Cross Country Ski Canada named Black Jack skier Julien Locke to the National Ski Team (NST) on Tuesday.
Locke joins a high-powered group of athletes led by Alex Harvey who won two medals on the World Cup Tour last season.
“I’m very pleased,” said Locke. “Being a member of the senior national team has been a goal since I was seven, so it’s been a long-term thing to get on the team, and it’s pretty satisfying to be on it now.”
The Nelson native wrapped up a stellar season last month, winning bronze in the Men’s Open sprint at the Canadian Ski championship in Whitehorse, finishing just behind NST members Harvey and Len Valjas. The 22-year-old Locke also won the overall NorAm Buff Sprint Series championship, and was fourth behind Black Jack’s David Palmer, who won the National Championships U23 Men’s aggregate award. Locke’s season included qualifying for the U23 World Cup in Romania, where he was the top-Canadian in 16th spot, and podium finishes in every major sprint race on the NorAm circuit, including gold at the Canadian Junior and U23 Trials in Thunder Bay, and a bronze medal in Men’s Open sprint at the U.S. Ski Championships.
“I was pretty optimistic,” said Locke. “The season went quite well, but you never know what’s going to happen. So we had to just wait and see.”
Black Jack ski coach David Wood was hopeful for Locke making the national team, but he wasn’t certain until the selection committee released the names.
“The season certainly indicated that he should be selected,” said Wood. “Right now, the main advantage for him is the opportunity for international racing.”
Locke has raced with the Black Jack Ski team for nine years and has been under the tutelage of former NST coach Wood since 2010. The relationship has forged a steady stream of success culminating in the past year’s triumphs.
“He’s strong enough now so that he’s solid all year long,” said Wood. “In the past, let’s say against the best in the country, he’d have good days, but they weren’t all the time, and this past season every time out he won all the time in Canada except when Alex was there. I think his level has just increased and increased and now he’s at a level you notice it all the time.”
A major goal for Locke is to set his sights on the World Championship in Lahti, Finland in February, but as part of the NST up-and-coming U25 team, Locke will spend the winter racing World Cups, international development level races, and Haywood NorAms in Canada; however, the race schedule has yet to be hammered out.
“Were still deciding what the primary objective of the season is going to be,” said Locke. “For sure I want to race on the World Cup a bit, and I’ve been told that is going to be an option in the winter. There’s a few different opportunities … but we’re still looking at which ones to target.”
The coming season is a big one for winter athletes, not only is there early season World Cup races and the World Championships, but pre-Olympic qualifying for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“Were still kind of planning and looking at how it’s going to work,” said Locke. “But I’m still going to work with my coach Dave and keep working together because I think the things we’ve been doing have been working really well. But I’ll be spending a lot more time in Canmore.”
Locke joins the NST at its home base in Canmore in the upcoming weeks to begin training with the national team.
Rossland’s George Grey was the last Black Jack skier to crack the NST and made his World Cup debut in 2001.