Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Turzian takes silver in NCAA 15k skate

Univ. of Colorado Nordic skier

Alexa Turzian accepts her 15k mass start freestyle silver medal at Saturday’s NCAA Nordic Ski Championships in Steamboat Springs, Colo. Courtesy photo

University of Colorado cross-country skier Alexa Turzian, 21, of Ketchum skied to second place of 38 racers in Saturday's 2010 NCAA Nordic Ski Championships 15-kilometer mass start skate race at Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Turzian (41:09) was only six seconds behind Denver University women's winner Antje Maempel (41:03). The silver medal effort by the former Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation star helped Colorado into second place in the NCAA championship team standings.

According to the Buffaloes Web site, Maempel and Turzian broke from the pack with one kilometer left. Turzian was ahead just before the pair entered the Howelsen's stadium arena. Maempel has a reputation for being one of the strongest collegiate sprinters, and she showcased that in passing then pulling away for the win.

Maempel, 26, also won Thursday's 5k individual start classic in 16:03, ahead of fifth-place Kaelin Kiesel (17:11) of Montana State University and formerly the SVSEF. Turzian (18:10) was 19th of 39 in Thursday's classic. The 24-year-old Kiesel (42:47) finished ninth in Saturday's skate event.

Maempel's sweep of the classical and freestyle races was the 14th in 22 years by a Nordic woman, the last 11 of which were by western competitors, and the last two by Maempel, joining Vermont's Laura Wilson (1990-91) as the only pair to do it in back-to-back seasons.

Turzian finished second for a second straight year.

"I was a little more nervous than usual, just because there were a ton of people out here supporting us," Turzian said of what turned out to be her second straight runner-up finish in the freestyle at the NCAAs.

"But that's also more to your benefit I think, so I just got super pumped up, I knew I was going to have to stay at the top three the whole time and keep time with Antje.

"Basically, I just didn't want to take the lead, I just wanted to draft because there's some wind out here and there's a lot of hills. But I know I'm not a sprinter so I knew I had to take a lead. I tried to get out to a bigger lead near the end, but she stuck with me, which was a déjà vu of last year at NCAAs."

"I'm super psyched for us as a team, that's a great finish for us," Turzian said.

Leading wire-to-wire at the 57th annual Alpine and Nordic finals, Denver University won its third consecutive NCAA team title with 785.5 points—ahead of Colorado (714) in the 22-school field.

Hosted by the University of Colorado, the NCAAs were staged on Howelsen Hill at Steamboat Springs—the oldest ski area in continuous use in Colorado. The stadium was set around the Romick Rodeo Arena that is adjacent to the Howelsen Hill ski center.

There were 78 collegiate racers representing 21 teams—15 skiers from the Central Region, 24 from the Eastern Region and 39 from the Western Region.

"The Nordic team proved again to be in a class by itself, and there is no doubt that we have the best in college skiing," CU head coach Richard Rokos said about Colorado's Nordic performers, who accounted for a meet-best 418 of the school's 714 point total. Denver scored 377 Nordic points with Montana State was third with 316.

Arritola top Yank in Holmenkollen 30k

Ketchum's Morgan Arritola, 23, made an impressive move upwards on the 2010 Cross Country World Cup Saturday, March 13 by finishing as the top American in the women's 30-kilometer mass start classic.

It was part of the Holmenkollen Ski Festival at Oslo's Holmenkollen Ski Stadium, site of next year's World Championships. The ski festival in Norway is known as the Super Bowl of cross-country racing.

Arritola was just outside the points bubble in 31st place with a time of 1.29:45, just four minutes out of fifth place and nearly six minutes ahead of the next-fastest American—Caitlin Compton of Minneapolis, Minn. who was 51st in 1.35:13.

Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Olympic Development Team head coach Travis Jones said, "The field in this event was very strong—as a rule, much stronger than Olympic fields, where each nation is allowed only four competitors a race."

Like Arritola, SVSEF ODT race Simi Hamilton, 22, has also been racing on the World Cup in Europe since they both represented the U.S. at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. On Sunday at Oslo, Hamilton was the second Yank in 34th place during the freestyle sprint. U.S. racer Kikkan Randall had a silver medal in the women's sprint—only the third U.S. podium for a woman in a modern-day Nordic race in Norway.

Jones said, "Very impressive—Simi finished just .52 seconds out of the top 30 and ahead of several past World Cup winners from Norway and Finland on next year's World Championship course in Oslo."

There are only two stops remaining on the 2009-10 World Cup, in Sweden at Stockholm and Falun.

Other European races

SVSEF ODT racers Mike Sinnott and Nicole DeYong have been racing for the last 10 days on the OPA Cup circuit in France and Slovenia. The OPA Cup is the European version of the Continental Cup, just one step below the World Cup.

Jones said, "Mikey and Nicole have had outstanding races, finishing the series with multiple personal-best point races. The points they've earned will move them up on the USSA points list and should help with their shared goal of representing the U.S. at the 2011 World Championships."

Sinnott and DeYong opened their OPA tour in La Feclaz, France with the March 5 classic team sprint and the March 7 5k and 10k skate races (DeYong 11th, just 12 seconds out of the gold, and Sinnott 13th).

They moved to Rogla, Slovenia for the OPA Cup Finals. DeYong posted an impressive sixth place in the 5k classic, while Sinnott had an outstanding series overall—sixth place in the 3k prologue, seventh in 10k classic and a breakthrough fourth place in the 15k skate.

Sinnott was just six seconds off the podium after one hour and 12 minutes of 15k racing.

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