Red Deer’s Owen Pimm (right) chases down Gregor Graham (left) in the juvenile boys relay on Sunday at the Haywood NorAm Western Canadians and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Local cross-country skiers enjoy racing on home course at Westerns

From hometown heroes to Olympic hopefuls, there was plenty to be proud of for the local cross-country skiing community in Red Deer this weekend.

The Parkland Cross-Country Ski Club and Red Deer Nordic hosted more than 500 athletes from across Western Canada for the Haywood NorAm Western Canadians and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 from Jan. 19-21 at River Bend Recreation Area.

According to Tom Marr-Laing, president of the local ski club and chief of competition, the event was a complete success.

“I’m darn proud of it. I’m really excited about what we’ve been able to do as a community to pull this off together is really cool,” he said.

Marr-Laing added that after some tricky warm weather Thursday, the conditions were near perfect for the rest of the weekend and he couldn’t have asked for anything better.

“We’re really pleased with the result we had. Lots of positive feedback from the athletes and the coaches. It’s been great,” he said.

“When the first mass start went out (Saturday) and we had 50 people going out, I almost started crying. Here it is, it’s actually happening. It’s really, really exciting.”

Races went all weekend long, wrapping up with teams of three competing in relay races on Sunday. Local skier Owen Pimm was a member a Team Alberta trio that picked up gold in their juvenile relay on the final day.

He said the race was a thrill to take part in and the weekend has a whole was awesome to see at his hometown course.

“Really fast, a lot of fast guys out there,” Pimm said.

“It was great, nice to ski on my own trails and just be able to represent Red Deer as a small club with all these other big clubs here, it was great.”

Pimm was 18th in the juvenile mass start race.

Emily Tough, 14, a local competitor who attends Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School also raced in the relay on Sunday and while she didn’t pick a medal, she said it was a blast to compete over the weekend.

“Probably the most difficult part in Red Deer is overcoming the hill to the finish line,” she said.

“I really enjoyed it. I like competing in my hometown. Nice knowing where to go and the trails.”

Tough will also represent the region later this winter at the Alberta Winter Games in Wood Buffalo.

“I’m really excited for that. Just the atmosphere and meeting new people,” Tough said about her upcoming racing experience.

Marr-Laing also noted that along with local competitors, having Zina Kocher, a former Red Deer Olympic Biathlete who recently battled for a spot on the Olympic cross-country ski team, was great for the profile of the event. Kocher finished third in the senior women’s 10km mass start race Saturday and Jesse Cockney, a national team member was fourth in the senior men’s race Saturday.

“Adding the elite– the Nor Am piece to it. I’ve had people tell me Red Deer is now ready to host that now that you’ve demonstrated this. We couldn’t have done that a year ago,” he said.

“We had some really big names that are here and that competed and given us some really good feedback. They like our course and our trails. They had a lot of fun and they found them competitive.”

The event also served as a test for the 2019 Canada Winter Games and Marr-Laing noted that the course held up well and with a few tweaks will be ready for the games next winter.

Full results from the weekend of racing can be found here.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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