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Smith Secures Silver Medal at Junior World Championships

By Leann Bentley - Stifel U.S. Ski Team
February, 5 2024
sammy smith
Sammy Smith stands on the podium in Planica, Slovenia. (U.S. Ski & Snowboard)

Sammy Smith of the Stifel U.S. Cross Country Ski Team started off the 2024 FIS Ski Junior World Championships with a silver medal in the first race of the championships, the skate sprint. This is the best-ever sprint result for any American at the Junior World Championships, and only the second silver medal the American women have historically won at the championships. 

On location in Planica, Slovenia, the best junior athletes in the world are having their turn on the same course as the FIS Ski World Championships a year earlier, with 450 athletes and 42 countries present. Smith, who has been racing on the World Cup for the majority of the season, including taking home her career-best result just a week ago in Goms, Switzerland in 21st, has been a force despite only being 18 years old. 

Smith is a multi-sport athlete. She is also a soccer player, having represented the USA at the FIFA U-17 World Cup over the summer and grew up as a freestyle skier. But, it's ski season, which means Smith is solely on skis and finding success at every turn in the process. 

"I’m super excited about today’s race," said Smith. "I was not thrilled with my qualifier. I knew I made some mistakes that cost me some time, but I was really happy with how the heats went. It was a competitive field and congrats to all the other racers on an awesome day! Hopefully, I’ll be able to carry some of this momentum into 20k and 10k classic!" 

Smith, skied a tactical and smart race. Typically excelling on courses with challenging hills, Smith adapted to the flatter Planica course well. Qualifying in fifth, she was in good company with all of her U.S. teammates making it through to the heats, all landing within the top 30. Stifel U.S. Ski Team's Ava Thurston led the U.S., qualifying in second, alongside Smith in fifth, Evelyn Walton of the Dartmouth Ski Team in 27th and Middlebury Ski Team's Sofia Scirica in 29th.

In the heats, Smith was the only American to advance, winning her quarterfinal heat. In the semis, Smith crossed the line in second, punching her ticket to her first Junior World Championships final. She fought for a podium position alongside Gina Del Rio of Andorra and Milla Grosberghaugen Andreassen of Norway. On the final hill, Smith turned on the gas and jump-skated into podium position. With the finish line in sight, Smith ultimately crossed the line in second, making history in the process. 

At the end of the race day, Smith led the team in second, while Thurston was 21st, Walton in 25th and Scirica in 30th. For the men, Zachary Jayne (University of Utah Ski Team) was just out of the top 30 in 32nd, Trey Jones (University of Colorado Boulder Ski Team) was 39th, Lucas Wilmot (Jackson Hole Ski Team) 48th and Matt Seline (University of Alaska Anchorage Ski Team) in 67th. 

"We're launching the week on a high note," said Stifel U.S. Cross Country Ski Team Development Coach, Greta Anderson. "Our athletes arrive with significant ambitions, and it's incredibly rewarding for all of us to see them achieve their objectives collectively. Sammy's second-place finish in the sprint is a testament to the hard work and determination that defines our team. It's an ideal beginning to our week. Every one of our female athletes made it through the qualification rounds today. Meanwhile, our male competitors gave their all in their first international starts and fought hard to the finish line." 

With Smith's silver medal, she is etching her name in the Junior World Championship history books. 

Next up, the U.S. Junior World Championships team will race the 20k on Feb. 7. Tomorrow, Feb. 6, the U23 team will race the skate sprint on the same course.