U.S. Cross Country Championships (Soldier Hollow): Freestyle-sprint prologue
[UPDATED] One and done. That was the case Thursday for the U.S. Cross Country Championship’s freestyle sprint at Soldier Hollow (SoHo) where only a qualifier was held to determine the final standings — no heats were contested. With just-under-freezing temps and a light snow falling, the men set off at 15-second intervals.
The men’s podium was an all-Canadian affair as they swept the top-three positions. Jess Cockney of the Canadian World Cup B-team placed first in 3:15.20. Julien Locke of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and Canadian National U25 Team skied to second (+2.69), his AWCA/U25 Team teammate Knute Johnsgaard was third (+2.72).
The top American skier was Alaska Pacific University’s Logan Hanneman in fourth (+3.37). The second-fastest U.S. skier was Sun Valley Ski Education Education Foundation (SVSEF) Gold Team skier Cole Morgan (+5.03). Morgan was the sixth-fastest athlete overall. The third American and seventh overall was John Hegman (+5.71) also of the SVSEF Gold Team.
The women’s skate sprint also featured a preliminary with no heats. Canada’s Dahria Beatty (AWCA/NST U25 Team) placed first in 3:13.60. Sugar Bowl Academy and U.S. Ski Team Development Team member Hannah Halvorsen was second (+3.15), and Team Gregg’s Caitlin Gregg third (+4.80). The third-fastest American was APU’s Chelsea Holmes (+7.24) who finished sixth overall.
The national championship week at Soldier Hollow has concluded.
IBU World Cup (Ruhpolding, Germany): 4 x 6 k women’s relay
[UPDATED: includes quotes from Canada’s Rosanna Crawford and Americans Susan Dunklee and Maddie Phaneuf]
The women’s 4 x 6-kilometer relay in Ruhpolding, Germany, came down to the very end, with Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier holding off France’s Celia Aymonier and Norway’s Marte Olsbu to the finish. Dahlmeier secured the win in the first women’s relay of 2017, crossing the line in 1:09:53, just 3.5 seconds ahead of Aymonier and 4.5 ahead of Olsbu.
The Germans used six spare rounds and avoided the penalty lap for the victory, with Dahlmeier lifting them from fifth at the final exchange to first at the finish.
While both Aymonier and Olsbu cleaned both shooting stages without any spares, Dahlmeier had to use one on the final standing stage. She had to pass Olsbu twice to secure the victory.
“I wanted to slowly pull myself up to her, not over-pace, and have enough energy left for the next climb,” Dahlmeier recalled in a post-race interview with Germany’s ARD. “At some point I knew we had the top equipment today. If I’m ahead for the last downhill then I will bring the win home.”
She teamed up with Vanessa Hinz, Maren Hammerschmidt and Franziska Preuss for the win. It was Preuss’s first race back after a long break due to illness. While she said she was “very nervous”, Preuss cleaned her prone stage and used two spares to clean standing.
On the second leg, Hammerschmidt and Fenne tangled on a downhill turn. The came through the exchange in second and fourth, respectively, behind Ukraine’s Anastasiya Merkushyna (who brought her team from 10th to first by the race’s halfway point).
“Thankfully, it still worked out fine in the end,” Hammerschmidt told ARD.
France took second, using a total of seven spares and no penalties, with Anais Chevalier, Justine Braisaz, Anais Bescond, and Aymonier, respectively.
Norway had near-flawless shooting all around with just one spare, used by third-leg skier Tiril Eckhoff, who teamed up with Kaia Wøien Nicolaisen, Hilde Fenne and Olsbu for third place.
The Norwegians held off Ukraine by 4.3 seconds for the final spot on the podium.
Canada placed 10th (+3:00.6), using just three spares and no penalties, with Megan Tandy, Rosanna Crawford, Emma Lunder, and Julia Ransom. Crawford elevated the team to eighth after the second leg, but they slipped two spots over the third and fourth legs.
“We had a great shooting day today, and some really fast skis,” Crawford said, according to a Biathlon Canada press release. “I think with just three spares for the whole team, our expectations should be quite a bit higher, but this year the ski speed seems to be below where we usually are.”
The U.S. women finished 17th (+5:08.2), with 11 spare rounds and no penalties, with Susan Dunklee, Maddy Phaneuf, Clare Egan, and Joanne Reid. Dunklee started the team off and raced to 11th at the first exchange, then they slipped back to 16th and finally 17th at the finish out of 23 teams.
“I enjoy the extra challenge of starting at the back of a mass start,” Dunklee said, according to a US Biathlon press release. “I’m good at weaving through crowds and it’s incredibly satisfying to pass lots of people.”
“Shooting on Point 2 is exactly where I wanted to be at that point in the race, and I felt comfortable there,” she added.
Dunklee tagged to Phaneuf, who, in her first World Cup race of the season, used two spare rounds to clean 10 targets.
“I’m happy to have the opportunity to be racing on the World Cup again,” Phaneuf told US Biathlon. “Today’s race went OK, the shooting was average for me and the skiing was tough. The atmosphere here in Ruhpolding is so amazing, so that made the racing very exciting. I’m looking forward to race the sprint on Saturday. Huge shoutout to the wax techs and staff for some fast skis and support.”
“It was wonderful to finally put together a full women’s team and we look forward to improving upon today’s performance in the coming weeks,” Dunklee added.