FAIRBANKS, Alaska (March 23) - With the World Cup tour wrapped up for 2009, U.S. cross country skiers are getting ready to close out the season as they head to Fairbanks for the second time in as many years for the 2009 U.S. Distance Cross Country Championships March 24-29.
"Last year was the first year we went to Fairbanks for long distance nationals and they did a superb job," U.S. Nordic Program Director John Farra said. "Right now they still have winter there. There is plenty of snow and the weather is nice so it looks like we'll have a great event up there."
Among the athletes expected to compete are World Championship silver medalist Kikkan Randall (Anchorage), Olympian Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) and top distance skiers Liz Stephen and Morgan Arritola.
After starting out the U.S. Cross Country Championships in Alaska in January with sprint and medium distance disciplines, the championships make a final stop at Wedgwood Resort in Fairbanks for long distance races.
"We have four high caliber events with the highest level of competition in the nation all at the end of the season," Farra said.
The championships will also feature the 5/10K interval start classic and freestyle team sprints, which were not held in Anchorage due to poor weather.
"We're really lucky to have a venue that can host all four of those races," Farra said. "What that's done is upped the ante. Anyone who has considered not going because they may be more of a sprinter than a distance athlete is now going. Fairbanks has become the place to be to end the season. It's the last chance to improve one's USSA points."
Of the top athletes expected to compete, Randall is, perhaps, the most excited to be getting some on snow time in her home state.
"It's nice to know that there's one more week of racing and it will be nice to go somewhere familiar and race in Fairbanks," Randall said. "The crew there is getting all geared up and the city is excited so I think it will be a fun championship."
According to Randall, the rich history of cross country skiing in Fairbanks is going to make the championships an amazing event.
"There is a good culture of skiing up there. They put a lot of work into the trails and the facilities," Randall said. "The people there are really passionate, so you'll have a good atmosphere. There's going to be a lot of fans coming out and it will be a great end to the season."
Fans can keep track of the action as it starts Tuesday in Fairbanks.
2009 U.S. Distance Cross Country Championships schedule:
March 24 - 5/10km classic * rescheduled
March 25 - Team sprint freestyle * rescheduled
March 27 - 15/30km pursuit
March 29 - 30/50km classic mass start