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Final Race Extras: U.S. Distance Nationals

The stadium at Royal Gorge XC the morning of the 30 k classic on Wendesday and after the 50 k on Thursday. Note no. 1: the season ended just in time. Photo: Mark Nadell/Macbeth Graphics.

The stadium at Royal Gorge XC the morning of the 30 k classic on Wendesday and just after the 50 k on Thursday. Note no. 1: the season ended just in time. Photo: Mark Nadell/Macbeth Graphics.

FasterSkier’s coverage of SuperTour Finals and U.S. Distance Nationals was brought to you by the generous support of Concept2, the leading manufacturer of indoor rowers, racing oars, and the SkiErg.

 

The season may be over, but there were a few musings left floating around after last week’s 30/50 k National Championship that never made it into our original reports. Presenting the last edition of notes and quotes ‘til November, for the die-hard race junkies.

 

On the domestic debut of ski exchanges and penalties:

“I don’t really understand why they were trying to emulate a test event on the World Cup. In my opinion the course should have gone through the ski exchanges, which would have been an easy adjustment to make.”

— Kris Freeman (Maine Winter Sports Center/U.S. Ski Team), 1st

 

The ski exchange pit awaits skis prior to the start of the 30 k.

The ski exchange pit awaits skis prior to the start of the 30 k.

“I did a ski exchange after 20 k because I felt like they were a bit slick, but I don’t know — the ski exchange too maybe about 40 seconds or so. I don’t really think it was worth it in the end but I don’t think it really affected me that much, either. I think it sped up the skis for a couple k but once it softened up it started to be easier to kick. I don’t think the ski exchange was really worth it because it’s a bit long; it takes a while to do the exchange.”

— Knute Johnsgaard (Yukon Elite Squad/CAN), 4th

 

“When I had the gap it was hard to tell whether my skis were slow or not, because I wasn’t skiing with anybody. I mean, I knew mine were slow but everybody’s were slow, so I kind of had a last-minute, like, ‘Shoot, should I change?’ But then I figured I didn’t know how far it was until the next group of people so it was just kind of a last-minute decision out there.”

— Liz Stephen (Burke Mountain Academy/U.S. Ski Team), 1st

 

“I didn’t [change skis]. I was close enough to Kikkan and Liz to see that they weren’t, so I didn’t want to lose that potential ride. I just kept doing what they did; I figured I should learn from the best.

“I don’t like dealing with all that stuff, so I’d rather just not have it. It’s too much to think about, but if it had been faster today I think I probably would have [changed].”

— Rosie Brennan (APU), 3rd

 

“You get a new pair of skis and you want it to be so much faster, but it’s just so dirty out here that you forget that it doesn’t make a huge difference. It’s just so wet and sloppy. I knew that I lost time, but once I caught up I was like, ‘OK, back under control.’ But then the group started hammering again, so that was the toughest part of it.”

— Sadie Bjornsen (APU/USST), 8th

 

On posting a good final result:

“It was ideal. That was the best I’ve felt in a classic 50 k. That and World Champs. I’m happy I ended the season this way — third American, I’ll take it, [I’m] pretty proud of that. Especially behind Kris and Newell, they’re fantastic classic skiers.”

— Tad Elliott (Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Team HomeGrown), 5th

 

On mental strategy:

“Everybody’s burned out and, I don’t know, I ski my best when I’m relaxed anyway. I wish I could be this relaxed going into World Championships and the Olympics and all those other big races that I tend to get a little bit worked up about.”

— Liz Stephen

 

“I honestly tried to go with my insane mental approach that I did for the hill climb, which was just: absolutely don’t even think about it and just go ski. I didn’t really want to think about the hill climb and I didn’t really want to think about this, so I just kept skiing. The only goal I had for myself was to not ever go anaerobic — like ever, because I thought that would help me. It’s kind of hard to come back from that, for me, at altitude. It worked well and I just kept cruising along.”

— Reese Hanneman (Alaska Pacific University), 6th

 

Mid-interview congratulations:

“I just want to say congrats (to Liz Stephen). I just want to give her a hug and like, take her sweat and absorb it.”

— Caitlin Gregg (Central Cross Country), 9th

 

“Put that into writing: Reese [Hanneman] is the next Eldar Rønning.”

— Ben Saxton (F.A.S.T. Performance Training), 6th junior, 20 k classic

 

On crashing out of the last race:

“I was in a pack with Miles [Halvick] and David Norris and I think we were all back there suffering with a little bit of slick skis. Before the last climb on the first lap, coming down that hill there’s a lot of parts that are really icy and sluchy and I think I compressed a soft spot with a straight leg and my skis just went out and I landed right on my stomach. I was moving fast and slid headfirst into the woods. Downhills are where I like to make up my time so I kind of attack them, but I may have been a little aggressive…My legs were all crossed and my poles were underneath me and I was basically underneath the tree well.

