XC Ski Junior National Championships Conclude
The championships which concluded Thursday at Birch Hill, are the last for long time Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks race organizer John Estle.
The Junior National Cross Country Ski Championships concluded Thursday at the Fairbanks Birch Hill Recreation Area Trails with skate technique distance races.
Wells Wappett of Fairbanks capped a successful week in which he improved his podium standing in each race.
"Monday I raced the 7.5 kilometer classic and I ended up third, Tuesday was the skate sprint, and I ended up second. Thursday in the Skate Mass-Start 5k, I ended up first," Wappett said.
He won the men's Under-16 age group race by less than a second in a very tight final sprint. The Lathrop High School sophomore says he was energized by the hometown crowd at Birch Hill.
"I just felt the Fairbanks community and I think it really brought the Fairbanks community to get together as well. And I thought that was really cool to see and feel."
Wappett says the strong showing at Junior Nationals fulfilled high aspirations he had following an intense year of training.
"Basically, my whole life towards training this last year, every day after school, I was training all summer, I was training. I had put in more hours than I've ever put in before, focused on technique, worked with a bunch of different coaches, went to a bunch of camps, training camps, um, just a lot of hard work."
Wappett's win was the only gold medal for Team Alaska. On the final day of competition, Palmer's Katie Houser took silver in the women's Under-20 15-kilometer race. Philipp Moosmayer, a University of Alaska Fairbanks skier from Germany placed third in the men's U20 15K.
The Junior National Championships was the final event for long time Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks race organizer John Estle.
"This was my swan song," Estle said.
The 71 year old Estle's career started as a ski racer, transitioned to coaching, including a stint for the US ski team. But for the last 27 years, he's been focused on guiding development of the Birch Hill Recreation Area Trails and organizing hundreds of ski races.
"I really love the sport of skiing and I think I've learned a lot about organizing races and I enjoy it. But, um, there are other things that I wanna do in my life and, you know, it's, getting harder to wake up at 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning on a race day."
From national competitions to Fairbanks popular town race series, Estel events always had a professional look and feel, setting a high bar to maintain.
"Everybody has expectations about what ski races are supposed to look like, and if they don't look like that, I think people will hear like, what's the problem?"
Estle's wife, longtime ski club volunteer coordinator, Norma Haubenstock, is also stepping down. But the couple plan to remain in Fairbanks at their home near the Birch Hill trails, and you'll likely still see them at ski races.
"I'll probably volunteer," Haubenstock said.
"I think I'll probably keep my distance for a while because I think if I were a volunteer that it would not be good for whoever was in charge," Estle said.
"I mean, I'll be out there watching and if somebody asks me a question, I'll say, 'go ask that person, they're in charge'."
After a long final season that culminated with this week's Junior National Championships. Estel and Haubenstock are taking a break from skiing and snow, with a cycling trip in Spain.