Spokane Nordic will be sending the largest number of teen racers ever to the 2015 USSA Cross-Country Ski Junior National Championships in March. Ian McCarthy, Brett Ford, Daniel Korus, Andrew Potyk and Lauren Potyk are the five teens from Spokane who qualified for the Pacific Northwest Ski Association Junior National team.

The announcement of the PNSA Junior National team was made immediately after the last Junior National Qualifier race, The Mt. Spokane Nordic Cup, on February 15. Daniel Korus, 17, a senior at Lewis and Clark High School, reacted with satisfaction when he heard he made the team for the first time: “This past year I’ve evaluated my life of Nordic ski racing and decided that this would be the year I go all out. I am ecstatic that I can chase down dreams and make them a reality.”

Brett Ford skiing his way to Truckee. Photo courtesy of Spokane Nordic.

Brett Ford skiing his way to Truckee. Photo courtesy of Spokane Nordic.

Another first timer, Andrew Potyk, 17, and a junior at Ferris High School, says “it’s great to see all of the hours and miles we put in during the summer to finally be paying off.” The team trains year round with weekly workouts directed by racing team coach George Bryant. Team members have formed deep friendships from years of skiing and training together, and as Potyk notes, “It’s even more exciting that five Spokane Nordic racers got named to the team. This brings our team together and gives us the opportunity to represent Spokane on a national level.”

Potyk is joined by his sister Lauren, a 15-year-old freshman at Ferris High School. Lauren also made the team last year. “It was a humbling roller coaster ride to get to where I am now with a spot on the team, and that really makes me want to race as hard as I can,” she says. “Every race I learn something new, and just the chance to be on the race course with the best girls in the nation is a truly inspiring opportunity.” 16-year-old Brett Ford, a sophomore at St. Georges School, says “I’m looking forward to not making the same mistakes I did last year. I’m trying to go into the races a lot more relaxed than before because I think that’s where I can improve the most.”

Andrew Potyk flying through the fog. Photo courtesy Spokane Nordic.

Andrew Potyk flying through the fog. Photo courtesy Spokane Nordic.

To make the team, skiers must earn a qualifying result in five of eight qualifying races. The results determine which skiers, ages 14-19, will join the PNSA Junior National team at the Junior National Championships. Ian McCarthy, a 17-year-old junior at Lewis and Clark High School, has qualified for the Junior National team for the fourth year in a row. “Personally I am really looking forward to the racing aspect this year,” he says. “I’m eager to see how hard I can push myself and how well I can do at a national level.”

In last year’s winter Olympics in Sochi, the United States Ski team had five skiers that started skiing in the PNSA Juniors program. Alan Watson, the Nordic Director for PNSA, notes that “these kids have been working hard and putting a lot of time and effort into excelling at their sport, and it’s really rewarding for us to see their progress. In March, they will be racing against the best young skiers from all over the country.”

The future is looking bright for Spokane Nordic ski racing. The 2015 USSA Junior National Cross-Country Ski Championships will be held on March 8-14 in Truckee, California. // (Ann Torigoe-Hawkins)