Sydney Palmer-Leger, Johnny Hagenbuch, and Sophia Mazzoni upon their return from Finland.
Sun Valley Community School junior and Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation athlete Johnny Hagenbuch took gold as part of the U.S. Men’s Junior Worlds Team in the U-20 men’s 4x5 kilometer relay in the final event of the FIS Junior World Cross Country Championship in Lathi, Finland. This is the best-ever Junior World Championship result of a U.S. Men’s Team, surpassing the silver medal won in Goms, Switzerland, in 2018.
About the experience, Hagenbuch says, “It was an honor to represent the United States at this year's Junior World Cross Country Ski Championships, and being a part of the first-ever winning relay team, the first ever men's gold medal at a World Championship event in the US Ski Team's history, was an incredible experience. It was the culmination of a long developmental process involving the ski community as a whole, and the joy I felt after winning was almost indescribable.”
Joining Johnny in Finland were fellow Sun Valley Community School and Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation student-athletes Sydney Palmer-Leger, Sophia Mazzoni, and Bentley Walker-Broose. Bentley is Australian, so he qualified based on Australian criteria. Each acknowledge the hard work and excellent coaching they have received from SVSEF throughout their career in addition to the academic support they receive from Sun Valley Community School’s Sun Valley Ski Academy as major contributors behind their amazing achievements.
Sydney was part of the U.S. U-20 women’s 4x3-kilometer relay that placed fourth out of 14 teams, 40.5 seconds behind the winning Norway team. According to the Idaho Mountain Express, “Palmer-Leger clocked the fifth-fastest third leg at 8:54.9. That was the leg during which Norway’s Helene Marie Fossesholm (8:16.1) brought her team back from a 10-second deficit into the lead for good.” Sydney also placed 20th for 5k Skate and 25th for Classic Sprint overall. Sophia finished 49th overall in the Classic Sprint and 10th for U18 girls and in the 15K Classic, she finished 48th overall and 10th for U18 girls.
Johnny’s relay teammates included: Luke Jager (APU/Anchorage, Alaska), Ben Ogden (UVM/Landgrove, Vt.), and Gus Schumacher (Alaska Winter Stars/Anchorage, Alaska) who together edged-out the second-place Russia by 3.8 seconds, and third-place Germany by 6.3 seconds.
Head Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Cross Country Coach Rick Kapala says, “It’s always an important message to challenge kids to go for it as often as they can; we hope that they find something that inspires them, then give them the space to figure out how to achieve success in whatever path they choose. Anytime you have any athlete achieve an opportunity to represent the country, the community, and the school at this level, it’s pretty amazing. The thing about Johnny, Sydney and Sophia is that they never limit themselves. Each is always looking for the next challenge."
About the partnership between Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation and Sun Valley Community School, Kapala says, “The school has been very supportive for many many years of our Cross Country kids, and that requires a lot of work from the teachers and staff. The success of those kids as well as kids before them who have come through the Sun Valley Community School and Sun Valley Ski Academy indicates that the school affords kids the opportunity to excel in a number of areas. SVSEF is a great place to be a Cross Country skier, and we have a school like this that gives kids the space to reach for the successes they strive for. The other thing the school does really well is they value the kids’ individuality and their array of interests and paths.”
2019 marks Johnny and Sydney’s second appearance in Finland. In 2018, the two traveled to Vuokatti, Finland to compete as part of the 12-member Team U.S.A. at the U18 Nordic Nations Championship. Both competed in three events and skied away with outstanding results. Johnny is also the 2017 U.S. Junior National U16 Cross Country 5K Classic Champion and the U.S. Junior National U16 Cross Country Relay Team Champion.