon Goldstein, and U20 Men Omar Armbruster. The full qualifying points list can be seen here: Mid-A Rankings List 2022
Prior to Junior Nationals we also had several athletes travel and compete at some of the additional NENSA Eastern Cup weekends. Also, many of our athletes compete for their local high school teams. This season RNR athletes continued the success at the high school level that we really come to expect when the goals of the season are focused on competing at the regional and national level. Cate Anzellotti (Brighton) and Gordon Fagan (Pittsford) were both crowned Section V champions. RNR athletes represented 17 of the 22 Section V athletes who qualified for the NYSPHSAA State Championship at Gore Ski Bowl. At the State Championship, Cate Anzellotti was crowned individual champion! Emelia Jordan also had a great race finishing second and the duo led the way for Brighton to secure the overall Women’s team State Championship. Braden Bellizzi and Gordon Fagan also landed on the podium at the State Championship. Braden led the way for HF-L helping them claim the overall Men’s team State Championship. Having both the Men’s and Women’s State Championship teams hail from Section V is great for the local Nordic ski community and speaks volumes for the continued coordination with our club program and the local high school programs.
Next up was the big show in Minneapolis at Theodore Wirth Park. Junior Nationals is really what junior ski racing is all about. It’s an opportunity to test your abilities against the best in the country. It offers the opportunity to see just how big ski racing really is, bringing over 300 of the top athletes together for a week of racing and comradery. The highlight of the week was certainly RNR alum and current Bowdoin Freshman Grace Mattern finishing 7th in the classic mass start race securing All-American status for the second time in her career. In 2019, Grace finished 5th as a U16 in Anchorage Alaska!