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RUMFORD, Maine (Jan. 8) – Leif Zimmerman (Bozeman, MT) shot past defending champ Carl Swenson (Park City, UT) in the final 100 meters despite Arctic wind gusts Thursday to win the men's sprint title at the Chevrolet U.S. Cross Country Championships while Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK) led all the way for the women's title. It was Randall's second U.S. title, Zimmerman's first.
On a day in which the qualifying round was postponed 90 minutes — to 11 a.m. — because of sub-zero cold and gusting winds, both Swenson and Rebecca Dussault (Gunnison, CO), who had won all three previous race for men and women, saw their victory strings cut. Zimmerman's win ended Swenson's bid for six consecutive titles; he won the last two a year ago at Black Mountain and the first three races this year.
“I think this might hold a candle to Alaska,” said Randall, the 2002 sprint champion. “It felt like skiing across Antarctica in that first straightaway.”
Swenson added, “It was a little slick and the wind was gusting so much it really threw us off in the last heat. It was really hard to keep our feet under us.”
In fact, Zimmerman said he and fellow U.S. Development Team member Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT), who led the qualifying round, got a break when Swenson was smacked by a burst of wind as they headed toward the final downhill. When they got the bottom, making a long righthand curve into the final 200 meters, Zimmerman made his move and pulled past Swenson and scrambled home first.
“It was a free-for-all…”
Randall, a 2002 Olympian who is the niece of 1980 Olympian Betsy Haines and '76 Olympian Chris Haines, led the qualifying and won every heat in the final round. “I was feeling strong today and I didn't want to mess around with playing cat and mouse, so I just took the lead right from the start and built it from there.”
She said the final corner leading into the stadium was windblown and got slick. “It was a pretty wild, icy corner,” she said, “and I was pretty close to skidding off the course. So, I was lucky to hang onto it there and continue skiing to the finish.”
She finished ahead of Norwegian Sigrid Aas, a student at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, with Kate Whitcomb (Middlebury, VT) third and Wendy Wagner (Park City, UT) fourth. Since only U.S. citizens are eligible for medals at the championships, Whitcomb is silver medalist and Wagner took the bronze in the field of 108 women.
The championships conclude Sunday with the long distance races in classical technique — the men's 50K and women's 30K.
2004 CHEVROLET U.S. CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Rumford, ME — Jan. 8
1K FR Sprints
(8 make semifinals; only U.S. citizens eligible for medals)
1. Leif Zimmerman, Bozeman, Mont
2. Carl Swenson, Park City, Utah
3. Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, Vt
4. Scott McArt, Anchorage, Alaska
5. Colin Rodgers, Middlebury, Vt.
6. Tim Weston, Fairport, N.Y.
7. Chris Cook, Rhinelander, Wis.
8. Anders Haugen, Anchorage, Alaska
Â Â Â Â Â –
1. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, Alaska
2. Sigrid Aas, Norway
3. Kate Whitcomb, Middlebury, Vt.
4. Wendy Wagner, Park City, Utah
5. Lindsay Williams, Hastings, Minn.
6. Carolyn Treacy, Duluth, Minn.
7. Rebecca Dussault, Gunnison, Colo.
8. Alison Crocker, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Photo:Robert Arsenault. Thanks to John Bernard