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Canada battles to 6th in junior relays

Canada takes sixth in relays.
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Canmore's Xavier McKeever. RMO FILE PHOTO

FINLAND - Canada's cross-country relay team was just two seconds off a top-five performance on Saturday (Feb. 13) at the junior ski world championships in Finland.

The young Canucks, consisting of Canmore's Xavier McKeever, Calgary's Tom Stephen, Pemberton's Joe Davies, and Sherbrooke's Olivier Léveillé finished sixth in the junior men's 4X5 kilometre relay in Vuokatti.

“The relays are exciting no matter how it goes because the atmosphere is so fun,” said head coach Erik Braaten in a press release. “We had lots of really good individual performances but overall, we were just OK.”

The Canadians finished at a time of 50:55.1, just two seconds behind Germany.

The Norwegians finished first at a time of 49:45.3, followed by Finland (50:05.3) and Italy (50:07.9).

With a couple of big individual world championship results under the belts of Stephen, who was 12th in sprint earlier this week, and Léveillé, who won bronze in Friday's 10-km ski-skate, emotions were running high, said Braaten.

"Definitely it is tricky to come back after yesterday’s medal and especially for the juniors because they were supposed to have a day off before the relay but with the schedule changes due to the cold, they are going three days in a row. That is a heavy lift,” added Braaten.

"Of course the standard was set last year with the silver medal, and not what we hoped for today, but it was a good result.”

Last year, the junior Canadians stormed into the history books after winning the nation's first-ever team relay medal at a major cross-country skiing event.

McKeever, Stephen and Léveillé were part of the historic squad, along with Remi Drolet.

Sunday (Feb. 14) marks the final day of the junior world championships with the junior men's 30-km and junior women's 15-km races.