Up-and-coming national Nordic stars like Fairfield's Morgan Arritola and Liz Stephen of Vermont's Burke Mountain Academy made a big splash during the 2006 U.S. National Cross-Country Ski Championships held last week at Soldier Hollow, Utah.
Sun Valley Olympic Development Team member Arritola, 18, captured her second national silver medal in four days when she placed second behind Anchorage's Kikkan Randall in Saturday's 10-kilometer classic race. Arritola was 24 seconds behind Randall.
The result signified progress for Community School graduate Arritola, who was 19th in last year's national 5k classic race. Sun Valley coach Rick Kapala said, "Morgan made a step up in her classic results. It was a tough classic course in scrappy, variable conditions, and it was a great result.
"She wanted to prove that she could ski classic and came up with a pretty sweet race."
Another junior, Middlebury-bound Stephen from East Montpelier, Vt., tied Randall for the national title in Sunday's 5k skate race. Last week's national 15k freestyle silver medalist Arritola finished eighth, 39 seconds back.
Stephen and Arritola will lead the U.S. women to the FIS World Junior Nordic Championships Jan. 31-Feb. 5 at Kranj, Slovenia. It will be Arritola's second trip to World Juniors. And two other Sun Valley skiers making their first World Junior trips will join Arritola and Stephen in Slovenia.
Alexa Turzian, 17, and Jack Harris, 19, have now qualified for World Juniors. Turzian had an excellent national visit, placing second among J1s in both 10k classic and 5k skate. She was 22nd and 14th overall. Harris was the fourth OJ man in 15k classic and 10k skate.
Along the achievements of his juniors, Kapala was excited that 25-year-old SV Olympic Development Team racer Chris Cook won his first-ever national title in Thursday's 1.3k freestyle sprints. Cook, a Northern Michigan racer from Rhinelander, Wisc., will very likely make the 2006 Winter Olympic team, Kapala said.
Also, Reid Pletcher, 17, of Sun Valley has been picked for a second straight year to travel to the Scandinavian Cup races attracting some of the world's top 16-17 year olds. Skiers from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and the U.S. will gather Feb. 3-4 at Voyr, Finland.
Kapala fully expects 20-year-old Mike Sinnott of Ketchum to be picked for the American U-23 team traveling to the World Junior competition in Slovenia. Dartmouth College racer Sinnott had a good nationals. The former Sun Valley star was 14th in the 30k freestyle event, 16th (3rd U23) in 10k skate and 26th (5th U23) in 15k classic.
National results follow:
Women's 10k classic, Jan. 7: 1—Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) 35:16, fourth national title. 2—Morgan Arritola (SV) 35:40 (1st OJ). 3—Liz Stephen (Burke Mt.) 35:51. 22—Alexa Turzian (SV) 38:44 (2nd J1). 53—Mali Noyes (SV) 40:37 (9th J1). 54—Ashley McQueen (UU) 40:41. 118—Ruth Anderson (UNev) 43:36. 151—Erin McQueen (UNev) 48:18 (166 finishers).
Men's 15k classic, Jan. 7: 1—Ivan Babikov (Subaru) 38:45. 2—Kris Freeman (USST) 39:38, third national title. 3—Chris Cook (SV) 39:56. 5—Lars Flora (Subaru) 40:15. 10—Zack Simons (SV) 41:17. 26—Mike Sinnott (Dartmouth) (5th U23) 43:03. 54—Jack Harris (SV) 44:16 (4th OJ). 66—Luke Pletcher (SV) 45:06 (6th OJ). 69—Reid Pletcher (SV) 45:17 (5th J1). 76—Jess Kiesel (UU) 45:49. 107—Mike Matteson (SV) 47:32. 137—Taylor Sundali (SV) 49:55. 142—Matt DeCarufel (UNev) 50:12. 171—Artie Livingston (SV) 53:12. 172—David Vanderpool (UNev) 53:15. 192—Robert Slough (UNev) 56:10 (218 finishers).
Women's 5k freestyle, Jan. 8: 1 (tie)—Liz Stephen (Burke Mt.) and Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) 14:48.7, fifth national title Randall and third of the week. 8—Morgan Arritola 15:27.6 (2nd OJ). 13—Brooke Hovey (Rossignol) 15:36. 14—Alexa Turzian 15:45 (2nd J1). 61—Ashley McQueen 16:34. 69—Mali Noyes 16:43 (12th J1). 90—Fraiser Opel (MSU) 17:05. 113—Erin McQueen 17:37. 129—Ruth Anderson 18:06 (169 finishers).
Men's 10K freestyle, Jan. 8: 1—Ivan Babikov (Subaru) 25:08. 2—James Southam (Rossignol) 25:38, repeat national champion. 4—Lars Flora (Anchorage) 26:24, national silver medalist. 16—Mike Sinnott 27:18 (3rd U23). 19—Chris Cook 27:25. 20—Zack Simons 27:27. 63—Jack Harris (SV) 29:00 (4th OJ). 69—Luke Pletcher (7th OJ) 29:03. 74—Jess Kiesel 29:10. 88—Reid Pletcher 29:26 (8th J1). 101—Taylor Sundali 29:51. 128—Matt DeCarufel 30:25. 155—David Vanderpool 30:58. 169—Mike Matteson 31:18. 175—Jedd Young (NewMexico) 31:29. 197—Artie Livingston 32:12. 203—Robert Slough 32:22 (245 finishers).