JOHNSON EARNS ALL-AMERICAN HONORS

March 14, 2001 11:00 pm

MARQUETTE, Mich. Eighteen inches of fresh snow, 18-degree temperatures and 20-30 mph winds with gusts up to 60 mph didnt slow down La Grandes Dane Johnson and his Blue Mountain Nordic Club teammates this past week at the USSA Junior Nationals.

Johnson earned two All-American honors in cross-country skiing at the four-day event on the shores of Lake Superior in northern Michigan.

That Dane should ski so well at his first nationals is a real tribute to the level of his athleticism and the intelligence with which he skis, said Pacific Northwest Ski Association head coach David Axelrod of La Grande. Im really proud of these guys for showing that our local club, small as it is, is nevertheless the source of the most consistently fast skiers in the Northwest this year.

Ezra Axelrod and Josh Axelrod competed with Johnson at Junior Nationals, finishing as high as 16th.

Johnsons first All-American honor came in the 5-kilometer skate race, which took skiers into the rolling glacial moraines above the historic Suicide Bowl ski jump. Johnson finished 13th in 14 minutes, 26.7 seconds, only six seconds out of the medals. He received only 36.33 penalty points, however, well within the 42-point limit to become an All-American.

The competition here, especially the top 30 places, is very stiff, David Axelrod said. In some races five seconds can mean 25 places.

Ezra Axelrod was 40th in that race, a minute back of Johnson.

Johnson received his second All-American honor in the 5K boys classic race. He was 15th in 15:55.

When Dane came by me on The Grinder, it was clear hed come to race aggressively, said Pacific Northwest assistant coach and two-time Olympian Ben Husaby of Bend.

Ezra Axelrod again finished a minute behind Johnson, in 40th place. In the J1 boys 10K classic race, Josh Axelrod fell short of his goal of finishing within the top 20 in all his races at nationals, ending up 32nd in 32:48.7.

In the J1 boys 15K skate race, Josh turned in a 20th-place time of 43:21.8.

I went out first and so skied alone on fresh trails for the whole first lap, Josh Axelrod said. It was beautiful out in the woods by myself, but because of my position I wasnt able to get good splits until late in the second lap when the Red Group was on the course chasing me.

Johnson also finished 21st in the J2 boys 1.5K sprints in 3:40.61, less than two seconds from qualifying for the second round.

Josh Axelrod was 16th in the J1 boys sprints in 3:27.11, six seconds from qualifying for the medal round. Ezra Axelrod was 31st in the J2 boys sprints in 3:45.39.

The trio also skied in mixed technique relays. Johnsons PNSA team finished seventh in the 3x3K race and Ezra Axelrods PNSA team was 13th. Josh Axelrods team was 12th in the 3x5K relay.

The Blue Mountain team will take a couple of months off before beginning dry-land training for the 2001-02 season.