The Mt. Itasca NorAm SuperTour took place on Saturday in Coleraine, MN under ideal conditions: a firm and fast course and temperatures comfortably in the teens. Some of the U.S.’s best athletes, a small contingent of top Canadians, and all of the Central Collegiate Ski Association’s athletes competed in ten-kilometer individual start freestyle. The course, for both men and women, was two laps of five kilometers, beginning with one lengthy climbing section, including “the wall,” followed by a relatively flat middle, and then a technical final two kilometers with a number of descents and turns.
In the men’s race, six-kilometer splits saw Gordon Jewett of the Exel Racing Team out in front, followed by Marshall Greene of XC Oregon/Alpina Racing; but, at that point, only seconds separated the athletes making up the top-five. In the end, it was newly-named Olympian Justin Freeman (Fischer/Salomon) who had the strongest second half of the race and so took the win in 23:13.
Marshall Greene also held on strong in the second portion to claim second in 23:18. After the race, Greene recounted that he went out strong and caught up to Tom Keefe and the two athletes proceeded to work with each other for the remainder of the race. Greene, whose second place result is his best-ever NorAm performance, enjoyed racing at Itasca: “The course is firm and fast. It’s fun. It’s twisting and winds all around like a rollercoaster.” After being out at Soldier Hollow for Nationals, Greene also laughingly remarked, “It’s nice being back at sea level.”
Dave Chamberlain of Atomic took third in 23:21. Gordon Jewett held on for fourth place in 23:32. Zach Violett of FSx and Auburn Ski Club skied to fifth in 23:32. Marius Korthauer, a German skiing for the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, finished sixth, and thus was the first collegiate finisher of the day. His time of 23:36 outdistanced the next collegian by better than a minute.
In the women’s race, University of Alaska-Fairbank’s Johanna Turunen outskied the field for a 22 second win in 27:01. Fresh off a two top-tens in skating at U.S. Nationals, Turunen had an unusual starting position at Itasca, which may or may not have been an advantage. As the race was seeded by USSA points, and FIS points not translated over, she and the other foreign skiers started in the C-seed. This meant that Turunen had splits for the entire field, but she also had lots of slower skiers to pass, and didn’t have the stimulus of the fastest skiers racing around her. Turunen did use the splits to her advantage. She said, “They told me I was third early on and I knew I had to go faster.” She also said that she liked the hilly course because she’s good on the hills. Knowing her weakness is the flats, (“I usually lose races on the flats.”) today she made sure to really push the flats. Asked how she likes racing at Mt. Itasca, Turunen grinned and said, “I love it. It’s so warm here.” For those readers who think the Iron Range of Minnesota is anything but warm, she reminds us that she’s been living and training in Fairbanks!
Pushed by splits that had her a little off the lead early in the race, Kate Whitcomb of FSx and Maine Winter Sports Center skied herself into second place in 27:23. Jacqui Benson of Prince George, BC and Caledonia Nordics, also a late starter, claimed third in 27:39. Tami Kochen of NMU finished fourth in 27:41, earning the ranking of second collegian. Erin Hood of Alaska Pacific University was just two seconds behind Kochen (27:43) in fifth. Another UAF skier, Pavla Havlova claimed sixth overall (27:44) and thus became the number three collegian.
Included in the day’s events were the Midwest Junior Olympic athletes chasing a dream of competing at the National Championships in Houghton, MI this March. Strong results were posted by OJ’s Karl Nygren and Jenna Kline, Lief Nordgren and Rita White in J1’s, and J2’s Joe Dubay and Addie Byrne.
Master’s winners were Kate Ellis and Chris Ransom.
Complete results are available at www.itiming.com.
The SuperTour competition continues Sunday with a ten-kilometer classical individual start race for both men and women. Then on to Telemark Resort for a 3 day festival. All race details are available at www.cxcskiing.org.