LIBEREC, Czech Republic (Feb. 28) - Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT) finished 17th in the women's mass start 30K freestyle at the 2009 FIS Nordic Ski World Championships Saturday, coming in just 2:42 minutes off current World Cup leader and race winner Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland. Morgan Arritola (Ketchum, ID) finished 22nd.
"It was not the best start ever. I had a couple falls and a few tangle ups. Mass starts are kind of crazy," Stephen said. "We just worked our way up through the field. It takes some energy to get up to the pack, then I just focused in and tried to chip away and keep pushing."
According to Arritola, the results she and Stephen pulled in Saturday are a confidence builder for future competitions.
"I started bib 42 and the start is always crazy. We were way back for first lap or two, but then worked our way up," Arritola said from the finish area at Worlds where she and Stephen watched Billy Demong win gold in the final Nordic combined event. "You just have to trust your fitness and just be calm. This is a good confidence builder, to know your hard work is starting to pay off."
The competition marked the final women's cross country event of World Championships.
"I really want to say thanks to all the coaches and volunteers, they have made this event amazing," Stephen said.
Coaches were excited following the race because working toward rounding out the women's distance skiers has been in the works for a long time. Though Arritola and Stephen are newcomers to the most elite level of racing, their performances this season show a lot of promise.
"To have two in the top 25 in a distance race, I don't know if we've ever done it," U.S. Cross Country Head Coach Pete Vordenberg said. "It's unbelievable, this is their first real taste, their first World Championships. The future is really exciting."
The cross country events at World Championships wrap up Sunday in Liberec with the men's 50K. Fans can relive the best moments of World Championships at UniversalSports.com presented by High Sierra.
2009 FIS NORDIC SKI WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Liberec, Czech Republic - Feb. 28, 2009
Women's 30K Freestyle
1. Justyna Kowalczyk, Poland, 1:16:10.6
2. Evgenia Medvedeva, Russia, +8.8
3. Valentina Shechenko, Ukraine, +9.3
4. Therese Johaug, Norway, +9.9
5. Kristin Stoemer Steira, Norway, +11.3
17. Elizabeth Stephen, East Montpelier, VT, +2:42.8
22. Morgan Arritola, Ketchum, ID, +3:12.2
48. Caitlin Compton, +10:45.6
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