HOUGHTON, Mich. (Jan. 6) - Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) and Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA), victimized a year ago by equipment problems, made up for it Sunday as they won the team sprint gold medal at the U.S. Cross Country Championships. Lindsey Dehlin (Mahtomedi, MN) and Lindsay Williams (Hastings, MN) won the women's team sprint in a big upset.
World Cup veterans Newell and Koos were favorites at the 2007 championships but Koos became tangled during a tag and eventually his binding ripped out. Lars Flora (Anchorage, AK) and Chad Giese (St. Paul, MN) rolled to the gold medal.
In the team sprint, each athlete skis a lap, then tags his or her partner until each has completed three laps. In these races, they skied 1.3K laps.
"I was thinking about that, about coming back to Houghton and winning this year's team sprint," Koos said. "Lars and Chad skied well and took advantage of the opportunity, but I felt like we had that national title taken away and I definitely had it in my mind to get it this year. It was a mission for me.
"My job as the leadoff skier is to go hard and string out the field, so when Andy skis people are chasing him. It turned out to be a little tighter than I was hoping, but the course with its rolling terrain and small hills made it tough to really break it open," Koos explained.
In the end, Newell and Koos won in 17:49.4. Newell held off Flora, who was paired with Kazakh Andrey Golovko, to win by a full second. Two other 2006 Olympians - Chris cook (Rhinelander, WI) and Leif Zimmermann (Bozeman, MT) - finished third with a time of 17:53.6.
Since only U.S. citizens are eligible for medals, the Flora-Golovko duo was entered in the Guest Class. So were the fourth-place team of Marius Korthauer and Vahur Teppan, students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks from, Germany and Estonia. Fifth-place finishers Mike Sinnott (Sun Valley, ID) and Colin Rodgers (also Sun Valley) were the bronze medalists.
Earlier on the final day of the championships at Michigan Tech Nordic Ski Center, Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK) and Laura Valaas (Wenatchee, WA) were upended by the two 2006 Olympians and 2007 NCAA champions from Northern Michigan U., who are on the U.S. B Team. (Dehlin won the NCAA 15K classic technique title while Williams was the 5K freestyle champion.)
Their gold-medal time was 21:24.4 with Team Rossignol's Karin Camenisch of Switzerland and Czech Martina Stursova finishing second in 21:30.9. Third place went to Randall and Valaas, two U.S. ski Team racers who train with Alaska Pacific U. Nordic. Randall and Valaas received the silver medal and the bronze went to the fifth-place team, Stratton Mountain School (VT) skiers Parker Tyler (Landgrove, VT) and Sophie Caldwell (Peru, VT).
"Lindsey came into the final lap in second place, behind the Rossi skiers with the APU team not far back. So, when she handed off to me, I knew I had to pass the Rossi team and stay ahead of APU," Williams said. "I went like crazy. I wanted to get to first and open a gap.
"I didn't hold back," she said.
Randall said the changing snow conditions gave her and Valaas problems in the middle of the race. "Our plan was to ski hard, but the conditions changed and our skis were a bit slow," said Randall. She not only had won two gold medals at the championships, (the sprint Saturday and the 10K classic Thursday) but came to Houghton having just become the first U.S. woman to win a cross country World Cup race Dec. 16 in Russia.
"We were ready but the others were able to stretch it out. Still, it was exciting to see other women in this country skiing fast," she said. "That was really good and I hope they keep getting fast."
The championships were used to determine spots for the World Cup races Jan. 22-26 in Canmore, Alberta, the Junior World Championships, the U-23 Championships and Scandinavian Cup races. The teams will be announced this week.
2008 U.S. CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Michigan Tech Nordic Ski Center
Houghton, MI - Jan. 6, 2008
Classic Technique Team Sprints (2x3 - l.3K laps)
(Only U.S. citizens eligible for medals)
1. Andy Newell, Shaftbury, VT (U.S. Ski Team/Stratton Mountain School) and Torin Koos, Leavenworth, WA (U.S. Ski Team/Leavenworth Winter Sports Club), 17:49.4
2. Andrey Golovko, Kazakhstan (The Factory Team), and Lars Flora, Anchorage, AK (The Factory Team/Alaska Pacific U. Nordic), 19:50.8
3. Chris Cook, Rhinelander, WI (U.S. Ski Team/Northern Michigan U./Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation) and Leif Zimmermann, Bozeman, MT (U.S. Ski Team/Bridger Nordic), 17:53.6
4. Marius Korthauer, Germany (University of Alaska Fairbanks), and Vahur Teppan, Estonia (UAF), 18:09.4
5. Mike Sinnott, Sun Valley, ID (The Factory Team/Dartmouth College/Sun Valley SEF), and Colin Rogers, Sun Valley, ID (The Factory Team/Sun Valley SEF),18:45.8
1. Lindsey Dehlin, Mahtomedi, MN (U.S. Ski Team/Northern Michigan U.), and Lindsay Williams, Hastings, MN (U.S. Ski Team/Northern Michigan U.), 21:24.4
2. Karin Camenisch, Switzerland (Team Rossignol), and Martina Stursova, Czech Republic (Team Rossignol), 21:30.9
3. Laura Valaas, Wenatchee, WA (U.S. Ski Team/APU Nordic), and Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, AK (U.S. Ski Team/APU Nordic), 21:41.6
4. Becca Rorabaugh, Anchorage, AK (U.S. Biathlon Team) and Kristina Strandberg, Sweden (The Factory Team), 22:07.0
5. Parker Tyler, Landgrove, VT (Stratton Mountain School) and Sophie Caldwell, Peru, VT (Stratton Mountain School), 22:11.1
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Click here for complete results.