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Schoonmaker Seventh, Kern 11th in Canmore Classic Sprint

By Leann Bentley - Stifel U.S. Ski Team
February, 13 2024
JC Schoonmaker
JC Schoonmaker sprints to the finish line in the classic sprint. (NordicFocus)

On a day where seemingly all weather patterns moved through the Canadian Rockies, the fourth race of a week-long World Cup brought the cross country world together for an exciting day of classic sprinting, with JC Schoonmaker skiing to an impressive seventh place and Julia Kern leading the women in 11th. 

With the Stifel Loppet Cup in Minneapolis looming, skiers had one more chance to see what they could do before traveling to the United States. In the qualifiers, where only the top 30 advance to the heats, which include a quarterfinal, semifinal and final round, seven Americans made their way, including Jessie Diggins, Rosie Brennan, Julia Kern, JC Schoonmaker, Gus Schumacher, Zak Ketterson and Luke Jager. This was Schumacher’s first time advancing to a classic sprint heat and the first time for Jager in the 2023-24 season. 

In the quarterfinal heats, there were seven Americans on the start line, all fending for the top two spots in their heat or the remaining two positions reserved for the "lucky losers," which refers to the third fastest athlete across the line. The quarterfinals were a nail-biter. On a tough course that challenged each athlete due to the slow snow, steep hills and skied-out classic tracks, everyone had to dig deep to fight for position. After several quarterfinal rounds, it was only Kern and Schoonmaker who made it to the semis - advancing to the next round by literally hundredths of a second. 

In the semis, Kern crossed the line in sixth, yet her time across around the course (3:20.81) was faster than the winner of the second semi-final heat. But, rules and rules and Kern's day was ultimately cut short, yet her positive attitude was present knowing that she is back to skiing where she wanted to be.

"I am really proud of how I skied today," said Kern. "It was just fun to ski on the skis I was on - our techs did an amazing job - and I love classic skiing on these kinds of days. It's been so fun here in Canmore and it's just building the excitement to next week in Minneapolis. I am so ready to show the world the U.S. I cannot express how exciting it will be."

For Schoonmaker, the race was interesting and exciting from start to finish. On a course that emphasizes the final stretch, it was all Schoonmaker's game. Coming into the last several hundred meters in sixth, he pulled out all the stops and made the move on the left side of the six-lane classic tracks into the finish, moving past three of his competitors and nearly crossing the line in third. With that move, Schoonmaker secured a top 10 result and even though he did not advance, still put a seventh place onto his strong resume. 

"It was nice to have a couple of good finishes and have a solid result," said Schoonmaker. "Honestly, my mentality in sprints is to act like I am going into the semis because if I am thinking too much about if I make it or not make it, that's just not the right headspace. I just went into it and skied on those trails and did what I could."

Alongside Kern and Schoonmaker in the top 30, was Brennan in 16th, Diggins in 17th, Ketterson in 18th, Schumacher in 20th and Jager in 24th. The ultimate winners of the race included five-time Olympic champion Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo of Norway in first for the men and World Cup sprint overall leader Linn Svahn of Sweden. 

Now, it's time for the race everyone has been waiting for, the Stifel Loppet Cup in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the first cross country ski race in the United States in more than 23 years. The action starts Saturday, Feb. 17.