By Bruce Fuhr
The Nelson Daily Sports
Long time ago in a far away place, humans realized by attaching two shaped pieces of wood to their feet they could travel faster when hunting in snow-covered fields and woods.
You won’t see Peter or Julien Locke breezing through the forests around the Heritage City with rifle strapped on back looking for dinner.
They shop at the Co-op.
However, it wouldn’t be uncommon to see the two Nelsonites leading the pack during a provincial or national cross-country race.
The two Nelson skiers have quietly turned more than a few heads at the elite level and are looking for more success in the coming months.
“The season is going very well,” Peter Locke told The Nelson Daily on the eve of the Western Canadians this weekend in Kelowna. “I’ve had some very good results this year, however, they were as good as I hoped for at (junior) nationals.”
“My sprinting this year has been very good,” added Julien Locke. “One of my best races was the Thunder Bay sprint (January 6-9).”
Not that long ago the two Locke boys, twins you know, were being towed around the Nelson Nordic Ski Trails in a sled by their parents.
It wasn’t that long before the two were up on skis, competing in the Jackrabbit program, passing up on the traditional team sports like soccer and hockey.
“It’s not like don’t like team sports, I just prefer individual sports like cross-country,” Peter Locke said.
“Nothing against team sports at all . . . I used to swim when I was younger,” added Julien Locke. “I just never did any.”
After a few years in the Nelson Nordic Ski Club system, the two decided to join the more competitive Blackjack club in Rossland.
“There wasn’t much happing in Nelson and Rossland ran a higher caliber team so we thought there was more opportunity for us,” Julien Locke explained.
The Blackjack coach is none other than Dave Wood, formerly of the Canadian national team for the past 16 years. Wood wrapped up his career in 2010 helping Canadian athletes at the Vancouver/Whistler Olympics.
The Locke boys, who home school but find time to put in 500 hours per year or eight to 24 per week of training, have already logged more miles than Greyhound this season competing on the cross country circuit.
There were races in Canmore, the Alberta Cup; at Vernon’s Silver Star Resort for the Haywood NorAm; and at the home Blackjack Club for the Haywood NorAm Senior World Championship trials.
The two then traveled to Thunder Bay, Ont., for the World Junior Trails.
Peter Locke, at 6’3”, 175 pounds, finished 26th in the 20-kilometer continuous pursuit, 31st in the 1600m classic sprint and 19th in 15km skate.
Julien Locke, at 6’1”, 180-pounds, finished 34th, eighth and 25th.
“I was hoping to land one of the spots for Canada at World Juniors but I came up just a little short,” said Julien Locke.
“I had a fast heat, with the eventual first, second and fourth-place guys in it and unfortunately I wasn't able to stay with them up the hill. I did everything I could but they were all a year or two older than me and with the long course, they had the advantage.”
“My best race was the Thunder Bay . . . the 15 km,” Peter Locke admitted. “So far this year we have mostly raced up in Junior Men's category, which has been quite a change from last year as the distances have increased from 10 km to 20km. I really like the longer races and have been having a really good season so far.”
The two 17-year-old skiers, Julien is part of the B.C. Team and Peter the B.C. Development squad, have been racing most of this season in Junior Men’s category against many older skiers.
This weekend another major test comes in Kelowna at Westerns.
The Westerns is going to be a "tour" race. The first stage is a skate sprint. The next day is a prologue race, which will be one of the first times this type of race being been held in Canada.
It's a 3.5 km classic individual start. The race is so short, competitor need to ski at a sprint pace for the duration. The final day is the 15 km pursuit.
For this race skiers are seeded according to times and bonus seconds from the first two days of racing. The start is staggered accordingly. The first person to the finish wins the overall three days of racing.
The whole idea of tour races has been around for a long time in other sports but it's quite new to cross country skiing.
The field won’t be as strong as World Junior Trials, a field that included many of the top skiers in Canada, but most of the top skiers from the west will be competing.
“Last year we did not attend Westerns but at Nationals I won the skate sprint and got fourth in the aggregate, just a few points out of third,” said Julien Locke, whose goal is to ski for Canada on the World Cup circuit. “So I expect westerns should be good again.”
Next month in Canmore, March 12-19 promises to be the ultimate test for the two Locke boys.
“I am looking forward to all of the races but I'm especially exited for the sprint,” said Julien Locke. “The classic (my favourite), the course is perfect and I am going into it as last years winner. It's not going to be easy to hang on to the title but I am looking forward to the challenge.”
Then again, if it doesn’t work out on the cross-country circuit for the two Blackjack skiers, there’s always the chance of putting those skills on boards to good use trying to find dinner.
Sister Robyn keeps up with older brothers
The happy Locke family would not be complete if sister Robyn didn’t participate too.
The younger sibling has not disappointed the rest of the family at most of the same events Peter and Julien competed at — except for Junior Nationals.
“Last year my biggest race was going to Terrace for B.C. Winter Games,” said 14-year-old Robyn Locke. “I finished eighth and 12th in my category (midget girls). These were probably of my two best races of the year."
Some results for Robyn Locke has the Nelsonite 18th and 16th at Canmore to start the season, and 12th and 15th at a B.C. Cup race in Prince George.
Robyn Locke plans on joining older brothers at the Westerns and Nationals.