Cendrine Browne and Graham Ritchie Celebrate Golden End to 2022 Race Season
Liliane Gagnon and Sasha Masson capture U20 distance titles
Article by Chris Dornan
WHISTLER, B.C.—Cendrine Browne and Graham Ritchie are the champs of the marathon at the Canadian Cross-Country Ski Championships.
The Olympic veterans were crowned Queen and King of Canadian cross-country skiing after grinding through the challenging 45-kilometre skate-ski race on Sunday to cap off the 2022 race season at Whistler Olympic Park.
The 28-year-old Browne was the top Canadian after finishing sixth overall with a time of 2:01:37.1.
“I just wanted to be in the lead pack today and I was until the last lap, I bonked. It was tough conditions today, but it was a really fun way to go out,” said Browne.
It was the first long distance Canadian Championship title for the Prévost, Que. skier who
wrapped up a 10-year career on Sunday that saw her represent Canada at two Olympic Games, five World Championships and countless World Cup races.
“It feels really good to end my career this way. I love distance racing and it is a great way to go out as National Champ,” said an emotional Browne. “Thank you to everyone in the ski community who has believed in me and cheered for me over the last 10 years.”
Dahria Beatty, of Whitehorse, was second on the Canadian Championship podium at 2:08:35.4. Laura Leclair, of Chelsea, Que., was the third-best Canadian woman on the day at 2:11:04.4.
Julia Kern continued her dominance of the women’s field this week. The American was first across the finish line at 1:58:55.6.
Quebec’s Liliane Gagnon was top Canadian, and third overall, to claim the Canadian Championship title in the U20 division. Gagnon clocked a time of 1:01:41.9 in her first women’s 22.5-kilometre race.
“I was not really sure what to expect today. We started off slow, especially with the snow today in the first lap and then we started pacing the group,” said Gagnon. “It was lots of fun. I like the longer distance – the longer the better.”
Sonjaa Schmidt, of Whitehorse, was the second best junior Canuck at 1:02:09.2. Ontario’s Katya Semeniuk was the third best Canadian, finishing fifth overall at 1:03:30.2.
Canada’s Graham Ritchie capped off a memorable season by winning his first long distance national title.
Recognized as a sprint specialist, the 23-year-old paced his six trips around the 7.5-kilometre loop perfectly to win the men’s 45-kilometre race with a time of 1:40:32.6.
“I’m not sure how this happened. I haven’t raced this long of a race in a couple of years, so I had no game plan going into it. I just said I’m going to stick with the lead pack as long as I can,” said Ritchie.
“I was able to stick with the lead pack and being in the top three with one kilometre left, I knew I had a little jam left to go for it in the last few hundred metres. I had a good day and really fast skis. The techs killed the boards so I’m super stoked.”
The Parry Sound, Ont. resident finished seven seconds ahead of Luke Jager, of the United States, who stopped the clock at 1:40:39.3. Antoine Cyr (Gatineau, Que.), who joined forces with Ritchie to post a stellar fifth-place finish in the team sprint race at the 2022 Olympics, was third-fastest on the day with a time of 1:40:40.4.
Cyr edged Russell Kennedy, of Canmore, Alta., out at the finish line. Kennedy, a 2018 Olympian who also guided Brian McKeever at the last two Paralympic Games, rounded out the men’s Canadian Championship podium with a time of 1:40:40.6.
Sasha Masson, of Whitehorse, was tops in the men’s U20 race category. The member of Canada’s World Junior squad this year, dusted the field with a time of 52:16.4.
“It was a little wet out there and felt like you were swimming in snow, but it was lots of fun,” said Masson. “I didn’t have any expectations and just went with the feel today. I worked with Luke to lead the group and then pushed it on the downhill to open a gap on the backside of the course and held it. It was good to finish alone. Feels good to be a National Champion and finish the week off strong.”
Ontario’s Luke Allan was the second-best junior at 52:24.4, while Masson’s teammate at the World Juniors and at the Whitehorse Ski Club – Derek Deuling – was third at 52:51.9.
The first National Championships to be staged since 2019, skiers from across Canada and the United States took part in the event which combined the Canadian Cross-Country Ski Championships and US Super Tour Finals, from March 20-27, at Whistler Olympic Park.
Complete Results: https://zone4.ca/event/2022/3E7AEA5A/