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Top Talent to Compete at 2006 Capitol Square Sprints

Thu, Jan  12, 2006 - By Yuriy Gusev, Chief of Competition

MADISON, Wis. — On January 14 and 15, several of the world’s top cross-country skiers will race around the Wisconsin Capitol in downtown Madison as part of the 2006 Capitol Square Sprints.

Wisconsin-native and future Olympian Chris Cook (Rhinelander, Wis.) will be the top American competing at the Capitol Square Sprints. Cook comes to Madison having just won his first national championship at the U.S. Cross Country Championships in Soldier Hollow, Utah, on January 5. Cook is a graduate of Northern Michigan University. He will learn his Olympic fate when the U.S. Olympic Team is announced on January 17.

American Lindsay Williams (Hastings, Minn.) returns to Madison to defend her title from the 2005 Capitol Square Sprints. Williams, a senior at Northern Michigan University, recently finished 37th in the 15K classic and 11th in the team sprint event at the December 2005 World Cup event in Canmore, Alberta. She also captured her first national championship last year, winning the sprint event at the 2005 U.S. Cross Country Championships in Solider Hollow, Utah. At the 2006 national championships, Williams finished 27th in the 5K free technique and 55th in the 10K classic, but did not advance out of the sprint semifinal heat and thus failed in her bid to repeat as national champion.

Zach Simons (Park City, Utah), whose mother is from Madison, will return to the square as the defending Capitol Square Sprints men’s champion. In the 2005 sprints final, Simons out-stretched Canadian Sean Crooks and Russian Ivan Babikov to claim gold. Last year’s win was Simons’ first major victory and propelled him to the 2005 SuperTour Sprint overall championship title. Simons has recently competed in Nor-Am Cup events in Alaska and Yellowstone, Mont.

Madison-native Ben Cline (Madison, Wis.), a former junior national sprint champion, will be competing in his second Capitol Square Sprints, having finished 19th in 2005. Cline, a senior at Northern Michigan University, recently finished 27th in the freestyle sprints at the 2006 U.S. Cross Country Championships. He is also the multimedia designer of the award-winning Capitol Square Sprints Web site.

Switzerland’s Karin Camenisch, who won the overall SuperTour sprint title in 2005 as well as the 5K Classic at the 2005 U.S. Cross Country Championships, returns to Madison looking to improve upon her third-place finish at last year’s Capitol Square Sprints. Camenisch’s most recent World Cup finish was 59th in the World Cup pursuit race in Falun, Sweden, in March of 2005. Her 2005–06 SuperTour campaign is off to a good start with a second-place finish at the Alaska Sprints (Nov. 7, 2005) and a third-place finish at the Yellowstone Ski Festival (Nov. 25, 2005).

Gordon Jewett (Canmore, Alberta), who will celebrate his twenty-eighth birthday on the Friday before competition begins at the Capitol Square Sprints, is one of Canada’s most experienced skiers. He is a nine-time Canadian champion who owns 16 Canadian National Championship medals and has been a member of five World Championship teams. Jewett’s dreams for the 2006 Olympics ended in mid-December when he crashed four times over two days of racing at the Alberta Centennial World Cup in Canmore, Alberta.

Canadian Jeff Ellis (Collingwood, Ontario) returned to cross country sprint racing in 2003, following six years with the Canadian National track team. The 27-year-old’s speed background yielded solid and quick results on the snow as he moved from 40th-place in ski sprints to a top-15 ranking at the close of the 2004–05 season. Ellis is a member of the Exel Racing Team, and will participate in the Capitol Square Sprints as the first event in his four-week U.S. SuperTour season.

Russian Natalja Naryshkina arrives in Madison following top-ten finishes at the 2005 Russian National Championships and the Yellowstone Ski Festival in Montana. Most recently, the 21-year-old Naryshkina finished third in the U.S. National sprint race at the national championships in January.

Schedule of Events

SuperTour racing will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 14, with the team sprint events. The team winner’s presentation will take place at 8:30 p.m. Sunday begins with SuperTour sprint women’s and men’s qualifying at 9 a.m. Semifinal heats will go off every three minutes beginning at 10:50 a.m. The women’s and men’s finals will begin at 11:14 a.m. and conclude at 11:38 a.m., to be immediately followed by the awards presentation.

In addition to the FIS SuperTour events, the Capitol Square Sprints will serve as a qualifier for the Midwest Junior Olympic team and as the Wisconsin High School Relay Championships. Other events will include a winter/outdoor sports expo, ice sculptures, a cross-country ski conference, a community open ski with equipment rentals, Special Olympics Wisconsin, the Fit City Kids Expo, a rail jam competition for snowboarders, and award ceremonies.

Snow/Course Update

Hammersley Stone Co., Inc., will begin trucking snow from the Tyrol Basin Ski Area in Mt. Horeb to the Hammersley Stone headquarters in Fitchburg on Thursday, January 12. Additional snow will be delivered to the Westowne Mall parking lot on Thursday and Friday. The first snow trucks will arrive at the Capitol square at 6 p.m. on Friday, January 13. Snow delivery and course set up will continue through the night into Saturday morning. The course will be open for skiing at 7 a.m. on Saturday, January 14.