Somehow, they pulled off a full week of high-level cross-country ski racing at Craftsbury (Vt.) Outdoor Center despite unseasonably warm temperatures that topped 80 degrees in the past few weeks.
To their credit, race organizers preserved a ribbon of snow to superbly host the $15,600 USSA Nordic SuperTour finals followed by the distance events of the U.S. Nordic National Championships.
Last weekend's distance races showed the dedication of organizers and racers. For instance, on Friday the senior women skied a 1.5-kilometer loop for 20 laps to make up their 30k (18.6-mile) championship. On Saturday, the men skied 32 laps on the 1.5k course for their 50k (31 mile) final.
Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Gold Team racers Chelsea Holmes and Simi Hamilton continued to excel in the final week of racing.
Holmes, 24, placed fifth overall of 46 finishers in Friday's mass start 30k freestyle final. Her time was 1.23:23, about four minutes behind overall World Cup sprint champion Kikkan Randall of Anchorage, Ak. (1.19:30). Randall's 17th national title was the ending punctuation of the most successful international racing season ever for U.S. Nordic Ski Team women.
Sun Valley's Alexa Turzian (1.24:20) was 10th overall.
USSA Super Tour overall queen Jessie Diggins, 20, was the 30k silver medalist Friday just one second behind Randall. Diggins won four gold medals during the U.S. Nordic Nationals Jan. 3-8 at Rumford, Me. and came that close to her sixth national title. Holmes (5th) and Turzian (12th) finished the season high up in the SuperTour overall ranks.
Sun Valley's Margaret Pope emerged as the Junior Women's 15k runner-up and the J1 winner with a time of 44:19.
Meanwhile, 24-year-old Hamilton placed fifth of 56 finishers in Saturday's men's 50k final with a time of 1.51:40. The winner was New Hampshire's Kris Freeman, 31, in 1.50:25 for his 15th national title. Ketchum's Mike Sinnott placed 20th overall in 1.56:02.
Younger SVSEF racers won their age classes in the 50k.
Kevin Bolger was the top Older Junior (ages 18-19) in 2.01:33, good for 36th overall. Cole Morgan was the winning J1 (16-17) in 2.03:04, in 39th. In the Junior Men's 20k event, former SVSEF racer Torin Tucker of Dartmouth College was 14th overall, the 8th OJ in 47:23, about four minutes off the winning pace of Stratton Mountain's Patrick Caldwell (43:08).
SuperTour top 2012 season standings were:
Women's overall: 1—Jessie Diggins 670 points. 2—Jennie Bender (CXC) 556. 5—Chelsea Holmes 291. 12—Alexa Turzian 188. 17—Nicole DeYong 130. 24—Morgan Arritola 104. Women's sprint: 1—Diggins 245. 2—Bender 236. 17—DeYong 53. 23—Holmes 32. 33—Turzian 26. 27—Arritola 28. Women's distances: 1—Diggins 425. 2—Caitlin Gregg (CXC) 328. 5—Holmes 259. 9—Turzian 162. 20—DeYong 77. 22—Arritola 76.
Men's overall: 1—Sylvan Ellefson (Vail) 453 points. 2—Karl Nygren (CXC) 383. 5—Mike Sinnott 292. 10—Matt Gelso (SVSEF) 261. 17—Simi Hamilton 178. Men's sprint: 1—Karl Nygren 202. 2—Sinnott 163. 16—Gelso 58. 41—Hamilton 18. Men's distances: 1—Ellefson 336. 2—Tad Elliott (Vail) 277. 3—Noah Hoffman (Vail) 268. 5—Gelso 203. 13—Hamilton 160. 15—Sinnott 129.
Grand National women: 1—Diggins 280, by 126 points. Grand National men: 1—David Norris (Montana State) 132 points. 10—Sinnott 74. 11—Gelso 72.