Dakota earns a spot on the World Cup

Update from the field! Week recap in PNSA and BNT highlights:

World Juniors: George Cartwright, Sadie Bjornsen, Eric Bjornsen
World Cup: Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess

WHOO!! We finally got off a second race of the week – a sprint. The thermometer said it was the warmest but it felt absolutely like the coldest day of the week; the wind was ripping and we ran well into the dark. Needless to say, that made things interesting. On top of a week of stop-and-go, yes-and-no waiting around and praying for a race, I think the cold really played with people’s minds. But the strong persevered and the race went on. Finally.

For me, the qualification was an “okay” affair. It certainly wasn’t a great race, but it also was by no means a “bad” race. And in all fairness, 7th place at US Nationals is pretty good. To say anything else would be to discredit the effort of the other 100+ guys in the race. I got my shot at redemption against my arch-nemesis from Kazakhstan. He even stepped on me again, just like last year. But this time I stayed strong, game him a might heave down the hill, and then passed him like he was standing still down the finishing stretch to advance out of my quarterfinal into the semis (a first in several years and, quite honestly, my only true goal for the entire week). I was in a similarly position heading into the final 100 meters in my semi final… except this time I wound up missing my timing on a double pole so instead of blasting forward down the last 75 meters and advancing to the A final, I fell on my butt (also reminiscent of last year…) and was relegated to the B final. Unfortunately, I let the fall get into my head and I didn’t ski very well in the final, finishing quite a ways off the back and 12th on the day.

After the race, I was pretty bummed. I felt like I was skiing pretty well and I had a lot of power down the final 100 meters – power no one else seemed to have. But I realized that I’d accomplished my goal for the week (advancing into the later rounds) and that was a big step. So I spent the rest of the evening at the ski banquet, hanging out with friends, commiserating about life and doing whatever it is that 300 rowdy ski racers do when packed into a small room with free food. They ran through the awards, thanked all the sponsors… and then we came to the World Cup team naming. Chris Grover (the US Ski Team sprint coach) took the stand and named the women’s team, then the men’s team. I couldn’t believe it when he called my name – I almost thought I didn’t hear him right. But someone must have faith, because I’m going to WORLD CUP BABY!!

So on the day the Bend Nordic Team held its first practice, it also saw its first World Cup competitor named to the Vancouver team. Just the icing on what has turned into a surprisingly successful week – George, Eric, and Sadie are all heading to France to get it done out there in a couple weeks. Watch for an update, I race next Friday!

Thanks again to everyone who made this trip possible – Ben and Scott for some amazing waxing and logistics supports, the Taco Stand, Monica, Maria, and Bob Naney for preparing some DELCIOUS food, and also to everyone on the trip for staying loose and not freaking out when the weather decided to play havoc with the week. Keep training, we’ll be back next year… to take a shot at the Olympics.

— Dakota