Anchorage skier Gus Schumacher made history Tuesday at the World Junior Championships, demonstrating that he’s not just the best junior-level skier in America right now — he’s one of the best ever.
Schumacher, 18, registered what is believed to be the best finish in a distance race by an American man in the history of the junior championships.
Surrounded by speedy racers, Schumacher captured sixth place in the men’s 10-kilometer freestyle race in Lahti, Finland.
“Gus’s result is quite impressive and, as far as the coaches know, the best distance result in modern history,” Reese Brown of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association said by email. A year ago,
The result automatically qualifies Schumacher for the 2019-20 U.S. Ski Team, according to U.S. cross-country coach Chris Grover.
Schumacher’s performance comes a year after his explosive anchor leg lifted the U.S. men’s relay team to a historic silver medal at the World Juniors. It also comes a year after the previous-best finish by an American man at the World Juniors -- in 2018, Ben Ogden of Vermont placed seventh in the 10K classic race.
“I’m really excited,” Schumacher told the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “It’s a great sign for U.S. Skiing to see that top 10 result get bumped into so often, as last year Ben got that 7th place. I’m super excited about our team as a whole and where we’re going.”
Schiumacher, an Alaska Winter Stars skier, made the most of a favorable start position Tuesday.
He was the 95th starter in a field of 102 and had blazing skiers ahead of him and behind him. He started a spot ahead of bronze-medalist Ives Tildheim Andersen of Norway; gold-medalist Jules Chappaz of France started 102nd and silver-medalist Alexander Terentev of Russia started 87th.
Chappaz crushed it with a time of 22 minutes, 34.9 seconds — 21 seconds faster than Terentev, the winner of Sunday’s sprint, and 27 seconds faster than Andersen.
In fourth place, 41.2 seconds off the winning pace, was Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov, who edged fifth-place Friedrich Moch of Germany by one-tenth of a second.
Schumacher was next with a time of 23:19.3. He was 44.4 seconds behind the winner, 17.2 seconds out of the medals and 3.2 seconds out of fourth place.
Zanden McMullen of Anchorage finished 32nd, 1:40.6 behind the winner.
Kendall Kramer of Fairbanks posted an impressive 15th-place result in the women’s 5K freestyle. The top American, she was 55.6 second behind winner Frida Karlsson of Sweden, who clocked 12:50.6.
Sixth place earned Schumacher a spot on the podium, though only the top three finishers received medals.
In his first race in Lahti, he and fellow Anchorage skier Luke Jager both made it to the quarterfinals of Sunday’s sprint race but neither advanced to the semifinals.
Schumacher and Jager returned from last year’s World Juniors with bronze medals from the relay race, in which Schumacher powered the Americans to third place.
Schumacher is without question the top junior-level skier in the nation — and he’s not lagging to far behind the top senior-level skiers.
He entered this year’s World Juniors after a stellar national championships in Vermont. He finished in the top 12 in all four races — fourth in the 30K freestyle, fifth in the freestyle sprint, seventh in the 15K classic and 12th in the classic sprint.
A year ago when the national championships were held at Kincaid Park, he skied to sixth place in the 15K freestyle, 16th place in the 30K classic and qualified for the senior heats in both sprints, finishing eighth in the freestyle sprint.
Schumacher is one of four Alaskans skiing at the World Juniors, which is for racers 20 years and younger. Three other Alaskans — Hailey Swirbul, Hannah Halvorsen and Hunter Wonders — are racing in the U23 World Championships for skier 23 and younger.
Both race series are this week in Lahti; U23 skiers will race Wednesday.
Meanwhile, eight Alaska Pacific University skiers are preparing for a trip to the World Championships next month in Seefelt, Austria.
Seven of them will ski on the 18-member U.S. team announced Tuesday. An eighth APU skier, South High graduate Jessica Yeaton, is a member of Australia’s national team.
Four APU men and three APU women made the U.S. team — Erik Bjornsen, Logan Hanneman, David Norris and Scott Patterson for the men, and Sadie Bjornsen, Rosie Brennan and Rosie Frankowski for the women.
Also earning a spot on the women’s team is Anchorage’s Caitlin Patterson, who trains with Vermont’s Craftsbury Green Racing Project. The Pattersons and Bjornsens give the U.S. team two sets of siblings.
The World Championships begin Feb. 20.
U.S. world championship teams
Simi Hamilton, Aspen, Colorado
Erik Bjornsen, APU
Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, Vermont
Kevin Bolger, Sun Valley, Idaho
Logan Hanneman, APU
Kyle Bratrud, Eden Prairie, Minnesota
David Norris, APU
Ben Lustgarten, Burlington, Vermont
Adam Martin, Wausau, Wisconsin
Scott Patterson, APU
Sadie Bjornsen, APU
Sophie Caldwell, Stratton Mountain, Vermont
Jessie Diggins, Afton, Minnesota
Rosie Brennan, APU
Ida Sargent, Craftsbury, Vermont
Julia Kern, Waltham, Massachusetts
Caitlin Patterson, Anchorage (Craftsbury Green Racing)
Rosie Frankowski, APU
This story has been updated to include a comment from Schumacher, to include information about the previous best finish by an American man at the World Juniors, and to correct an error. Schumacher led the U.S. relay team to a silver medal at last year’s World Juniors, not a bronze.