It only took one competition for Harvard rookie Chris Stock to prove himself to be among the top junior skiers in the nation. By finishing the US Cross Country Championships as the 13th ranked junior, Stock qualified to race in the junior national championships taking place later this year.
"To have him at the top of the field is just phenomenal," said Crimson Nordic coach Chris City '94.
The freshman's performance was the highlight of a strong outing by the Harvard ski team at the event that took place in Rumford, Maine, throughout last week.
Stock got off to a fast start by placing ninth among juniors in his first event, the sprint event.
"Everybody races the same course and they take the fastest 30 people and break," Stock explained. "I wasn't in the top 30, but they had another set of heats for juniors, born in 1991 or later. The top 12 juniors moved on. I was in that; I qualified 7th for that and then moved up in the heats to fourth. That translated to 9th [overall among juniors], when you included the juniors who were in the top 30...I was very happy."
Final rankings are determined by taking each skier's best two races, and Stock had thought that his second event, the 15k classic race, would be his next best shot at placing well.
"I've historically been a much stronger classic skier," he said. "My [15k] classic race was not what I was hoping for."
The disappointing result meant that Stock would have to qualify for junior nationals through the freestyle, or "skate" race—historically not his strong point.
"Last season I really did not have good skate results," Stock said. "I've been working on my skate with my coach. I've definitely been making improvements."
Those improvements manifested themselves in a 10th place finish in the junior men's 10k freestyle event.
The finish was enough to vault Stock up to 13th overall and qualify him for the junior national championships.
While Stock set the tone for the Crimson skiers, sophomores Alena Tofte and Esther Kennedy posted strong finishes of their own. The pair finished 35th and 36th, respectively, in the junior girls' 5k freestyle race. Rookie Jen Rolfes was 59th.
The day before Tofte had placed 54th in the women's 10k classic event.
"Watching her, it's clear she's made a jump of speed from last year," City said. "It's fun to see her really hold her own."
While some of the race results were encouraging, City noted that the team is more focused on the collegiate season. Stock noted that the team is optimistic about the upcoming season.
"I've definitely seen a pretty strong work ethic and a mentality that really suggests that the guys on the team want to go out and make a lot of improvements," Stock said.
—Staff writer Christina C. McClintock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.