Trey Jones earns cross country Junior National Championship title, SSWSC wins Male Club Champion Award
Braving the elements of Fairbanks, Alaska, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club U20 cross country skier Trey Jones became a 2023 Junior National Champion.
Competing in three events over the course of four days, Jones podiumed in each event including wins in the 7.5 kilometer classic race on March 13 and the 15 kilometer skate race on March 16.
“It’s definitely a pretty big moment for me,” Jones said. “The title is definitely something that is super cool, but for me it’s more of a realization of the training I’ve done and proves all the hours I’ve put in have paid off.”
Jones entered the competition with a unique mindset. Instead of having the added pressure of producing top results, he wanted to take in his surroundings, enjoy the beautiful trail system in Fairbanks and most importantly have fun.
Jones said he was able to do all those things while he dominated the week of competition. He said the first day was “extremely cold” during the classic race, and the U20 men were the last group to go, so the track was worn down.
Despite leading the race handily, there was a moment in the second lap where Jones struggled to control his breathing. His biggest fear was crossing the finish line at a weak moment.
Jones was able to get over the incline, tuck low on the descent and get his breathing under control for the final push to win the race by 23.8 seconds on a 22 minute, 16.5 second time.
The following day, Jones took second overall in the U20 1.35 kilometer sprint race with a time of 2:55.99.
To close out the week, Jones was faced with the 15 kilometer skate race on March 16. The race required a lot of strategy, especially beginning with a large pack of racers clustered tight together.
About 1.5 kilometers into the race, Jones made a move on the first hill to get the group to spread out more.
“As more time elapsed, the group started to thin down, and in the last lap, my teammate Luke Riley went out off the front,” Jones said. “I followed behind him, and then on the last hill, I was able to sneak by him and go for the finish.”
Jones crossed the finish line at 39:13.9, winning the race by less than three seconds.
Jones was not the only SSWSC athlete to compete in Fairbanks. The club brought 14 athletes in total with U18 skier Grey Barbier and U16 Campbell McLaren each earning podiums as well.
“When you go to a week like this with 14 people, you have a whole mixed bag,” SSWSC cross country ski coach Josh Smullin said. “I would say we had three athletes especially that showed up with big time results. It didn’t all go that way, but we have some stuff to be happy about.”
Barbier earned a silver medal in the U18’s 10 kilometer skate race, while McLaren took third in the 5 kilometer skate race for the U16 boys.
Smullin said he expected great results from Jones and Barbier, but to see McLaren start in the back of the pack for his skate race and get all the way up to the top three was one of the most impressive feats he saw in the week.
Smullin says it can be difficult to know how someone in the U16 age is performing until they compete at the national level.
“He had been beating a kid who won the first race in Rocky, so apparently they had been performing at a very high level when comparing them to the national scene,” Smullin said. “It was eye opening for myself and Campbell as well to see how good he actually got this year.”
SSWSC’s male athletes did so well in Fairbanks, the club earned the 2023 Junior National Championships Male Club Champion Award, which is given to the top-performing male club team at Junior Nationals. This was the first time the SSWSC has won the award.
The SSWSC cross country team is now competing in the 2023 SuperTour Finals in Craftsbury, Vermont, until Sunday, March 26, where the season will officially come to a close.
It will be a quick turnaround for some cross country athletes who will get back to training as early as mid-April.
“It’s nice to finish on a high point and be able to take that motivation and reassurance into the next training period, which starts in about three weeks,” Jones said. “It’s super nice to take the motivation into that, stay fired up and attack the next training block.”
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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