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Houghton to Host U.S. Cross Country Skiing Championships

Fri, Oct  26, 2007 - By Dean Woodbeck

HOUGHTON MI – For the second year in a row, the national championships for cross country skiing will take place in Houghton, Michigan. The U.S. Cross Country Championship will be held at the Michigan Tech Nordic Training Center, January 1-6, 2008.

Members of the U.S. Ski Team – including Olympians Kris Freeman, Andy Newell and Kikkan Randall – will be among the 400 skiers competing in the four-race, week-long extravaganza.

Racing will commence Monday, January 1, with the freestyle discipline, then continue Wednesday, January 3, with competitors using the classic style. Friday and Saturday, January 5-6, will feature sprint formats – crowd-pleasing short races on a tight course.

"We will have the top skiers in the country here," said organizing committee chair Mike Abbott, director of the sports and recreation department at Michigan Technological University. "Our stadium area is very spectator friendly and this is a rare opportunity to see this caliber of an event in the Midwest."

Those top skiers include members of the U.S. Disabled Team, who compete on sit-ski devices, using their arms and poles to propel themselves around the course.

The Houghton area averages more than 200 inches of snow a year, making it an ideal location for cross country skiing – most of the time. Last year the snows came late and scores of volunteers shoveled snow onto a five-kilometer course. The snow had been harvested from area parking lots and football fields.

"I don't want to jinx anything," Abbott said, "but I sure hope the snows come early and often this year. When you are organizing an event of this magnitude, you don't want to also worry about where the main ingredient will come from."

Spectators will have the opportunity to see the top skiers in the country, including many who will vie for a spot on the U.S. 2010 Olympic team. The U.S. Ski Team will compete, then head back to World Cup competition in Europe.

Michigan Tech earned the bid for the U.S. championships based on a challenging trail system, which was renovated and expanded in 2001. The volunteer organizing committee also successfully staged the junior national championships, known as the Junior Olympics, in 2006.

A complete schedule, along with visitor information, is available at www.seniornationals.org.