U-23s: Valaas Sprints to Silver in Italy
First U-23 medal won by a U.S. women
TARVISIO, Italy (March 13) - Laura Valaas (Wenatchee, WA), who cruised to the Cross Country SuperTour sprint title this winter, scrambled her way to the silver medal in the 1.3K classic technique sprint in the opening race of the Under-23 Cross Country Championships. All three U.S. women were in the top 13.
Slovakian Alena Prochazkova took the gold medal just ahead of Valaas, a
Whitman College graduate, with Estonian Piret Pormeister in third place.
Northern Michigan University racer Morgan Smyth (Vernon, VT) was eighth and
Lindsay Williams (Hastings, MN), another NMU skier, finished 13th in the field
In the men's race, Swedes Robin Bryntesson and Marcus Hellner went 1-2 while Tyson Flaharty (Fairbanks, AK), an Alaska Pacific University Nordic skier, was 24th and Michael Sinnott (Sun Valley, ID), fresh from helping Dartmouth College win its first NCAA Ski Championships title in 31 years, was 25th. Brenton Knight (Anchorage, AK), a University of Alaska Anchorage skier, was 40th and Bart Dengel (Valdez, AK) from the University of Alaska Fairbanks finishing 52nd.
Valaas' medal is the first won by an American woman. Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) used the 2003 U-23s as his international launching pad, winning the opening men's event, a 30K classic race in Valdidentro, Italy. He was fourth in the pursuit, which closed those championships and a week later Freeman finished a shocking fourth in the 15K CL. In the '04 season, Freeman produced the best U.S. results in more than 20 years, finishing sixth and then fifth in two World Cup races.
Valaas joined the new CXC team from the Central Division this winter and has teamed with Caitlin Compton (Minneapolis, MN) to dominate the domestic racing. Each made her first World Championships team for Sapporo, Japan, last month; Valaas was 24th in the CL sprint at Worlds.
For complete results: