Wells Wappett and Katey Houser did their part in trying to bring the Alaska Cup back to the host team — but in the New England’s depth reigned supreme.
Wappett earned his third medal of the US Cross Country Ski Junior National Championships in Fairbanks on Thursday by narrowly claiming the mass start 5K freestyle in the Under 16 boys division. The Fairbanks skier’s medal haul included silver in Tuesday’s sprint and bronze in Monday’s interval start classic event.
And Houser, a Palmer native now competing at Montana State University, collected a bronze in the 15K mass start. She also won the sprint and placed fourth in the interval-start race.
Their efforts helped Alaska earn 613 points, which ranked it fourth behind New England (822), Intermountain (785) and Midwest (667).
New England has now won the Alaska Cup — the name for the team competition — a record 14 times compared to six for Alaska.
The Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks again proved a capable host, as about 100 volunteers helped execute a well-organized event amid challenging cold and windy conditions. Birch Hill Recreation Area has now hosted Junior Nationals five times among many elite competitions that includes a World Cup race in 1984.
Two other team awards were given at Thursday’s awards ceremony. Alaska Winter Stars, based in Anchorage, was the second-place club with 754 points, behind only Loppet Nordic Racing of Minneapolis (897).
And West Anchorage High School won the Roger Weston Award going to the top high school program. The Eagles’ 2604 points handily topped Anchorage’s Service High School (2052) with Jackson Hole (Wyo.) High School third.
Thursday’s racing featured mass starts where large groups were typically winnowed down to a handful of contenders in the final kilometers.
Wappett, of Lathrop High School, held William Bentley off by four-tenths of a second in the boys U16 5K. Oskar Flora (ninth) and Vebjorn Flagstad (10th) were the next best Alaskans.
Olivia Soderstrom (15th) led Alaska in the girls 5K two days after winning sprint gold.
Elias Soule (11th) paced Team Alaska in the boys U18 10K while Marley Ireland (16th) led the way in the girls 10K.
Philipp Moosmayer, representing the UAF Nanooks and skiing in the guest class, placed third in the boys U20 15K. In the girls 15K, Houser was joined by Alaskans Aila Berrigan (ninth), Abigail Haas (11th) and Marit Flora (12th) in the top 15.