The WinSport Frozen Thunder classic sprints, presented by Buff, got underway in Canmore with U.S. skiers Ida Sargent and Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess setting the top qualifying times.
The sprint took a unique format (a.k.a. "knock-in sprints") from there with all competitors, men and women combined and then ranked together by qualifying times in heats of 4 for the first round. The top 2 in the first round moved up a heat, the bottom 2 moved down a heat and then fought for position in round 3 as once again the top 2 moved up a heat for the final round.
This format has the advantage of allowing all skiers to have several chances to test their head to head sprint skills (instead of being knocked out of the competition early) and is a great model for development races. Based on the final results, in general the best racers still rise to the top, with the added bonus of more experience for the lesser skilled competitors.
Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess carried on from his fine qualifying form to win the first 2 sprint rounds, before relinquishing the overall title to fellow US sprint star Andy Newell. Matthias Inniger of Switzerland was 3rd and the U.S.'s Kris Freeman was 4th. The top Canadians were in the 2nd heat for the final round where Devon Kershaw, Jesse Cockney and Lenny Valjas finished ahead of U.S. skier Ben Saxton at the line.
The top Junior Man was Angus Foster from Big Thunder Nordic, 21st overall followed by Pearce Hanna of Rocky Mountain Racers and Georgian Bay's David Askwith.
The U.S. ski team's Ida Sargent kept up the pace from her qualifier to capture the women's title ahead ofÂ Canadians Perianne Jones and Dahria Beatty. Heidi Widmer of Banff and U.S. skier Jessica Diggins rounded out the top 5.
The top Junior Woman was local skier Maya MacIssac-Jones of Rocky Mountain Racers followed by Katherine Stewart-Jones of Nakkertok and Katie Weaver of Hollyburn.
Racing continues on Monday at 9 am MT with 10 and 15k individual start, skate, distance races.