Norway 2015: Ski-O World Champs Report from Kes

Our author, Kestrel Owens at World Ski-O champs.

Our author, Kestrel Owens at World Ski-O champs. Photo – Greg Walker

Editor’s note: Big thanks to Kestrel Owens for sharing this account of his World Champ Experience.

February 7-8, Travel to Norway
We flew out on an Iceland Air flight from Boston Saturday evening. We met teammates Anna Vogele and Greg Walker in Iceland and flew to Oslo. After grabbing our baggage and going through customs we met Stina Bridgeman who had flown in a before at 9:45. We then drove to Hamar, about an hour away. Perhaps ominously for a bunch of traveling orienteers, we turned onto the highway in the wrong direction! Luckily we got that sorted without too much disruption to our travel.

February 9, Model Event
I woke up early enough to have an easy morning before we left a bit before 12 to go to the model event. The model was good to test out the emit touch free system that we are using at this event. It was also a nice event as it had a good number of trails, though they had been heavily skied earlier in the day. My guess is that the snow is 3 to 5 feet deep. I tried to ski off trail; my skis only went in a few inches though my poles went in a lot deeper. I also tried some off and on trail running, one must be prepared for every eventuality in a Ski-O. Time flew by and and soon it was time to head back, meet more teammates who had arrived that day. We enjoyed dinner and discussed race details.

Adrian Owens consults the map mid-race.

Adrian Owens consults the map mid-race. Photo – Greg Walker

February 10, Sprint Relay
My dad was going to race in the sprint relay with Alex Jospe today, but this was another day of more model event and spectating for me. Originally all the seniors were going to race but when we checked in to the event center earlier in the week we found that we could only have one team, and my dad won the coin toss with Greg to race in the race.

Alex skied the scramble leg for the relay and she had a good lap coming about in about 2 min back, ahead of a few teams including GB, Germany, Estonia, Austria, and a couple others – quite exciting. My dad went out and just was not coming back all that soon,
we started getting worried that he had broken equipment or even part of his body. Because of this we were relieved when he came skiing in with two poles, two skis, and a complete body. After the race he told us what happened: when he was going from control
one to two he was looking at the map from two to three, after executing two to three he realized that he was not in the right place only after doing a lot of searching around for his control in the wrong area that he was in. After he corrected he had used
up a lot of time.

The next legs were pretty uneventful, but as the race was wrapping up, we saw Adrian come over the road, and then, turn around. We were wondering which control he had forgotten as you normally look over the course and sometimes realize you have forgotten a
control. Luckily the control was only the one which was right over the road crossing and down the hill. When my dad came back around (take two) the whole crowd who had been watching the open ceremony, which had just finished, started to cheer for him – encouraged by Alex cheering very loudly. Dad finished and ended up ahead of GB, Slovakia, and Germany who mis-punched and would have finished behind even regardless.

February 11 – Sprint
A leisurely morning gave way to a harried rush to the start line – after doing some warm up I almost missed my race! I was skiing around and Cristina called me over as they were calling my name, and I did not have my map holder on. I had to run back to the car but I made it just in time for my start. My race went pretty good, I made a few mistakes but none were all that bad.

I did quite a bit of just following which ways had the most number of tracks when I did not have to go anywhere specific, only out to a big trail. I did not break any skis and neither did anyone else on the US team though one person Alex was following went
through a little dip going to the spectator control and broke both their skis, luckily the equipment drop was right after the spectator control – though that would’ve done little for the Americans today, as the US team did not put anything in any of the equipment

The whole US Ski-O 2015 team.

The whole US Ski-O 2015 team. Photo – Greg Walker

February 12 – Long
We worked through lots of logistics of travel and equipment to accommodate some early starts. It was a chilly day, and I was extra thankful to have Christina at the start to take warmups right before the race.

