Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Freeman, Randall are national distance winners, SuperTour revs up

Ketchumís Colin Rodgers (in front) skis a few inches ahead of the University of Utahís Rolf Figi (left) and Bridger Ski Foundationís Leif Zimmermann of Montana (right) during Saturdayís U.S. National menís 50-kilometer classic race at Lake Creek north of Ketchum. Photo by Willy Cook

Kris Freeman wins tough slog at Lake Creek

Three-time Olympian Kris Freeman, 30, of Andover, N.H. clinched the final men's 2011 U.S. Championship title up for grabs Saturday at Lake Creek.

He won the U.S. Distance Nationals 50-kilometer classic technique race in 2.37:05. It marked the 14th U.S. championship for the eighth-year U.S. Nordic Ski Team racer just coming off solid results on the 2010-11 Nordic World Cup.

With freshly fallen snow covering the track, athletes faced an added level of difficulty to an already challenging course. A combination of the long distance, and the slow track, forced the male racers to work extra hard to keep sight of the prize at the finish line.

Freeman won by 10 seconds over Canadian Kevin Sandau, 22. Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Olympic Development Team member Noah Hoffman (2.37:57) was fifth, 52 seconds back. Two other SVSEF ODT racers, Colin Rodgers and Mike Sinnott, placed 15th and 17th. There were 45 starters and only 32 finishers.

Freeman said, "I had some diabetic complications in the last 50k I tried to do at the Olympics last year. I did a lot of work over the summer trying to figure out different dosing scenarios to be able to race the longer races. So I was really happy that I was able to figure that out over the summer and go out and prove that a Type 1 diabetic can be the best marathon skier in the country."

Freeman made a move with Hoffman at the 30k mark of the seven-lap test. The two worked together to control the race.

Unfortunately, Hoffman suffered cramps and fell back. Freeman said, "I wasn't going to try and ski the last 20k off the front by myself. The group came back up with us, only it became a five-person race by then. With 3k to go, I got 10 seconds on them and held it and extended it to the finish."

Freeman not only earned the U.S. Championship 50k classic technique title, but also cashed in on a $1,200 purse for winning the SuperTour Finals event.

The 50k was final men's race of the five-event U.S. Championship series. Alaska Pacific University's Lars Flora, 33, of Anchorage was crowned Grand U.S. Champion, awarded to the man who collected the most points throughout the series.

Top results: 1—Kris Freeman 2.37:05. 5—Noah Hoffman 2.37:57 (2nd-U-23). 7—Lars Flora 2.38:53. 15—Colin Rodgers 2.44:34. 17—Mike Sinnott 2.45:35. DNF—Matt Gelso (SVSEF ODT).

Saturday's 25k Junior Men's race for nine starters and eight finishers was won by Scott Patterson, 18, of the University of Vermont (1.09:08), five seconds ahead of Akeo Maifeld-Carucci, 17, of Montana's Bridger Ski Foundation (1.09:13).

Other 25k locals: 3—William Spiller 1.11:46. 4—Max Christman 1.13:58. 8—Andrew Pfeiffer 1.19:07. DNF—Brandon Wade.

Randall collects 16th national title

World Cup sprint powerhouse Kikkan Randall, 28, of Anchorage, Ak. added another U.S. Championship to her belt Sunday winning the U.S. SuperTour Finals 30-kilometer classic technique race in Sun Valley. It marked Randall's 16th U.S. championship.

Randall, coming off an excellent 10th place overall finish on the Nordic World Cup and third in the final sprint standings, battled a tenacious Swede over four laps on the hill Lake Creek course. Randall (1.31:27) successfully defended her 30k national title by 10 seconds over Maria Graefnings, 25, of the University of Utah (1.31:37).

Ketchum's Morgan Arritola, 24, was fourth in 1.32:10, 48 seconds off the top pace. There were 30 starters and 25 finishers. Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Olympic Development Teamer Nicole DeYong, 28, placed ninth in 1.37:10.

