It was a bronze medal for two local skiers on the final day of America's biggest cross-country ski race of the year.
Ketchum's Mike Sinnott of The Factory Team paired with fellow Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Olympic Development Team racer Colin Rodgers to take third place in Sunday's three-lap team sprint final near Lake Superior.
Former Dartmouth College cross-country ski captain Sinnott, 22, and Rodgers, 26, Middlebury's former ski captain, actually finished fifth in Sunday's team race on the 1.3-kilometer course. But only U.S. citizens were eligible for medals. Two higher-finishing teams were in the Guest Class.
Action took place on the final day of the 2008 U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships at the Michigan Tech Nordic Ski Center in Houghton, Mich. And it was a highly successful week for Sun Valley Nordic skiers.
"We had a great week," said Sun Valley Junior Nordic ski team head coach Rick Kapala.
Fairfield's Morgan Arritola, 21, grabbed the silver medal in Thursday's 10-kilometer women's classic race with a time of 31 minutes and 35 seconds, just 53 seconds off the winning pace of two-time Olympian Kikkan Randall of Anchorage, Ak. (30:42).
"I guess the highlight for us was Morgan's 10k classic race. It was a great result for her and for our program," said Kapala about Arritola, a Sun Valley Olympic Development Team racer who is also on the U.S. Nordic "B" Team this winter.
Arritola had placed 18th overall in last year's national 5k classic race on the same Michigan Tech trails. But she was a top 10 racer in both of last week's national individual events including her seventh place overall in 5k freestyle.
Sinnott was another Sun Valley racer who enjoyed his best-ever national competition, in his seventh visit to the big meet. He was ninth overall and the top U23 racer in Thursday's men's 15k classic race. And he made the quarterfinals of Saturday's 1.3k freestyle sprints.
And 19-year-old Reid Pletcher had an excellent week. He was 12th overall and the second Older Junior in Thursday's 15k classic event. Pletcher made the quarterfinals and ended up 11th in Saturday's freestyle sprints.
Quarterfinalists from Sun Valley in Saturday's free sprint finals were Rodgers 7th, Pletcher 11th, Kate Whitcomb 13th, Nicole DeYong 17th, Kate Underwood 18th, Sinnott 21st, Ben True 23rd and Mali Noyes 27th.
Defending champions Andy Newell of Vermont and Kikkan Randall of Anchorage won the freestyle sprint titles—Randall's eighth gold and Newell's second national title.
Arritola made the finals and ended up fourth in the Women's U23 1.3k freestyle sprint while Sun Valley's Taylor Sundali was in the finals, placing fourth, in the Junior Men's 1.3k free sprint.
The U.S. Nordic Ski Team used the Jan. 1-6 national championships to determine spots for World Cup races Jan. 22-26 at Canmore, Alberta, Canada and also for U-23 Championships and Scandinavia Cup races.
Here are top placers and local results from Thursday's classic races:
Men's 15k classic: 1—Ivan Babikov (Russia/The Factory Team) 40:51. 2—Lars Flora (Anchorage, Factory Team) 41:59. 5—Chris Cook (USST/SVSEF) 42:20. 9—Mike Sinnott (Factory Team/SVSEF) 42:46 (1-U23). 10—Ben True (SVSEF) 42:51 (2-U23).
12—Reid Pletcher (SVSEF) 43:15 (2-OJ). 17—Noah Hoffman (SVSEF) 43:35 (3-OJ). 25—Colin Rodgers (SVSEF) 43:53 (16-SR). 57—Ian Havlick (Univ.Utah) 45:27 (10-OJ). 69—Taylor Sundali (SVSEF) 45:40 (12-OJ). 71—Matt DeCarufel (Univ.Nevada) 45:43. 101—Max Durtschi (SVSEF) 46:52 (6-J1). 155—Scott Krankkala (SVSEF) 48:31 (41-OJ). 227—Scott Phelan (SVSEF) 52:30 (45-J1)—242 racers.
Women's 10k classic: 1—Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, USST) 30:42. 2—Kristina Strandberg (Sweden, Factory Team) 31:04. 3—Morgan Arritola (USST/SVSEF) 31:35 (1-U23). 11—Kate Whitcomb (SVSEF) 31:58 (8-SR). 14—Alexa Turzian (USST/Middlebury) 32:38 (4-OJ).
23—Nicole DeYong (SVSEF) 33:01 (13-SR). 33—Kate Underwood (SVSEF) 33:31 (18-SR). 35—Mali Noyes (SVSEF) 33:38 (7-OJ). 46—Bronwen Raff (SVSEF) 34:18 (5-J1). 117—Julia Bowman (SVSEF) 36:38 (24-J1)—177 racers.