Calvin Bates of Dublin School and Dublin XC Ski Club earned All-American honors at the 2016 Junior National Cross Country Ski Championships in Cable, Wisconsin last week. Calvin earned the honor after finishing in sixth place in the 1.3 km Sprint event on the storied trails of Mount Telemark. The United States Ski and Snowboard Association awards All American honors to athletes finishing in the top ten of one of the three individual races at the event. Calvin, skiing in the U18 age category, was making his second trip to the Junior Nationals after competing in the U16 category in 2014. Skiers typically qualify for Junior National teams by finishing in the top six in their age group in their region, in this case the New England region.
While earning a top ten result at Junior Nationals was Calvin’s number one goal heading into the 2015-16 season, his plans were set back when he learned just two weeks ago that he had contracted mono. Fortunately, his doctor cleared him to race but warned him he would not feel close to 100%. Calvin struggled in the first race in Cable, finishing toward the back of the pack in the 10 km classic race. However, due to warm conditions the sprint race was pushed back for two days, allowing Calvin to rest and stay off of his skis as he recovered from the first race.
Sprint races start with an individual qualifying race where approximately one hundred skiers in each age and gender category race against the clock attempting to finish in the top thirty so that that they can advance to the quarterfinals. Calvin finished in twenty-fourth place, but knew that if his body held up he could use his strong tactical skills in the next round. After the qualifying the skiers were split up into five quarterfinals with six skiers in each quarterfinal. Skiers finishing in the top two positions in the quarterfinals automatically advance to one of the two quarterfinals. To make things interesting, they fill the last two spots in the semifinals with the next two fastest skiers from the five quarterfinals who did not finish in the top two in their respective quarterfinals. These skiers have come to be called “lucky losers!”
Calvin faced tough competition in his quarterfinal and made a move to pass a top American sprinter named Forest Hamilton with two hundred meters to go, finishing second and improbably advancing to the semifinals. With his energy dissipating with each round Calvin knew he had to make it into the “A” Final for the top six skiers from the semis to qualify for All American honors. His semifinal was stacked with very strong sprinters from Alaska, New England and New York. He had a slow start off the line, but started to make a move up the first big hill and passed national champion Hunter Wonders of Alaska to move into the top three. After the six sprinters disappeared from the cameras and headed into the woods, Calvin held his position during the last three hundred meters by staying in a low tuck skate and drafting off of the two skiers ahead of him. His third place time qualified him as the fifth of six skiers heading into the “A” Final.
With only thirty minutes before the final, Calvin struggled to get his energy back, but gave a valiant effort up the first hill before fading to the back and finishing in sixth place. It was a gutsy and inspiring performance, considering he almost declined his qualifying spot to the Junior Nationals due to his sickness. With one more season at Dublin School to go Calvin has his sights set on qualifying for Junior Nationals in the U20 category next year. Calvin is Dublin School’s first ever All American skier. He is coached by Kathy Maddock of Dublin XC and by his father, Brad Bates, who coaches the Dublin School team.