Skiers were greeted with perfect conditions for classic skiing, firmly packed powder and 20-degree temperatures. That allowed everyone to have great skis on a course with frequent and steep climbs, followed by some fast and technical downhills. It developed into a true test of physical fitness and mastery of classic striding.

The hard, fast track coupled with rays of sun shining down on the course made for a perfect day to end the 2011 U.S. Cross Country Championship series. Under bluebird skies, Randall proved why she is one of the best topping a packed field of women competitors.

Compared to the tough slog the men faced Saturday in their marathon race at the Lake Creek trail system north of Ketchum, the women had an easier cruise due to weather.

Randall said, "We lucked out today. The boys had really tough conditions yesterday. We were all pretty psyched to wake up this morning and see clear blue skies and get out on the trails and find really nice hard and fast tracks. The wax stayed pretty consistent."

With the lead group stacked with talent, the tempo was fierce forcing the skiers to slowly drop off the back leaving Randall and Graefnings to dual it out. Graefnings, dominant on the NCAA circuit this season ending it with winning the NCAA  5k freestyle technique title, stayed close, but did not have enough to best Randall. Randall won the $1,200 purse.

Five-time Junior Nationals queen and this winter's breakout U.S. star Jessie Diggins, 19, of Afton, Minn. held off a hard-charging Arritola to secure a U.S. national championship third-place podium. Older Junior winner Diggins finished in 1.31:55 and Arritola 1.32:10.

U.S. SuperTour leader Holly Brooks, 28, of Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Team closed out the day in fifth. She was crowned U.S. Grand Champion, a title that is awarded to the woman with the most cumulative points in the five-race Championship Series.

It was Randall's day, just like it's been quite a season for the Salt Lake City native who stretched her abilities in distance racing. She said, "It's really fun to come back after being on the World Cup and see all the domestic racers and have fun here in Sun Valley."

Top results: 1—Kikkan Randall 1.31:27. 4—Morgan Arritola 1.32:10. 9—Nicole DeYong 1.37:10. 15—Alexa Turzian (SV and University of Colorado) 1.42:06. 16—Annie Pokorny 1.42:22. DNF—Katie Bono.

Sunday's 15k Junior Women's race for eight finishers was won by Dartmouth's Isabel Caldwell in 50:21. Other 15k local finishers: 4—Sloan Storey 52:48 (1st J1). 5—Carrie Heagney 53:04. 8—Kelsey Dickinson 56:32 (3rd J1).

SuperTour Finals pick up steam

A major week of Nordic ski racing in Sun Valley picks up steam today with the mass start classic races of the USSA Super Tour Finals at the Lake Creek trail system north of Ketchum.

The Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation is the host organization. USSA Super Tour races at Lake Creek are being held in a Mini-Tour format.

The series of four races that started Tuesday with prologue freestyle races will build to a grand finale atop Dollar Mountain on Saturday, April 2. Saturday's freestyle hill climb will be handicapped based on results from earlier in the week.

Daily prize money for each gender is $500 for first place, $300 for second, $200 for third, $150 for fourth and $100 fifth.

SuperTour leaders entering the finals are Holly Brooks (372 points) over Morgan Smyth, both Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center racers, and Lars Flora of APU (325) over Ketchum's Mike Sinnott (287).

Mass start classic 15 kilometer (men) and 10k (women) races are today, Wednesday at 9 a.m. at Lake Creek. There will be prize money for climbing and sprinting preems. Thursday is for training. Individual sprint races are Friday, April 1 at Lake Creek (qualifications 9 a.m. and final rounds 11 a.m.).

Based on their sprint finishes, racers will have bonus time subtracted to determine their starts for the Pursuit Start finale Saturday. It should be a challenging course on Dollar Mountain—the first to cross the finish atop the hill's summit earning the overall title.

"We'll start near Quarter Dollar and go up and over towards Elkhorn, then back towards Dollar summit. The elevation gain should be 650 to 700 feet," said Chief of Competition Rick Kapala, SVSEF Nordic ski coach and program director.

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