My race went well, I felt slow but then it might have just been that it was a long race and you do not want to go super hard all the time. Also I think my wax was a bit warm for the conditions up in the higher elevations. I felt I had an OK race.

It was a rough week on equipment. I generally took more roundabout routes where I would be less likely to break a ski, but I was something of an exception. Greg had a bad crash at one point, he broke a pole and his map holder, he was able to get a pole from
an equipment drop and he was still able to use his map holder as the springy map holding part only broke in such a way that it could still be used in one orientation, he was not happy. Anna broke a ski as well, while skiing down one of the biggest narrow trail
downhill on the map. Alex took a high energy fall on the course that luckily did not break anything, but as she was cooling down one of her skis broke, she thinks that it was weakened by the fall. We also learned the Michael had broken a ski early when he
was skiing around in Sjusjøen area. The total number of broken skis four for this trip, for the US team, though only one happen in race.

As a team we split two cabins rated to: 7 persons, cramped. Even with only five in each one they could have more room. Over what could be called the dining table which has turned more into storage and meal prep space there is a chandelier light which is a bit,
more than a bit, too low for those in our cabin. Everyone except my dad has hit his head on it very hard at least once.

Luckily the setting makes up for the interiors. Our cabins are up on a hill and overlook the city of Hamar, which is very beautiful at night with all the lights on. Sunsets are very beautiful too. They last a very long time. I have also heard that sunrises
are very beautiful, the one I witnessed on the way to the long was notable though not spectacular. I have been asleep when the sun rose the rest of the days.

High latitudes mid-winter makes for some awesome sunrises and sunsets!

High latitudes mid-winter makes for some awesome sunrises and sunsets! Photo – Greg Walker

February 14 – Middle
My race got off to a bad start: my pole basket got stepped on and came off. Luckily Christina was on the sideline and had Micheal’s spare set of poles. They did not have that good of baskets so I traded it out for my spare pole at the equipment drop in the woods. But that grip was for the wrong hand so I got a blister.

Aside from the equipment however, most of the rest of the race I felt good about though I did use the big trail a bit too much. I was happy with my time being about 50% back from the leaders. The races were fun to watch as the Junior men and Elite had two map
exchanges and the Men had three map exchanges therefore we got to see a lot of action at the stadium where the map exchanges took place.

Craftsbury member Melanie Sergiev going for it.

Craftsbury member Melanie Sergiev going for it. Photo – Greg Walker

February 15 – Relay
An early morning as I was the first leg of the junior men’s relay which started at 10:15. Michel was racing second and Melanie third as we could not find another junior boy from another country. I had what felt like a pretty bad race as I had some not so great navigation in the first half of the race. But despite what I felt, I actually did not do that bad.

Michael had slightly better leg then me. Melanie went and at some point fell down, and broke both her poles and injured her knees some. She came in without finishing the course. Anna also mis-punched in her leg, the middle one, so the women also did not get
a score.

When Ari came in from the last leg of the men’s relay he got the thumbs down and was asked to go inside to explain himself. It ended up the computer system was just having problems and he was OK. So the senior men ended up getting a score.

The US Team was not alone in their struggles today: a lot more people mis-punched in the relay than normal, I think this was because of the very confusing trail networks that lead to my navigational mistakes. In some categories if one more team had miss punched
they would have not had enough teams to fill the top 6 places that they were giving awards to.

Overall the trip was a great chance to do a lot of difficult ski orienteering. I found the navigation more difficult than what we had in Estonia last year. I feel like I did not make any major mistakes but but once I decided which way to go my execution was
not always the best as I was having a difficult time reading the map and memorizing which way the trails went. There were a lot of complicated mazes. I skied hard and felt good about my effort. I was skiing in the under 20 age group (rather than the under
17 which is my age group) as I felt the races last year were a bit short and I wanted to try the longer legs. My best race was the Middle distance; 29th out of 42 racers. It was really nice to have Michael and Melanie join me this year on the Jr. team.

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