Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Alpine, Nordic ski racers wrap up their nationals

Final events in Alaska and Maine

For sports fans, the first week of April with baseball's Opening Day, the NCAA basketball finals and The Masters is one of the year's prime times.

It's also when ski racers call it quits and end their long winter seasons with their finals.

The Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships wrapped up Tuesday at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska and the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships staged long-distance finals all the way across the country at Presque Island, Me.

Sun Valley had a better representation of racers at Presque Island so that's where we'll start this report:

Presque Island Nordic finals

Two-time Olympian Kris Freeman, 26, of Andover, N.H. and Taz Mannix, 20, of Anchorage, Alaska, were the big winners in the last phase of the national Nordic championships that started with short-course races in Michigan Jan. 3-7.

Sunday at Nordic Heritage Center, U.S. Nordic Ski Team ace Freeman won the men's 50-kilometer classic mass-start four-lap race by 20 seconds over Canadian Alex Harvey in a field of 40 finishers. It was Freeman's 10th national title and fourth of the 2007 season.

Freeman, who also won Friday's 30k men's pursuit (15k classic, 15k freestyle) mass start championship by nearly a full minute, earned the honor of Grand National Champion bestowed on the skier with the best overall results at the Nordic national finals.

Anchorage's Lars Flora was fifth, the fourth Yank, in the 50k marathon and sixth in 30k pursuit. Former Sun Valley Junior Nordic racer Flora won the SuperTour men's distance championship in addition to the tour's overall title he had already clinched.

Other Sun Valley results in Maine were Colin Rodgers (15th marathon, 10th pursuit), Dartmouth senior Mike Sinnott (24th marathon, 18th pursuit) and Zack Simons (32nd marathon, 13th pursuit).

First-year U.S. Nordic Team racer Mannix earned her first two national titles.

She was the outright winner by two seconds over teammate Liz Stephen, 19, of Vermont in Sunday's 30k marathon. Mannix was second by three seconds to Canadian Brittany Webster in Friday's 15k pursuit race, but earned the U.S. title because she's American.

Morgan Arritola, 20, of Fairfield finished seventh in 15k pursuit and also seventh of 29 in 30k marathon.

Other Sun Valley results were Kate Whitcomb (4th marathon, 11th pursuit), Nicole DeYong (19th marathon, 16th pursuit), Kate Underwood (17th marathon, 19th pursuit) and Crystal Ward (26th marathon).

Arritola and DeYong teamed for sixth in Wednesday's freestyle team sprint. In the men's cash sprints, Simons and Torin Koos, 26, of Leavenworth, Wash. placed first while Rodgers and Montana's Leif Zimmerman were in third place.

Alpine in Alaska

Seven of the eight U.S. alpine national races were complete as of Monday and there were some notable highlights at Alyeska Resort.

Bode Miller, 29, captured Saturday's men's super giant slalom for his ninth U.S. men's national title, tying Tiger Shaw and Dick Durrance for the most ever among American men.

Julia Mancuso, 23, capped a terrific winter with the women's SG title Saturday, her eighth national crown.

Downhill winners, their second titles, were Marco Sullivan, 26, and Kaylin Richardson, 22. Richardson also earned the women's combined championship and 22-year-old Ted Ligety of Utah walked away with his third straight combined title.

The men's slalom winner, his third title, was New Hampshire's Jimmy Cochran, 25. And Jackson Hole's Resi Stiegler, 21, showed her enormous potential by winning both Sunday's women's slalom and Monday's giant slalom.

Sun Valley native Hailey Duke of Boise was bronze medalist in women's slalom. Hailey's Lauren Eder of Utah's Rowmark Ski Academy was 23rd of 58 starters in SG, 36th of 74 starters in slalom and 17th of 73 starters in Monday's SL.

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