PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Competition for the USSA Cross Country Junior Olympic Championships open at the Nordic Heritage Center on Monday at 10 a.m. with the classic sprint heats and qualifying races.
Some of the nation’s best 14- to 19-year-old Nordic skiers will compete on four days following Sunday’s opening ceremonies, which begin at 3 p.m. at Gentile Hall on the University of Maine-Presque Isle campus.
The races are expected to draw 600-700 athletes, coaches, team staff, parents and ski enthusiasts,
Other events during the week include Wednesday’s classic mass start, Friday’s freestyle competition and the March 13 freestyle relay event.
“These are high-level athletes skiing in one of the most important races of their season,” said event director Tim Doak. “If you’ve never seen a Nordic competition, then this is the one to cut your teeth on!”
Doak also encouraged the community to attend the opening ceremonies to help welcome the athletes and their families to northern Maine.
The race trails at the Nordic Heritage Center have been redesigned and widened in anticipation of the Junior Olympics. The new 1.2-kilometer sprint course was tested during the December 2009 Eastern Cup sprint race and promises to be an exciting challenge for the nation’s top junior competitors.
The Cross Country Junior Olympics is the largest junior ski event in the country. It has not been hosted by a Maine city since 1996, when Rumford hosted the event at Black Mountain.
Several local businesses are supporting the event by sponsoring the races. Irving Woodlands will sponsor the mass start and sprint races over two days; United Insurance will cover the individual race, and Dead River Co. and Thompson-Hamel, LLC are co-sponsoring the relay race. Presque and Caribou Inns and Convention Centers are a scoreboard display sponsor.
“We can’t do this without the financial support of our local businesses,” said Steven St. Pierre, a member of the organizing committee. “This will be an exciting event for our whole community and we are grateful for everyone’s support.”