WEST YELLOWSTONE, Montana - The U.S. Ski Team's Laura Valaas (Wentachee, WA), who cruised to nine victories and the USSA Cross Country SuperTour sprint title a year ago, showed Friday she hasn't lost a beat. She led each heat en route to winning the opening SuperTour race of the season.
"Laura commanded every heat she was in. It was impressive," said U.S. Continental Cup Coach Matt Whitcomb. The women raced over a 950-meter loop while the men competed on a 1.6K course. Garrott Kuzzy (Hayward, WI), a Team CXC skier, won the men's event, edging Michael Sinnott (Sun Valley, ID), who competed for Dartmouth College the last four winters and now trains with the Sun Valley program.
Valaas was sprint silver medalist at the 2007 Under-23 Championships and 24th at her first World Championships in Japan. She skied (with Kuzzy) for the new Team CXC program last season but moved to Alaska to train with the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Club when she wasn't with the U.S. Ski Team. She topped Swiss racer Karin Camenisch for the win Friday.
The University of Denver's Katie Ronsse (Anchorage, AK) was third with APU Nordic's Kasandra Rice (Anchorage, AK) completing the final foursome. Olympian Lindsay Williams (Hastings, MN), who was eliminated in a semifinal heat, finished fifth as she came back to win the B Final.
"Laura looked great. She was in control all the way," Whitcomb said. "To ski that competitively this early in the season and at this elevation [6,600 feet] shows how strong she is. She's very fit. Lindsay had a photo finish in her quarterfinal and is also in great shape. She was in charge during that B Final."
The men's podium included Kuzzy, Sinnott and Norway's Even Sletten with Dave Chamberlain (Bethel, ME) in fourth place.
Whitcomb praised West Yellowstone race officials for their course preparation following up to 13 inches of snow overnight Monday into Tuesday. "They've been unbelievably creative to make the courses more challenging. They added 650 meters to the men's course to really test endurance and skill, and that's upgraded the racing. Good for them, good for the athletes," he said.
The opening weekend of SuperTour racing concludes Saturday with classic technique races, a men's 15K and a women's 10K.
2008 USSA CROSS COUNTRY SUPERTOUR
Yellowstone Ski Festival - Rendezvous Ski Trails
West Yellowstone, MT - Nov. 23, 2007
Freestyle Sprints (8 made finals)
1. Garrott Kuzzy, Hayward, WI
2. Michael Sinnott, Sun Valley, ID
3. Even Sletten, Norway
4. Dave Chamberlain, Bethel, ME
5. Bryan Cook, Rhinelander, WI
6. Brian Gregg, Winthrop, WA
7. Gunnar Kristiansen, Norway
8. Anders Haugen, Anchorage, AK
1. Laura Valaas, Wenatchee, WA
2. Karin Camenisch, Switzerland
3. Katie Ronsse, Anchorage, AK
4. Kasandra Rice, Anchorage, AK
5. Lindsay Williams, Hastings, MN
6. Kate Underwood, Ketchum, ID
7. Ida Sargent, Orleans, VT
8. Sarah McCarthy, Telluride, CO
For complete results: