HOUGHTON, Mich. (Jan. 3) - Two-time Olympians Kikkan Randall and Lars Flora (both from Anchorage, AK) each won classic technique gold medals - for the women's 10K and men's 15K - Thursday at the U.S. Cross Country Championships. It was the seventh U.S. title for Randall, who recently became the first U.S. woman to win a World Cup cross country race, and Flora's fourth championship.
"I felt good at the start, but my arms were burning a bit going up that first climb. I wondered, 'Oooooh, what does that mean?' but about a K [kilometer] later I got the burn to go away, and by about two-and-a-half Ks I started feeling good," Randall said. "I was charging from then on.
"It's nice to have that spark," she added. "It's nice to win, but it's really good to be in a race where there's fighting for the win, where there's attacking." Deceptive start leads into first hill
Randall tore over the two-lap course in 30:42.2 with Kristina Strandberg of Sweden second at 31:04.1. Since only U.S. citizens are eligible for medals - Canadians and overseas skiers are in a Guest Class, the silver medal went to the U.S. Ski Team's Morgan Arritola (Fairfield, ID), who skied third fastest in 31:35.1. The bronze medal went to Kate Arduser (Fairbanks, AK), the former Kate Pearson, who was fourth in 3:43.1.
The course led out and through a gradual downhill before the first uphill, which was a little deceptive, Randall said, "because you're going fast. But then you hit that first climb at about a K out, and that's where you could gauge how you were doing."
With the men's field of 249 skiers racing in the morning, the course held up well, she said. It got powdery in some corners, but overnight cold and 20-degree weather when the women went in the afternoon meant the track stayed solid. "There was a nice berm on one corner and you could roll right through that," Randall laughed.
Best known for her sprinting, Randall has been working to improve her distance racing in the last couple of seasons. Thursday's victory was her third distance title, to go with four sprint crowns.
Head Coach Pete Vordenberg was impressed by Randall's power and speed. "She started conservatively but then she turned it up...and she kept turning it up and up," he said. "And Morgan had an excellent race, too. She skied well, too." Cook mixes sprinting with distance, too
Ivan Babikov, a Russian who is seeking Canadian citizenship, again had the fastest time (40:51.3), but the title went to Flora, who finished in 41:59.0. Andrey Golovko of Kazakhstan was third fastest, so the silver medal was awarded to Kris Freeman (Andover, NH), who was fourth. Chris Cook (Rhinelander, WI), another U.S. Ski Team racer, was bronze medalist.
"Cook had a good race. His focus on the World Cup is sprinting, but he's an NCAA champion [from Northern Michigan U.], so he can do distance, too. He was bronze medalist last year in the 10K classic and this was another good one for him."
Freeman, who had his best race in four years six weeks ago in Finland, is working his way back from a cold. Vordenberg said Freeman would go home to rest and put in some solid training to regain the conditioning he lost by being sick before Christmas. "We want 'Bird' [Freeman] healthy and racing like we know he can race when we go to Canada later this month for those World Cup races" Jan. 22-26 in Canmore, Alberta, he said.
The championships have an off day Friday with sprints both days of the weekend - freestyle technique (skating) sprints Saturday and classic technique team sprint races Sunday. Results from the championships will be used to determine World Cup starting berths for Canada, Junior World Championships and Under-23 Championships Team selection plus Scandinavian Cup junior racing spots. OFFICIAL RESULTS
2008 U.S. CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Michigan Tech Nordic Ski Center
Houghton, MI - Jan. 3, 2008
(Only U.S. citizens eligible for medals)
Men's 15K Classic
1. Ivan Babikov, Russia, The Factory Team, 40:51.3
2. Lars Flora, Anchorage, AK, The Factory Team/Alaska Pacific U. Nordic, 41:59.0
3. Andrey Golovko, Kazakhstan, The Factory Team, 41:59.1
4. Kris Freeman, Andover, NH, U.S. Ski Team/Andover Outing Club, 42:18.3
5. Chris Cook, Rhinelander, WI, U.S. Ski Team/Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation/Northern Michigan U., 42:20.3
6. Marius Korthauer, Germany, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 42:22.6
7. Garrott Kuzzy, Hayward, WI, Team CXC, 42:41.7
8. Leif Zimmermann, Bozeman, MT, U.S. Ski Team/Bridger Nordic, 42:45.1
9. Mike Sinnott, Sun Valley, ID, Sun Valley SEF, 42:46.7
10. Ben True, Hanover, NH, Dartmouth College/Sun Valley SEF, 42:51.1
-- Women's 10K CL
1. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, AK, U.S. Ski Team/APU Nordic, 30:42.2
2. Kristina Strandberg, Sweden, The Factory Team, 31:04.1
3. Morgan Arritola, Fairfield, ID, U.S. Ski Team/Sun Valley SEF, 31:35.1
4. Kate Arduser, Fairbanks, AK, Team Rossignol/APU Nordic, 31:43.1
5. Caitlin Compton, Minneapolis, Team CXC/U.S. Biathlon Team, 31:43.3
6. Karin Camenisch, Switzerland, Team Rossignol, 31:44.5
7. Lindsey Dehlin, Mahtomedi, MN, U.S. Ski Team/Northern Michigan U., 31:53.6
8. Liz Stephen, East Montpelier, VT, U.S. Ski Team/Burke Mountain Academy, 31:55.3
9. Sadie Bjornsen, Winthrop, WA, Methow Valley Ski Team, 31:55.5
10. Laura Valaas, Wenatchee, WA, U.S. Ski Team/APU Nordic, 31:58.5
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