|Randall, Flora Win US Sprints|
BOZEMAN, Mont. (Jan. 5) -- Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK) ignored a steady snowfall and overtook Tessa Benoit (South Pomfret, VT) on the final uphill Saturday, skiing skied to her first U.S. title in the sprint opening the Chevy Truck U.S. Cross Country Championships at Bohart Ranch. A short time later, fellow Anchorage racer Lars Flora also won his first, holding off fast-closing Carl Swenson (Boulder, CO) in a sprawling finish.
Both winners said they came into the race with a bit of trepidation. Flora had trouble sleeping Friday night; Randall said she was anxious about the race...but both felt better with each succeeding round and their confidence built as the snowy day continued.
"I didn't feel good in the qualifying round," a smiling Randall said, "but I started feeling better with each round. And in Finals, I was ready to rock and roll."
Benoit: "I didn't expect..."
Randall, who turned 19 a week ago, caught Benoit unaware on a short uphill leading into the final 125 meters and pulled past her on the left, then skied away from her. "I didn't expect that speed," Benoit conceded. "I kinda rocked back when she came by me."
Randall said she'd been plotting the charge throughout the race. "I knew that was my best chance, so I let it rip going into that hill," she said.
"I was extremely nervous for today, just a lot of anxious stuff. I couldn't sleep last night and I haven't been like that for a long time," Flora said. "I couldn't sleep and so I woke up ready to go."
He correctly figured Swenson and Torin Koos, who both returned recently after racing World Cups in Europe, were the ones to beat. Koos said he simply ran out of gas in the last part of the final heat but Swenson hung tough to the finish. He and Flora went sprawling across the finish, each trying to extend one ski over the line first and then toppling over.
Flora: Swenson finished "like a freight train"
"Carl was amazing. He came on like a freight train at the end," Flora said. "He did that in an earlier round, too, and he was just amazing. We came across the finish and went down and I heard it was a photo finish, and I said I didn't care. It was such a great race; Carl's such an amazing skier. It was plenty of fun." It became a lot more fun when U.S. Nordic Director Luke Bodensteiner told him he'd won, a victory worth $1,200.
It also strengthened Flora's try for the Olympic Team but he conceded he needs at least one more solid result and maybe two to establish a better claim on an Olympic berth. The team will be chosen several days after the Chevy Truck championships conclude Jan.13.
The day-long snow deposited up to four inches of snow, the third generous storm in a week, bolstering what had been low snow conditions. It also made the going more sluggish for skiers as the day went on. "It definitely built up and was soft on the uphills," Flora said. "But I thought the course was in great condition and I didn't have a lot of trouble with it...but I think this [soft underfooting] helps me because of my technique. I think I can handle it well."
Phil Villeneuve was the only Canadian in the men's race, finishing in 38th position. Two Canadians competed in the women's race, Brooke Gosling (U of New Mexico) finished 36th and Shannon Dikkema (NMU) finished 44th.
The championships resume Monday with the men's 30-km freestyle race and the women's 15-km.
Complete results are available from bozemanxc.org:
CHEVY TRUCK U.S. CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Bohart Ranch - Freestyle Sprints (8 Made Finals)
Bozeman, MT - Jan. 5
1. Lars Flora, Anchorage, Alaska
2. Carl Swenson, Boulder, Colo.
3. Torin Koos, Leavenworth, Wash.
4. Chris Cook, Rhinelander, Wis.
5. Patrick Casey, Hailey, Idaho
6. Colin Mahood, Bend, Ore.
7. David Chamberlain, Bethel, Maine
8. Andrew Newell, Bennington, Vt.
1. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, Alaska
2. Tessa Benoit, South Pomfret, Vt.
3. Barb Jones, Bozeman, Mont.
4. Kristina Joder, Landgrove, Vt.
5. Karin Camenisch, Germany
6. Aelin Peterson, Fairbanks, Alaska
7. Brooke Baughmann, Ketchum, Idaho
8. Maria Wik, Sweden
News source: www.usskiteam.com
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