The US Ski Team has announced the U.S. team that will compete at the world cross-country championships next month in Italy. The U.S. team consists of five women and eight men. Luke Bodensteiner, Nordic director for the U.S. Ski Team, said another skier may be added depending on results at the World Junior Championships and U-23 championships for skiers 23 years and younger. Those events precede the world championships, which begin Feb. 18 in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
The women's team is dominated by Alaskans. Kikkan Randall of Anchorage, Aelin Peterson of Fairbanks and Aubrey Smith of Seward, who now skis for the US Development Team in Park City. This team is lead by Wendy Wagner, who lives in Park City, Utah, but has spent the previous few seasons in the Alaska Pacific cross-country program. Wagner won all the classic races at US Nationals. Katja Ivanova, who won all the skate races, is not yet eligible to compete for the US in international competition, pending her citizenship approval. Kristina Trygstad-Saari, Bozeman, Montana, rounds out the women's team. Trygstad-Saari did not have any top results at Nationals, but was chosen for the team thanks to strong results in the early season Continental Cup races.
Cases could have been made for a few women who were left off the team. Erinn Whitmer, Melissa Oram and Lindsey Weier all had two top five finishes at Nationals (among WC Team-eligible skiers) and skied consistently in the top ten in the other races. Perhaps one of them will be named to the team if they perform well at World Juniors or U23 Championships. Sarah Konrad made a case for herself as a skate specialist, taking a second and a third overall in the distance skate races.
Two veterans leading the men's U.S. team are three-time Olympian Justin Wadsworth and two-time Olympian Carl Swenson. Wadsworth, 34, lives in Bend, Ore., and Swenson, 32, lives in Park City, Utah. Swenson won all three freestyle races at US Nationals this month, in length from sprint to a 50K, to take his number of national titles to seven. Also on the strong men's squad are Kris Freeman, 22, and his brother Justin, 26, both of Andover, N.H., who have dominated classic technique races all year and are strong in skating as well; Dave Chamberlain, 27, of Bethel, Maine; Andrew Johnson, 25, of Greensboro, Vt. and Torin Koos, 22, of Leavenworth, Wash.
It is good to see a team of eight men chosen. Patrick Weaver and Chris Cook also skied well at Nationals, but just missed the team due to the strength of the men's field. The inclusion of Koos is a bit surprising given that he will only race one event. Koos is a sprint specialist, but has finished no higher that 3rd in a sprint this year. At US Nationals, he finished 5th. However, he does have the best pure speed for possibly cracking into the top 16 at WC in the sprint prelims.
Sources: US Ski Team and adn.com