JOHNSON & JOHNSON MAKE JR. NATIONALS
LEAVENWORTH, Wash. Three members of the Blue Mountain Nordic Club junior racing program earned return trips to US Junior Nationals this past weekend at the Bavarian Cup.
Brother and sister Dane and Kirsten Johnson, and Travis Dixon, all of La Grande, will be traveling to Lake Placid, N.Y. in early March for a week of Nordic ski competition against the nation's best young skiers. They earned this privilege during a weekend of excellent performances in the freestyle sprints and longer classic races at Leavenworth.
Saturday's Older Junior 1-kilometer sprints found Dixon at the head of a tight pack of skiers in his semifinal elimination heat. Coming into the last turn, all four skiers stood shoulder to shoulder and battled for the inside. Trent Lowe and Dakota Blackhorse of Bend threaded the needle and just beat Dixon at the finish line. Dixon finished the sprints fifth overall in 2:30. Dane Johnson finished eighth in a time of 2:34.
In the women's J2 sprints, Kirsten Johnson found herself in a position that's grown familiar this year, finishing third behind last year's J3 national champion, Sadie Bjornson (2:40), and Jamie Devin (2:56). Johnson's time was 3:03.
If Saturday proved a little disappointing for the John-sons, their Sunday performances in the J2 women's 5-km and men's OJ 15-km classic races proved exceptional. Skiing what she later called the "race of her life," Sadie Bjornsen finished in first in a time of 13:28. Kirsten roared into second place in 15:13.
"It was a good race, and I had perfect wax. I felt the strongest I've felt yet this year," Johnson said after the race.
Brother Dane Johnson won the OJ race on Sunday, covering the 15-km course in 37:32, and only 14 seconds behind the overall winner, 30-year-old Vesa Soumalanienen of Finland. Like his sister, Johnson skied his strongest race of the year.
"Everything came together for me out there today. I kept getting good and better splits as the race progressed, so I guessed I might come out on top," he said.
Dixon turned in one of his fastest races of the year in the 15-km classic, finishing fifth in a time of 39:07.
Before heading to nationals in March, BMNC skiers will compete at the Intermountain Northern JOQ at Bogus Basin this weekend.