Sophie Laukli, 19, of Yarmouth, skis to a fifth-place finish in the 15-kilometer mass start freestyle race Wednesday at the Nordic Junior World Championships in Oberwiesenthal, Germany. Laukli is a freshman at Middlebury College. Photo via flyingpointroad.com

Sophia Laukli of Yarmouth placed fifth Wednesday in the women’s 15-kilometer mass start freestyle race at the Nordic Junior World Championships in Oberwiesenthal, Germany.

No Nordic skier from Maine has ever placed higher in the Junior World Championships.

Sophia Laukli

A freshman at Middlebury College, Laukli, 19 moved up from the 56th starting position in a field of 81 to finish within 1 minute, 26.5 seconds of the winner, Helene Marie Fossesholm of Norway.

“I was definitely not expecting this, especially with starting so far back,” Laukli wrote from Germany in reply to a text message. “So that was a fun surprise.”

Laukli’s time was the fastest of four U.S. skiers. Novie McCabe of Washington was ninth, Kendall Kramer of Alaska was 24th and Sydney Palmer-Leger of Idaho did not finish.

Laukli was the 2018 Varsity Maine Skier of the Year after leading Yarmouth High to the Class B Nordic state title. Her performance Wednesday was the best for a female U.S. junior skier since Colorado’s Hailey Swirbul earned a silver (5K classic) and bronze (skiathlon) in 2018 in Goms, Switzerland. Swirbul is now a member of the U.S. Ski Team and competes on the World Cup circuit.

“Fifth in the world, particularly in a long event like the 15K freestyle, that’s an impressive result,” said Tom Horrocks, Nordic communications manager of U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

On Monday, Laukli placed 13th in a 5K classic race, again as the top American and 51.6 seconds behind the winner, Fossesholm, among a field of 87.

“I think I knew I had the chance of doing pretty well if I had a good day, but did not expect this well,” Laukli wrote. “It’s a really good feeling to get these results. I think it’s partially because I didn’t have a ton of pressure coming into the races, which a lot of times makes me do better.”

Also on Monday, Gus Schumacher of Alaska won a gold medal in the 10K classic. He’s the first U.S. skier to win an individual World Junior Championship, and the first American male to medal at the competition for skiers younger than 20.

By finishing among the top 10, Laukli earned a spot on the U.S. Development Team for next season, along with a World Cup start in Canmore, Alberta, later this month. She has yet to decide whether to compete in Canada.

On Tuesday, Laukli was named the Eastern Intercollegiate Skiing Association’s Rookie of the Year and first-team All-East. She won five EISA races this winter, including 5K freestyle races at the Vermont and Colby carnivals, a 10K classic race at Colby and a 15K classic at Bates.

She was among the top five in every college race she entered this winter and plans to compete March 12-14 at the NCAA Championships in Bozeman, Montana.

“I’m also very excited for (NCAAs), although I’m sure I’ll be a little tired,” she said.

Laukli will wrap up her competition in Germany with a 4×3.3K relay on Friday.


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