Three Glacier Nordic Club Athletes Qualify for Junior Nationals

Maeve Ingelfinger and Findley Dezzani are repeat qualifiers, while Liam Browne will make first trip to USSA Junior National Race in Lake Placid in March

By Micah Drew
Maeve Ingelfinger competes in the Glacier Glide 10k skate ski race in Whitefish on Jan. 7, 2023. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Over the past few winters, the Glacier Nordic Club (GNC) has seen a continued evolution into one of the premier cross-country ski teams in the region. At a recreational level, the club serves more than 250 youth from around the Flathead Valley, while the competitive high school athletes have made their mark at regional, national and, this year, international competitions.

Continuing the upward competitive trajectory this winter, three GNC athletes qualified to represent the Intermountain Division at the 2024 Junior National Championships (JNs) at Lake Placid, the first time the team has sent three athletes to JNs since 2011.

Whitefish resident Maeve Ingelfinger, Columbia Falls resident Findley Dezzani and Kalispell’s Liam Browne of Kalispell will head to New York next month for a full week of four races — a skate distance, classic sprint, classic distance, and a mixed 4×3-kilometer relay — against the top young skiers in the country.

“It’s been fun seeing the progression of the comp team over the last few years and having three kids make it to JNs is very exciting,” GNC Executive Director Jennie Bender said. “It’s definitely a point of pride for the club, the coaches and the kids.”

Ingelfinger will make her third appearance at JNs after earning a podium finish in 2022 and winning the skate sprint championship last year in Fairbanks. This year she earned her spot at the national race by representing the United States at the U18 Nordic Nations Cup in Falun, Sweden, in January, where she was the top American.

Whitefish’s Maeve Ingelfinger tops the podium at the 2023 Junior Nationals Cross Country Ski Championships Skate Sprint Races at Birch Hill Recreation Area in Fairbanks, Alaska on March 14, 2023. Courtesy photo by Eric Engman

At the Junior Nationals Qualifying (JNQ) race in McCall, Idaho last weekend, Ingelfinger snagged second place finishes in the skate sprint and classic 10k race behind Lena Poduska of Jackson Hole. Ingelfinger will be looking to defend her sprint national title, and look to add to her overall podium haul.

Behind Ingelfinger, Columbia Falls’ Dezzani earned two top-10 finishes in McCall to qualify for her second national championships. In 2023, Dezzani finished 57th, 39th and 39th in the classic distance, skate sprint and skate distance races respectively.

“Findley has just really come into her own over the last year, and has shown impressive results across all disciplines,” Bender said. “Her experience in Fairbanks was very exciting last year and this year she has her sights set on some results goals. I think she’ll be hunting down podium spots in each race, which is a fun next step for her.”

The biggest performance of the weekend came from Liam Browne, a sophomore at Kalispell’s Heritage Academy. Having been skiing competitively for the last three years, this was Browne’s first season competing at the JNQ level. Before the McCall race, he was on the bubble of qualifying for nationals, and needed a top-seven place in the classic 10k to lock in his position. He ended up fifth, and as an added bonus qualified for a skate sprint final for the first time all season.

“I thought it was going to be my last weekend of racing for the year, so I realized I had nothing to lose,” Browne said. “My teammates had done really well on the classic course and it was a really good course for me. I was able to push myself a lot more than I thought I could.”

“I’m much better at classic technique and so it was really the race designed for me to do well in. It was incredible to come through the finish and see the coaches jumping up and down,” he added. “I couldn’t really believe I’d done it for a few days, honestly. I thought it was a dream.”

GNC comp coach Logan Mowry with three athletes who qualified for the Junior National Championships. From left, Dezzani, Browne and Ingelfinger. Courtesy photo

In addition to the three JN qualifiers, six more GNC athletes competed at the JNQ races, gaining experience and setting the stage for future seasons.

“All the kids absolutely crushed it this weekend,” said comp coach Logan Mowry in a press release. “Success is when opportunity meets preparation and Liam, Findley and Maeve prepare like no one else. They’re the athletes showing up to practice in the rain, pushing the extra interval, doing the extra strength set. They work so hard and as their coach it’s a special feeling seeing it pay off in this big way.”

The three nationals-bound athletes are fundraising to offset the costs of travel to Lake Placid, New York. You can support the team by making donations at this link.

The 2024 XC Junior National Championships will take place March 11-16. View the schedule, watch the live stream and check results here.  

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