CANMORE, Alberta (Jan. 22) - Morgan Arritola (Fairfield, ID) made her World Cup debut Tuesday by finishing 24th in a women's 15K pursuit race won by Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk. Later, Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) - rebounding from fatigue earlier this month - led U.S. men in 22nd place behind Russian Nikolai Pankratov.
On the first of four days of racing at the 1988 Olympic venue, Kowalczyk won with a time of 42:30.3. She was third in the opening classic technique leg and had the second-fastest 7.5K freestyle leg. Russian Evgenia Medvedeva was second in 42:46.2 on a sunny, 15-degree day.
The pursuit race is a classic race followed by a freestyle (skating) technique race. A "pit stop" at the midpoint enables skiers to switch into skating skis and boots for the last half of the race.
Arritola, 19, who came to the U.S. Ski Team from the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, decided to compete in Canmore so she could get some racing before going to the Under-23 Championships in Poland. She was 29th at the midpoint and held off tiredness in the final kilometers to finish in 45:27.2. Taz Mannix (Anchorage, AK) was the next U.S. skier, finishing 39th.
"I kind of surprised myself," Arritola conceded with a laugh. "It was a little like 'Oh, my god, I'm racing with the big kids.' But all the coaches kept reminding me it's just a ski race. There's a start and a finish, they said, and I should ski it as well as I could."
She wasn't intimidated by skiing against the best in the world. "I knew it was going to be tough. When you're coming up, you look at all these skiers and so it was cool to be out there with them. But once the [starting] gun goes off, everyone's racing for themselves," Arritola said.
"That's a good message to absorb. She listened to what we said, and that's great," Head Coach Pete Vordenberg said. "It's a good lesson for everyone to learn.
"She skated particularly well even though she was tired. She was nervous before the race and that always burns energy. A lot of things can zap your energy, so she deal with it well," he said.
He also was pleased with Freeman's effort. Pankratov's winning time was 1:16.33.8 as he nipped Giorgio DiCenta by 0.4 seconds. Germany's Axel Teichmann edged teammate Tobias Angerer in a photo finish for third place. Freeman's time was 1:17.12.0 with Leif Zimmermann (Bozeman, MT) 38th.
"I think it was a pretty good race for Kris. We know he's capable of more, but I think this positions him pretty well for the 15K skate race Friday," Vordenberg said. "His fitness is good, but it's still not quite top racing fitness. And Leif's race was solid. I'm anxious to see what he does Friday in the skate race, too. I think he'll do well."
Conditions were "perfect," according to Vordenberg, with cold snow and stable conditions for waxing. "The classic course is really tough with one big hill - I mean BIG hill - and over four laps it's even tougher. The skating course is not nearly as tough and it's harder to separate the field."
As the World Cup tour returned to North America for the first time in two years, the next races in Canmore are classic technique 1.2K sprints Tuesday.
2008 VIESSMAN FIS CROSS COUNTRY WORLD CUP
Canmore, ALB - Jan. 22, 2008
Men's 30K Pursuit (15K CL+15K FR)
1. Nikolai Pankratov, Russia, 1:16.33.8
2. Giorgio DiCenta, Italy, 1:16.34.2
3. Axel Teichmann, Germany, 1:16.34.4 (won photo finish)
4. Tobias Angerer, Germany, 1:16.34.4
5. Pietro Piller Cottrer, Italy, 1:16.34.8
22. Kris Freeman, Andover, NH, 1:17.12.0
38. Leif Zimmermann, Bozeman, MT, 1:184.108.40.206
43. Mike Sinnott, Sun Valley, ID, 1:23.15.5
45. Lars Flora, Anchorage, AK, 1:23.53.0
47. Zach Violett, Brownsville, CA, 1:24.27.9
48. Zack Simons, Sun Valley, ID, 1:25.09.5
49. Garrott Kuzzy, Hayward, WI, 1:25.38.5
Dave Chamberlain, Caribou, ME; James Southam, Anchorage, AK
Women's 15K Pursuit (7.5CL+7.5K FR)
1. Justyna Kowalczyk, Poland, 42:30.3
2. Evgenia Medvedeva, Russia, 42:46.2
3. Olga Rotcheva, Russia, 42:53.2
4. Valentina Shevchenko, Ukraine, 42:54.9
5. Larisa Kurkina, Russia, 42:56.9
24. Morgan Arritola, Fairfield, ID, 45:27.2
39. Taz Mannix, Talkeetna, AK, 48:17.7
40. Evelyn Dong, Bend, OR, 48:20.1
41. Kate Arduser, Anchorage, AK, 48:36.8
45. Lindsey Dehlin, Mahtomedi, MN, 49:18.0
Click here for complete results.