On day two of the Mt. Itasca NorAm SuperTour, all athletes raced ten-kilometers, in the individual start format.
As one of the nation’s premiere biathlon facilities, the 5km course at Mt. Itasca is more ideally suited for skating than classical skiing. What this meant for athletes was a uniquely challenging classic race fondly termed by some “a herring-bone fest.” Athletes raced the same two laps of the five-kilometer course utilized in Saturday’s skate competition. While on Saturday the hill known as “the wall” was certainly a quadriceps-burning challenge, it seemed to many even longer on Sunday when its many rolls alternating with extremely steep sections required athletes to transition from striding to herringboning and back again repetitively. The course’s descents and turns were also made more technical by the wearing of classical skis and boots.
The snow conditions: hard-packed, abrasive snow and firm tracks with approximately an inch of snow that fell just prior to and during the races caused slightly challenging, but not impossible, kick waxing. With temperatures around twenty-five degrees and falling throughout the day, a number of binder/hard wax and klister combinations in the blue/purple range worked, although some athletes did elect to use a warmer kick wax or go with straight klister.
In the men’s race, which took place first, Atomic’s Dave Chamberlain took home the win and with it the top cash prize by the narrowest of margins 26:38.8 over Dave Stewart’s 26:39.3. Following Stewart (FSx/XC Oregon), was Zach Violett of FSx and Auburn Ski Club. University of Alaska Fairbank’s Marius Korthauer (sixth yesterday) had another strong day, taking home fourth 26:49, and finishing as the first collegian, more than a minute ahead of the next collegiate skier.
Yesterday’s winner and 2006 Olympic Team member Justin Freeman finished fifth in 27:02. Also earning some SuperTour cash by finishing in the top-ten (in order) were Colin Rodgers, Thomas Keefe, Alex Churikov, Andre Watt, and Andrew Hunter.
Natasha Naryshkina of Rossignol and RSSS was the class of the women’s field, taking the win by more than 20 seconds in 30:44.
Canadian Shayla Swanson (xc.com), who now lives in Bozeman and trains with Bridger Ski Foundation, earned second place in a time of 31:08. Interviewed after the race, Swanson expressed her satisfaction with her performance, saying she had “good energy, fast skis, and good kick.” She also complimented the Itasca race committee, expressing her joy in racing at the venue, thanking the “great volunteers” and calling them “friendly.” Warned in advance by teammate Leif Zimmermann that Itasca’s course would require lots of herringboning, she laughed and said she arrived ready for it.
UAF senior Johanna Turunen, yesterday’s winner, topped off a strong weekend with a third place result in the classic race (31:18). After a sub-par result in the U.S. Nationals 10-kilometer classic due to slippery wax, Turunen’s bronze at Itasca gave her the opportunity to demonstrate her evident classic form. Anna McLoon of Atomic and Go! Training took home fourth place in 31:28. Rounding out the top-five was the second collegiate of the day: Tami Kochen of Northern Michigan University (31:45). Also finishing in the top ten, in order, were Erin Hood, Pavla Havlova, Kate Whitcomb, Caitlin Comptin, and Katie Bono (an Older Junior competitor).
The classical race was also a NCAA Championships qualifying race for the Central Collegiate Skiing Association. The race gave the UAF men an opportunity to shine. While Korthauer’s results broke into the NorAm field, teammates Bart Dengel and Jonas Tetlie finished in third and seventh, respectively, to easily defeat nearest challenger Northern Michigan. Among individuals, St. Olaf’s Karl Nygren, an Older Junior competitor, took second, Tetlie third, NMU’s Gus Kaeding fourth, and NMU’s Adriann Ostrander fifth.
While the UAF women had a fine classic with Turunen first for collegians and teammate Pavla Havlova taking third, the Nanooks did not field a full team (as the bulk of the team remained at home in school), and thus NMU took the win. Kochen, second among collegians, led the Northern Wildcats, followed by Kelly Ahern, eighth, and Laura Dewitt ninth. Also finishing in the top five for individuals were Michigan Tech’s Kristina Owen and University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Johanna Winters (fourth and fifth respectively).
While Sunday marked the final day of competition at Mt. Itasca, the SuperTour remains in the Midwest for another weekend. On Wednesday, NorAm competitors move over to Telemark in Cable, Wisconsin for a classical sprint. NorAm, Collegiate, Junior, High/Middle School, Youth, Citizen, and CXC Master’s Cup competition continues on Saturday and Sunday at Telemark with classic and individual and mass start skate competitions. The snow conditions at Telemark are perfect. With predicted lows in the teens and highs hovering around 32` it should be another great week for racers and spectators alike.