ANCHORAGE (Jan. 5) - The U.S. Ski Team's Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) won his 11th U.S. title and Caitlin Compton (Minneapolis, MN) her third as the 2009 ConocoPhillips U.S. Cross Country Championships kicked off Monday with 10K and 5K freestyle in Anchorage.
Monday's races had originally been schedule at 15K for men and 10K for women, but were shortened to help get the races in. The scheduled opening sprint races had been postponed for two days due to temperatures that lingered below the -4 degrees Fahrenheit required to run a cross country race. They are now set for Wednesday.
Freeman, who marked his 11th U.S. title with the win and his second in the 10K freestyle, did not plan on racing Monday but was happy to come out on top.
"I was second last year so it was good to just come out and show what I could really do," Freeman said. "At the 2K mark I was tied with a couple other guys so I started to speed it up throughout the race and the harder I went the better I felt."
With the victory in place, Freeman is now focused on the 15K classic, which is scheduled for Tuesday, temperature pending.
"The only other race I am really focused on is the 15K classic and I'll go out and ski it the same way I did today, which is hard and in control," Freeman said.
Compton led U.S. women on the podium with Anchorage's own Kikkan Randall in second and U23 medalist Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT) in third.
Compton, a three-time U.S. cross country champion, also won the 5K freestyle last season and thought of today as a chance to hold on to her title.
"The whole week has been a little suspenseful with everything changing. Then I realized they changed it to the 5K skate and I thought it was kind of like defending my title," Compton said.
Along with the other athletes, Compton switched racing gears to be able to run the skate race after waiting for temperatures to rise for two days.
"I definitely changed my game plan. I realized it was going to be a really fast race and I had to be ready for it," Compton said.
Now, with her title reclaimed, Compton is focused on the races ahead.
"Having the first race over now, I'm definitely happy. I'm now hoping for a good classic race because I've had some good skate races this year but I want to see where I am in classic," Compton said.
U.S. Nordic Program Director John Farra said that changes made in the schedule allowed the race to take place Monday.
"The modifications we made today were to shorten the races, which saved us about an hour of run time. The rest we can't take any credit for. We had just barely received the legal temperature to run the race. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning to be able to run this race finally," Farra said.
According to Farra, the schedule is tentatively set for the women's 10K and men's 15K classic race on Tuesday and the individual sprint event is set for Wednesday.
2009 CONOCOPHILLIPS U.S. CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Anchorage, AK - Jan. 5, 2009
Men's 10K Freestyle
1. Kris Freeman, Andover, NH, 24:17.2
2. Leif Zimmermann, Bozeman, MT, 25:07.5
3. Matthew Liebsch, Plymouth, MN, 25:19.8
4. Vegard Kjoelhamar, Norway, 24:41.9
5. James Southam, Anchorage, 25:48.7
Women's 5K Freestyle
1. Caitlin Compton, Minneapolis, MN 14:48.3
2. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, 14:51.8
3. Liz Stephen, East Montpelier, VT, 14:56.6
4. Laura Valaas, Wenatchee, WA, 15:11.7
5. Kris Trygstad-Saari, Bozeman, MT, 15:15.2
NOTE: Only U.S. athletes are eligible for championship medals.