Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Olympic Development Team racer Simi Hamilton, 22, is shown on the podium wearing #1 after Saturdayís menís freestyle sprints final at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska. Photo by
It was a day of bragging rights for Aspen's Simeon "Simi" Hamilton and the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Olympic Development Team on Saturday at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska.
Hamilton, 22, a Middlebury College All-American currently training in Sun Valley with the SVSEF under coaches Rick Kapala and Travis Jones, won his first national title in the freestyle sprint on Day One of the ConocoPhillips U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships.
After winning his quarterfinal heat by 1.6 seconds and his semi-final by 1.4 over Chris Cook, Hamilton saved a sprint for the final 100 meters in the "A Final and out-poled last year's national runner-up Mike Hinckley of Anchorage by one second. In third was Garrott Kuzzy, a Middlebury alumni.
Jones said, "Simi was in first place in qualifying, won all of his rounds and skied very well in the finals to secure the win. We're all pretty fired up!"
In an interview with SkiTrax, Hamilton said, "It feels pretty darn good. I knew going into the day that I had a really good shot at not only winning the qualification, but taking the whole thing. I've been psyched with how I've been skiing so far this year, especially in sprint qualifying.
"This summer, I was based in Ketchum training with the SVSEF ODT (Kapala, Jones and Chris Mallory). The whole crew there is awesome. Being able to train with Mikey Sinnott, Colin Rodgers, Reid Pletcher, Erik Fagerstrom and Max Durtschi is really, really good. As far as a place to train and adventure in the mountains, it doesn't get much better than Ketchum. I don't think I see myself leaving there anytime soon."
Fasterskier.com writer Nathaniel Herz said Hamilton will contribute 10% of his $1,200 first-place national championship earnings to the Willie Neal Environmental Awareness Fund honoring the former SVSEF ODT racer killed roller skiing last summer in Maine.
The championships continue today, Wednesday with men's 30k classic and women's 20k mass start classic. Friday's classic sprints wrap it up.
The real prize awaiting competitors at the end of the U.S. Nationals isn't money. Instead it's a spot in the 2010 Winter Olympics at Whistler, B.C., Canada. Currently, the U.S. quota for the Games stands at eight. Most will be taken by U.S. Ski Team members who have been racing in Europe.
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