Hannah Smith wins national Nordic title

“She brought everything together that day”

Crested Butte Nordic skier Hannah Smith waited until the last 400 meters to make her final move and win the J2 national title in the five-kilometer freestyle skate race at the XC Junior Olympics in Truckee, Calif., March 9-14.


Smith opened the week of racing at the Junior Olympics with a fifth-place finish in the one-kilometer skate sprint race.
“She skied great in her weakest event and ended up fifth,” says Crested Butte-Gunnison Nordic team head coach Duncan Callahan. “That just set the tone for the week.”
“Since it was so short it was a hammerfest so I just went as fast as I could,” adds Smith. “I was definitely excited and the momentum carried on the next few days.”
Smith then lined up for her premier event, the five-kilometer freestyle skate race, two days later with thoughts of first place in her mind.
“In the back of my mind I knew it could be done but I didn’t say it,” explains Smith. “I wanted a top five finish.”
Smith followed her strategy in the race to the letter working her way from third to second place with 1.5 kilometers left to go. With one kilometer left in the race, the course took skiers on one last big climb and Smith made her move to jump out into the lead.
Smith carried the lead down the final hill and into the stadium to take the title, covering the five-kilometer course in a time of 15 minutes, 54.8 seconds, four seconds ahead of second place.
“We knew she was going to ski faster than last year, but we didn’t really know she was going to win it,” says Callahan. “She brought everything together that day. It was just awesome.”
“I didn’t know how far she was behind me so I sprinted as hard as I could,” says Smith. “It was just so incredible and amazing—I had so many emotions running through me.”
With a national title to her name, the rest of the week was gravy for Smith, yet she didn’t hold back, continuing to push herself through the final two events.
After a rest/training day on Thursday, Smith lined up for the five-kilometer classic race on Friday, March 13. While Smith’s specialty is freestyle skate, she charged her way to a fourth-place finish in the classic event in a time of 17 minutes, 19.6 seconds.
“She just stayed focused and skied her best classic race of the season,” says Callahan.
But Smith wasn’t done yet, as she was picked to ski the anchor leg in the three-person, three-kilometer relay race for the Rocky Mountain Division (RMD) team.
According to Callahan, the RMD was no favorite to win the race but thanks to the efforts of Smith, the team took third place, up from seventh place at last year’s Junior Olympics.
The first skier fired through her three kilometers, coming into the hand-off in second place. The second RMD skier kept up the pace until the final stretch, when she headed down the wrong lane and had to backtrack before turning the race over to Smith.
The miscue left the RMD team in third place, 40 seconds behind second place with several teams hot on their heels.
Smith took over from there and left everything out on the course determined to reel in the leaders, or at least hold onto third place.
Smith posted the third-fastest split of the day to hold onto third place and cut the gap down to nine seconds, but the lead proved too much to overcome in three kilometers.
“I just knew I had to ski harder than I ever imagined,” says Smith.
Overall, Smith was ecstatic with her second trip to the Junior Olympics and with reaching the top of the podium.
“I went out with a bang, which is how it should be,” says Smith.

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