FORT KENT, Maine (March 26) - Two-time Olympians Kris Feeman (Andover, NH) and Wendy Wagner (Park City, UT) powered their way through soft and slushy conditions Sunday to win the final U.S. cross country ski championships for 2006 at the 10th Mountain Division Center.
Freeman, who won the pursuit and 15K classic titles during the U.S. Cross Country Championships in January at Soldier Hollow, Utah, the 2002 Olympic venue, picked up the fifth national title of his career in winning the 50K classic championship. His winning time of 2:45.37.2 was nearly two minutes ahead of his Olympic teammate and older brother, Justin (2:48.22.7). Bronze medalist was Chad Giese (St. Paul, MN). who was another four seconds off the pace in the mass start championship race.
Wagner, who won the sixth U.S. championship of her career as a sendoff into retirement, finished with a time of 1:47.26.1. The silver medal went to Canadian Dasha Gaiazova (1:47.55.5) with Swede Kristina Strandberg, former University of New Mexico standout, completing the podium in 1:48.33.9.
The races were moved from Presque Isle, where they were to be the final events on the Spring Series schedule as well as the SuperTour calendar, because of fading snow conditions. Temperatures were in the mid-30s.
“It was incredibly difficult,” said Freeman, a diabetic who self-injects insulin a half-dozen or more times daily. “We were going through 10 inches of slush for 50 Ks. I sat in the pack for about two-and-a-half laps - the laps were 12.5 Ks long - because it was so sucky [holding skis in the soft underfooting] that you couldn’t get a gap [substantial lead]. Going by yourself didn’t make sense unless you could get way out front.
“So, on the only sustained uphill section, I picked up the pace a little bit. By the time I got to the top of the hill, I was up by 10 seconds and I went from there,” he said.
Freeman battled sickness early in the Olympics last month and then was side-swiped again shortly after the Winter Games in Italy as he raced in Sweden. He cut short is season and returned to New Hampshire to rest before coming to northernmost Maine for the final races of the season.
The SuperTour overall champion for 2006 is Dave Chamberlain (Bethel, ME), his second title after winning in 2004, while Swiss skier Karin Camenisch successfully defended her championship from a year ago. Each gets automatic start rights for World Cups in the first part of the 2007 season.
Full Results at www.nensa.net.