Friday, January 9, 2009

Nordic racers make European teams

Extreme cold still prevails in Alaska

Frigid cold weather just about wiped out the 2009 ConocoPhillips U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska this week. Only Monday's men's 10k and women's 5k skate races were held for 371 racers.

Three days of racing were canceled in addition to the postponements last weekend. Still, there were positives for those assembled up North.

Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Junior Nordic ski team head coach Rick Kapala said, "In spite of the tough conditions here in Alaska, we have been fortunate to still have a number of our skiers selected to represent the U.S. and the SVSEF to major international competitions.

"The selections were based on the one race we did have as well as current USSA point standings and other results to date this season."

Max Durtschi was chosen as one of the country's top J1s for the International Scandinavian Series in Norway the final week of January. Noah Hoffman made the World Junior Championships for races in France in late January.

In Monday's men's 10k skate, second-year J1 (ages 16-17) Durtschi finished 35th overall and second among all J1s with a time of 27:05, less than three minutes off the winning 24:17 pace of U.S. Nordic Ski Team racer Kris Freeman, 28. And SVSEF Olympic Development Team member Hoffman, 19, won the Older Junior class with a 26:07 clocking, good for 11th overall.

Also, Morgan Arritola and Alexa Turzian qualified for the U-23 (under 23) World Championships in France the first week of February. "That is great. We have skiers on all three key developmental trips for the U.S." said Kapala.

Earning U-23 podiums Monday for their second- and third-place 5k finishes were Turzian, 20, of the U.S. Ski Team and University of Colorado and Arritola, 22, of the USST and SVSEF ODT. Turzian was seventh overall in 15:29 and Arritola 10th in 15:41.

In addition, Mike Sinnott, Colin Rodgers and Reid Pletcher all have a chance to qualify for the three World Cups to be held at the new Whistler Olympic Nordic Venue in Canada to be held in mid-January, said Kapala.

The coach added, "I am really proud of all of our kids who took the chance, trained hard and came up here to Alaska. Of course, the conditions were tough and we sure would have liked to race more. But we have a big season still to come and I can't wait to wax up that next pair of race boards."

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