This will be a true provincial championship

Kenn Oliver
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Competitors from across the island and Labrador are in Butterpot this weekend

The eyes of the cross-country skiing world might be focused on Vancouver and the 2010 Winter Olympics, but this weekend the province's cross-country skiing community will have their eyes on Butterpot Park, site of this year's provincial championships.

The Avalon Nordic Ski Club's Caroline McIlroy, of Tely 10 and local road race fame, is the event chair and expects to have roughly 80 competitors from some of the 18 sanctioned clubs in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Avalon Nordic Ski Club members (from left) Philip Mcllroy, Landon Fisher and Emma Meulankamp get in a training run at the North Bank Lodge ski trail in Pippy Park in preparation for the 2010 provincial cross-country skiing championships, scheduled to begi

The eyes of the cross-country skiing world might be focused on Vancouver and the 2010 Winter Olympics, but this weekend the province's cross-country skiing community will have their eyes on Butterpot Park, site of this year's provincial championships.

The Avalon Nordic Ski Club's Caroline McIlroy, of Tely 10 and local road race fame, is the event chair and expects to have roughly 80 competitors from some of the 18 sanctioned clubs in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"We're billeting a few from Labrador, there's people coming from Corner Brook, Stephenville and I think there are some coming down from the Northern Peninsula," she said.

"They're coming from all over."

And they're coming in all ages.

Divisions in both men's and women's start at novice (born 2004 or later) and end at masters 4 (1948 or earlier), with 10 divisions in between.

While there are medals and bragging rights on the line in most divisions, this weekend's competition also serve as the final event for juveniles (1993-1995) and juniors (1990-1992) to qualify for a trip to nationals.

Both disciplines of cross-country skiing will be employed this weekend. All of Saturday's races will be completed using the classic technique, while Sunday's will use the faster skate (free) style.

"In the classic technique, your skis are parallel, where the skate technique is very much like ice skating ... but on skis and with poles," explains McIlroy, adding that most of the younger competitors prefer the skate, as it affords for more speed on the course.

McIlroy herself had been a skate skier until this year when her son Philip, an avid skier who will be competing this weekend, taught her the classic style.

"Skate skiing has lots of technique, but once you can do it, it's a bit more standard. Whereas with classic, there's quite a lot more to it with more parts to the movement.

"And I find I get a better cardio workout from it."

This years' provincials will again feature a mixed team sprint event. Teams in three categories - junior (mini-midgets and midgets), intermediate (juveniles and juniors) and senior (seniors and masters) - will consist of a male and female skier who must both complete two legs of the sprint course using classic technique.

"It got quite competitive last year in the senior age group, with couples competing against one another."

Only two trails at Butterpot will be used this weekend. The Parkway Trail, a 6.7-kilometre return loop, will be used for all races 5km and up while the shorter 1.5km loop Taylor's Trail will serve as the staging ground for all events 5km and below and the team sprint race.

McIlroy says conditions on the trails last weekend "were really good" and snow in the forecast for Friday bodes well.

"As long as we don't have a lot of fresh snow," she says. "Something hard packed underneath and a decent flurry on top."

koliver@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Avalon Nordic Ski Club, Taylor's

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Vancouver, Butterpot Park Corner Brook Northern Peninsula

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