Vermont was well represented in the international crowd at Mount VanHoevenberg, where six local athletes competed in the FISU individual class cross-country skiing events. 67 Nordic skiers took off for the women’s 5k Tuesday morning, with Hilla Niemela from Finland winning the gold by beating the competition by over 17 seconds.

But local stars were well-represented with Nina Seemann who goes to Dartmouth College and she’s from Wheelock, Vermont, she finished 33rd out of the 67 racers. “It was a really brutal course, honestly, probably the hardest 5k course I’ve ever skied on,” she said. “It’s kind of a mental game to see how long you can keep that going for.”

UVM student Annie McColgan finished right ahead of her, 8 tenths of a second to be exact, at 32nd, and said she felt right at home at the VanHo course. “I got to drive here, so I feel right at home, but it’s also international ski racing so it’s the best of both worlds.”

Kendall Kramer from the University of Alaska Fairbanks finished with the best time for the U.S. team at 12th overall.

The men competed in a 10 kilometer race, with Ryo Hirose from Japan taking home the gold. Finn Sweet, a UVM student from Waterbury Center, finished with the best time for the U.S. team and got 6th overall in the race. “I think I paced it pretty well, I went out kind of conservatively, and it allowed me to save a little bit of energy for that second lap, this course is basically just one big hill,” said Sweet.

Adam Witkowski attended the Stratton Mountain School in Vermont with Will Koch, who finished 68th and 11th, respectively; and Gregory Burt also attends UVM and is from Huntington, Vermont. Each racer talked about what it was like representing Vermont on the international stage and why Vermont has so many great skiers.

“Having a bunch of Vermonters here, representing so close to home, is pretty awesome,” said Burt. “We have Olympians that are around all year to train with so learning from them can help a lot of people take a big jump in their careers just from their experiences,” Witkowski said. “When we’re developing skiers when they’re really young, we don’t focus on their results, we really just focus on having everybody enjoy it, having everybody have fun,” Koch said.

Will is the son of Bill Koch of Vermont, who won a silver medal at the 1976 Olympics, becoming the first American to medal in a cross-country skiing event. Each racer said the course at VanHo was one of the hardest they’ve ever raced and that they needed all of their energy to be able to complete it.