LIBEREC, Czech Republic (Feb. 19) - Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) led the way for the U.S., finishing 26th as the 2009 Nordic Ski World Championships kicked off with a women's 10K classic Thursday in Liberec. Aino-Kaisa Saarinen of Finland won the event.
"This race wasn't a key race for any of our women and they did really well - as well as we hoped they would do," U.S. Cross Country Head Coach Pete Vordenberg said. "It was a really good start, especially for Kikkan. It's a great sign for her fitness for the races that are coming up, which are her key races."
According to Vordenberg, Morgan Arritola's (Ketchum, ID) 40th-place finish is an indicator of things to come for the young athlete.
"Today is a good sign for the races coming up for her. She's one of our younger athletes here and the goals for her are a little bit different than they are for Kikkan," Vordenberg said.
With Thursday's race now completed, Vordenberg is looking toward the rest of the competition for the women to meet their goals.
"For Kikkan, we are looking for a podium [in Tuesday's sprint], for sure," Vordenberg said. "For Arritola this is her first World Championships, so I think something inside the top 30 is definitely a possibility. Just getting her really good experience at her first World Championships is super important."
Morgan Smyth (Vernon, VT) followed Arritola for U.S. results, finishing 51st. Smyth, who did not meet points criteria to compete in the race, had to earn a spot in a qualifying race Wednesday, which she won.
For Vordenberg, the event in the Czech Republic was organized well.
"This year has been perfect. The trails are in great shape. The snow is good - it's snowing a lot even right now. The organization has been well done, the housing is nice and the food is good. We're in a great spot," Vordenberg said.
Now, with the first race out of the way, the Team is focused on reaching the goals they set out to complete in Liberec.
"The confidence is really high. Everyone is in a good mood and really looking forward to the races coming up," Vordenberg said. "It's been fun so far and I think it bodes well for what's coming up and what we've prepared for as a Team."
World Championships in the Czech Republic continue Friday with a men's 15K. Fans can watch UniversalSports.com for daily highlights from Liberec.
2009 NORDIC SKI WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Liberec, Czech Republic - Feb. 19, 2009
Women's 10K Classic
1. Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, Finland, 28:12.8
2. Marianna Longa, Italy, 28:17.0
3. Juatyna Kowalczyk, Poland, 28:24.3
4. Virpi Kuitunen, Finland, 28:29.9
5. Valentina Shevchenko, Ukraine, 28:41.8
26. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, 30:25.5
40. Morgan Arritola, Ketchum, ID, 31:17.2
51. Morgan Smyth, Vernon, VT, 31:54.1
57. Laura Valaas, Wenatchee, WA, 32:23.4
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For complete results click here.