This is the last of several previews in a quick-and-dirty series on U.S. elite teams. We asked coaches to send their 2012/2013 rosters and tell us what’s new for the coming season. Teams were presented in no particular order.
Team name: Alaska Pacific University (APU) Nordic Ski Center
Coach: Erik Flora (head coach/director)
Roster: Kikkan Randall (U.S. Ski Team A-team), Holly Brooks (USST B-team), Sadie Bjornsen (USST B-team), Becca Rorabaugh, Rosie Brennan, Kate Fitzgerald, Erika Klaar, Sarah Cresap, Sarah Falconer, Greta Anderson, Celia Haering, Kinsey Loan, Lauren Fritz;
Erik Bjornsen (U.S. Ski Team D-team), Reese Hanneman, Mark Iverson, Brent Knight, Forrest Mahlen, Jack Novak, Peter Kling, Dylan Watts, Erin Phillips
What’s new: According to Flora, not much.
“Our roster is remaining pretty stable from last year,” he said in a phone conversation about the elite team. “We’ve been working with a pretty big team in the last few year, and as we approach the Olympics, [we've been] letting the team settle and become a little bit smaller, that way we can focus on our group a little bit more.”
Yet they still have a whopping 22 athletes. Flora said the team has been trying to figure out a good team size over the last few years and is now settling in.
“For next year, we have the same group, there’s no new additions,” he added.
Top results last season: The reigning World Cup sprint champion, the 29-year-old Randall had an abundance of tip-top results, including two World Cup skate sprint victories and a team-sprint silver with APU and USST teammate Sadie Bjornsen – all in December. Randall was second in another team sprint with Jessie Diggins (USST/Stratton Mountain School) in January.
In March, Randall became the first American to win the World Cup overall sprint title – and its coveted Crystal Globe – in 30 years, and did so despite breaking a binding in the deciding race in Drammen, Norway. The sprinter returned to the states at the end of the month and notched a final win in a much longer race – the 30 k skate mass start – for her third-straight title at U.S. Distance Nationals.
After getting her starts as an APU coach, Brooks, 30, made the U.S. Ski Team in April after spending all of last season on the World Cup circuit on her own dime. In February, she rallied with a stomach bug to help the women’s team place a historic fifth in the World Cup relay in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. Brooks tallied two individual top 20’s last year on the World Cup, and despite breaking her wrist in the sixth stage of the Tour de Ski (a skate sprint), she finished 30th and completed the Tour.
Returning to the national team this year, 22-year-old Sadie Bjornsen spent her rookie season abroad with the USST, and in December, won silver with Randall in the team sprint in Düsseldorf, Germany. Toward the end of the season at a classic sprint in Drammen, she qualified for the heats in 16th to earn her first World Cup sprint points and finished with a career best of 27th.
Bjornsen’s brother Erik, who recently turned 21 and returns to the USST D-team, started last season with two podiums at the SuperTour opener in West Yellowstone, Mont., placing second in the 15 k classic and third in the 10 k classic. Like his sister, sickness kept him from racing at U.S. nationals in Rumford, Maine, but he made it to the SuperTour Finals in March and took third overall.
Other top results: Hanneman (second in SuperTour Finals classic sprint); Iverson (12th U.S. nationals classic sprint, sixth in Minneapolis SuperTour 10 k classic); Knight (seventh in 15 k skate at U.S. nationals, won SuperTour 20 k skate pursuit in St. Paul, Minn.); Kling (28th in Alpen Cup classic sprint);
Fitzgerald (third in U.S. nationals classic sprint, second at West Yellowstone SuperTour 5 k classic); Brennan (second in SuperTour Finals 10 k classic, fifth in Alpen Cup 15 k classic, several SuperTour runner-up finishes); Rorabaugh (fourth in SuperTour Finals 3 k skate prologue/fifth in 10 k classic; two Alpen Cup top 10’s: seventh in 15 k classic/ninth in 10 k skate pursuit);
Coach’s comment: The Anchoraged-based team is currently training on snow at nearby Eagle Glacier, where team member Becca Rorabaugh tweeted about a big day of skiing on Monday: “60k of good skiing, 4.5 hours of training, 10 hours of sleeping, 3 hours of eating, all in one great day. I love glacier life!”
A few weeks ago, Flora noted how well the team was doing.
“We have a better level of fitness than we had a year ago,” he said after his athletes rollerskied from sea level to the mountains, climbing a couple thousand feet during the two-hour workout. ”Last year I was happy with where we were, so to see it take another step is a good sign.
“Everyone has a little bit different goals for the upcoming year,” he added. “The World Championships definitely is a big goal for our elite team, especially the older athletes, but also you have the domestic World Cups next year in Canada, that’s also another goal, and overall World Cup placing and World Cup performance. We are making special preparations for Val di Fiemme [World Championships] in our training. … Val di Fiemme is pretty unique in that’s it’s a very challenging venue and lots of climbing. This morning’s workout definitely pointed toward those kind of goals.”
As for the benefit of having Eagle Glacier in their backyard, where the team has spent several weeklong training sessions, including the North American Women’s Training Alliance Camp and the APU men’s camp that preceded it, Flora said it had a “special effect.”
“The building’s located up on a rock and it’s 100 meters from the ski trails so it’s a very good place to work both on fitness and technique, but also work within a team,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to have the skiers together and be able to meet with them a lot and work on different skills and kind of see where everyone’s at. For June, many of the skiers had their kind of PR or peak training hours. Kikkan and Holly reached their highest training hours in a week on snow, and the same for a couple of the boys. It’s always fun to watch … I’m a happy coach, things are going well.”
Editor’s Note: Lauren Fritz was accidentally left off the 2013 roster. The list above has been corrected.
Other previews: Bend Endurance Academy | Bridger Ski Foundation | Craftsbury GRP | CXC | Far West | Maine Winter Sports Center | Methow OD | SMS T2 Team | SSCV Team HomeGrown | Sun Valley SEF | XC Oregon