PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (March 30) - Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) earned his third U.S. title of the season Friday - and his ninth overall - while Taz Mannix (Anchorage, AK) collected the first of her career in the pursuit races opening the last phase of the U.S. Cross Country Championships.
The long-distance races from the championship are doubling as SuperTour
Finals at the Nordic Heritage Center.
Freeman, a two-time Olympian, led the 15K classic technique stage of the 30K race by nearly a minute and went on through the 15K freestyle portion to win in 1:12.23.6. Garrott Kuzzy (Hayward, WI) was silver medalist with a time of 1:13.17.5 and Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA), who earned his first World Cup podium - in a sprint - this season, was third.
Pursuits begin with a mass start and, Freeman said, "Right from the gun, I went pretty hard. There's a nasty downhill out of the start and I wanted to be up front to avoid any trouble. At the bottom of the downhill, I decided I didn't want to deal with traffic, so I broke from the pack."
Freeman, a diabetic who had his best World Cup season in three years, including a top-10 finish in China, had won the 10K classic technique and 15K free at the short-distance championships at Michigan Tech (Houghton, MI) in January. He has one race left Sunday in the 50K CL, a race in which he's the defending gold medalist.
The men skied three times around a 5K classic technique loop and then three times around a 5K skating loop; the women had a 7.5K CL loop and a 7.5K freestyle leg.
"They did a great job preparing the tracks," Freeman said. "It was really bad skiing yesterday - icy, boilerplate conditions, but they worked the snow all night and it was granular today and fine for racing."
Mannix won the women's 15K pursuit with a total time of 41:05.0. Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT) was silver medalist in 41:53.6 and Lindsay Williams (Hastings, MN) third.
Coincidentally, Mannix had spent time with Stephen and her family after they returned two weeks from the Under-23 World Championships in Tarvisio, Italy, where Mannix turned-in the fastest skating leg to move up 14 places to ninth in the pursuit. "I got to ski with Liz in Vermont before we came here and the snow was great, so I felt good...and this was a really good day, for sure.
"I think the course was suited to my strengths - the classic portion had some technical downhills, some gradual climbing sections and you had to work it the entire time. And then the skate section had a lot of downhill and then a sustained K-and-a-half, two Ks climb back to the finish," she said.
In her first season on the U.S. Ski Team, she said the preseason conditioning program has helped and she's learned a lot. "Sometimes at the end of a season an athlete's burned out and his or her body's tired, but I still feel fresh and I'm really excited about my first season on the Ski Team," she said.
"It's such a balancing act, getting to know how much to push your body, but not to push it too much, how much to train, and when you're traveling, learning about training. I feel like I've balanced that training and travel and recovery. It's been a good year," Mannix said.
The championships conclude Sunday with the distance races - women's 30K classic and men's 50K CL. At the U.S. championships, only U.S. skiers are eligible for medals. Foreign skiers are listed in the Guest Class category.
2007 U.S. CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Nordic Heritage Center
Presque Isle, ME - March 30, 2007
(Only U.S. skiers eligible for medals)
Men's 30K Pursuit (15K CL+15K FR)
1. Kris Freeman, Andover, NH/U.S. Ski Team, 1:12.23.6
2. Alex Harvey, Canada, 1:13.17.5
3. Garrott Kuzzy, Hayward, WI/Team CXC, 1:13.47.4
4. Chris Butler, Canada, 1:13.47.7
5. Torin Koos, Leavenworth, WA/U.S. Ski Team, 1:1:14.27.8
6. Lars Flora, Anchorage, AK/APU Nordic, 1:15.02.3
7. Brayton Osgood, Putney, VT/Team Alpina/XC Oregon, 1:15.12.8
8. Dave Chamberlain, Bethel, ME/Maine Winter Sports Center, 1:15.20.1
9. Marius Korthauer, Germany/University of Alaska Fairbanks, 1:15.23.8
10. Colin Rodgers, Sun Valley, ID/FSx, 1:15.32.3
Women's 15K Pursuit (7.5K CL+7.5K FR)
(Only U.S. skiers eligible for medals)
1. Brittany Webster, Canada, 41:02.5
2. Taz Mannix, Anchorage, AK/Alaska Pacific U. Nordic/U.S. Ski Team, 41:05.0
3. Dasha Gaiazova, Canada, 41:33.4
4. Liz Stephen, East Montpelier, VT/Burke Mountain Academy/U.S. Ski Team, 41:53.6
5. Lindsay Williams, Hastings, MN/Northern Michigan U./U.S. Ski Team, 41:56.6
6. Lindsey Weier, Mahtomedi, MN/NMU/U.S. Ski Team, 42:09.3
7. Morgan Arritola, Fairfield, ID/Sun Valley SEF/U.S. Ski Team, 42:09.7
8. Laura Valaas, Wenatchee, WA/Team CXC, 42:42.6
9. Brooke Gosling, Canada, 42:43.3
10. Caitlin Compton, Minneapolis/Team CXC, 43:42.4