Racers had to brave single digit temperatures for today's mass
start free technique races at Kincaid Park in Anchorage. In spite of the cold,
there was plenty of exciting action. It was expected that the short distances,
12K for men and 7K for women, coupled with the mass start format would make
for fast and intense racing. That was indeed the case, with both races coming
down to a sprint finish.
The men's race started very fast and the pace quickly broke
the pack apart. After about 4K a lead pack of about 7 skiers were out in front.
After lapping through the stadium, James Southam made a move on Elliot's Climb
to break the group apart even more. Dave Chamberlain and Scott McArt quickly
jumped in behind Southam. By the time the leaders entered the stadium again
with 3K to go, Trond Flagstad, Saturday's winner, Owen Hanley and Casey Ward
had also bridged back up to the front. At this point, the skiers let up on
the throttle a bit and began tactical preparations for a sprint finish. Southam
and Chamberlain both looked strong at the front of the pack. On the final
3K loop, the lead group was dwindled to Chamberlain, Southam, McArt and Flagstad.
In the sprint around the stadium to the finish, Chamberlain made the first
move and only Southam was able to go with him. It came down to a mad dash
for the line. Southam had an impressive finishing kick to take the win, despite
leading for a good portion of the race. McArt and Flagstad were too close
to call for third, while Owen Hanley (I think) took fifth.
The women's race was dominated by three Olympians. On the first
lap, Kikkan Randall made a strong move and had a 50 meter lead over Aelin
Peterson and biathlete Rachel Steer when they entered the stadium at 4K. It
looked like Randall would take the win as they headed out for the final 3K.
But apparently a moose had other ideas. Details are a bit sketchy, but what
we heard from spectators was that a moose refused to leave the trail, even
as coaches and spectators tried to scare it off. Both Randall and Peterson
had to come to a stop, causing the three leaders to regroup. They were quickly
able to resume racing and Peterson and Steer then dropped Randall coming into
the stadium. On the final short climb with 300 meters to go Steer passed Peterson
and held onto a small lead the rest of the way. Randall finished third. Kate
Pearson outsprinted Tazlina Mannix for fourth.
1. James Southam – Alaska Pacific University
2. David Chamberlain – Maine Winter Sports Center
3. Scott McArt – Rossignol Marathon Team
– Trond Flagstad – University of Alaska Anchorage
5. Owen Hanley (?) – Rossignol Marathon Team
1. Rachel Steer – Alaska Winterstars
2. Aelin Peterson – Alpina/Madshus
3. Kikkan Randall – Alaska Pacific University
4. Kate Pearson Alaska Winterstars
5. Tazlina Mannix – Alaska Pacific University