“I really wanted to finish today and I still wanted to finish, but my coach thought it was probably the best idea [to drop out]; I’m not going to catch the pack at this point, so…start celebrating early. It’s OK. I’m happy with the season and looking forward to the Olympic year next year.”

— Sylvan Ellefson (Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Team HomeGrown), DNF

 

On racing for an American university:

“I’m so old that I only had this year of eligibility; I only came here this year. The reason why I came here is because my study in Norway is master of engineering. You are allowed to take on exchange year and you can go to another school. I got the classes sorted out and I knew I was going to get a year. I knew I was going to get accepted a year from my Norwegian school, then it was a good deal coming here, having fun skiing. I’m getting a little bit tired; like, it hadn’t been that good of a season in Norway. So I was like, ‘Ah, f— this, I’m going to the U.S. and trying to have some more fun with skiing.

“It was a really fun NCAA Championships, the last day. Having three guys top-five, that was so fun and we got from fourth to second and just crushed it that day. That one and this one was the best experiences this year.”

— Einar Ulsund (University of Utah/NOR), 3rd

 

On finding support with another team:

“It was really nice of the Craftsbury Green Team to invite me and kind of let me jump in with them, and itw as awesome that they hired four people to make the skis as good as possible. It’s fun to continue working with [USST technician] Randy Gibbs. He’s not my wax tech on the World Cup any more, unfortunately, but he was for many years and it’s nice to be able to work with someone I know and trust. I was part of, like, four different clubs this year, it was awesome. I stayed with APU, waxed with the Green Team, wore the Burke suit, and today I wore the U.S. Ski Team suit.”

— Liz Stephen

 

“I wasn’t very organized coming down here, and I don’t know what I wouldn’t done without APU. Erik Flora’s been a big help. I did a training camp with them on the glacier so I kind of got to know them there, and they’ve been super helpful for the last couple of days.

“It’s been awesome just to have a change from the NorAm circuit and to race these different guys has just been a great experience — making new friends and it’s been great racing new people. It’s been awesome; it’s really nice down here in Truckee. I’ll definitely be back for spring series next year.”

— Knute Johnsgaard

 

On vacation plans:

“I’m going surfing in Costa Rica next week and that’s it; [I’ll] take a few weeks off for sure. Running and surfing will probably be my training schedule for the next few weeks and then start back up in May.”

— Andy Newell

 

“It’s going to be a whirlwind. I’m staying here for a few extra days with Liz and Chandra [Crawford] to celebrate my 30th birthday — which actually happened on New Year’s Eve but it was in the middle of the Tour de Ski. Just going to alpine ski for a few days and just enjoy some time together as friends without the pressure of competition on, then home to Alaska. I’m really excited about it, because I haven’t seen it since November 4. Then a few more trips and pretty soon we’ll be in Bend. I’ll be in Maui in the beginning of May; that’s worked really well for me in the past couple years, so I’m just going to keep doing it.”

— Kikkan Randall (Alaska Pacific University/U.S. Ski Team), 2nd

 

“I can’t even tell you how happy I am to be going home. It’s been four and a half months of hard racing. Every race has been hard. It’s been a great season, but now I need a break so bad.”

— Jessie Diggins (SMS T2/U.S. Ski Team), 4th

 

“I’m going to go with my boyfriend to Florida and we’ll have a family reunion. I’m just not going to do anything for 10 days.”

— Sadie Bjornsen (APU/USST), 8th

 

End-of-season reflections:

“To be fighting for a top-three spot overall was kind of exciting, it made the winter an exciting time for sure. So yeah, I’m psyched for an Olympic year next year.”

— Andy Newell (SMS T2/U.S. Ski Team), 2nd

 

“I’m really happy to be done… Happy to put together a strong one from beginning to end and now looking forward to time to rest, ‘cause next year’s going to be pretty exciting, too.”

— Kikkan Randall (Alaska Pacific University/U.S. Ski Team), 2nd

 

“I think at Springs Series you really never know what you’re going to get. I’ve had years where I’m totally burnt out and ready to be done and this year I’m definitely ready to be done, but I’m not burnt out, so I think that’s a good sign. But also I think you tend to have really good races or really bad races, and I’ve seen some of each of those this week.

“I’m very happy with how the season went. I didn’t really know what to expect going into it, but I think I exceeded any expectations I did have and I’m still having fun with it. So I’m definitely excited to take a little break and then start training again for next year.”

— Sophie Caldwell (SMS T2), 5th

 

“It’s been different to move back home to Sweden again, but I’m super happy with my season. My goal was to do one or two World Cups representing Sweden and I did almost the whole season, so I’m really happy with that and hopefully I can step it up a little bit for next season.”

— Maria Graefnings (Falun Borlange SK/SWE), 7th

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