Slow, slushy conditions at TAMC Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle for Thursday night's individual skate sprints played into the hands of some of the strongest all-around distance skiers. Qualification started around 4pm, with recently-arrived Anders Haugen (Rossignol) posting the fastest men's time of 2:01.8 ahead of Canadian speedster Phil Widmer and Steve Scott of the Maine Winter Sports Center, who had been focused on this event for months.
Right behind these sprinters however were well-known distance skiers not often seen near the top of the qualification times: Chad Giese (4th in qualifying), Kris Freeman (5th), David Chamberlain (6th), and several others. On the women's side, Canadian superwoman Dasha Gaiazova continued to show top form at Spring Series, posting the fastest qualifying time of 2:24.5, 2.4 seconds ahead of Kikkan Randall (APU.) Canadian Christine Bisson had the third-fastest run at 2:28.2, while Alice Nelson (2:28.9), Kate Underwood (2:31.1) and Annelies Cook (2:32.0) took the next three spots.
But with 30 women and 30 men moving on to the heats, there was plenty of potential for some serious re-shuffling of the rankings. At 6pm the first women's quarterfinal got underway and the show was on for real.
Men's quarterfinal: left to right are Erik Gjomle, Kris Freeman, Dave Chamberlain, Ben True, Mark Doble, and Tom Keefe.
Women's semifinal: left to right are Christine Bisson, Kikkan Randall, Kate Underwood, Karin Camenisch, and Wendy Wagner
Randall wins big. Photo by Andy Canniff of Fischer.
From the men's semis it was Kris Freeman and Phil Widmer advancing in the second heat, while David Chamberlain and Chad Giese were able to surprisingly power their way through the slush to advance from the first heat ahead of sprint specialist Anders Haugen (fastest qualifier) and FSx's Zack Simons. Simons won the B-final thanks to a fast final 100m sprint where he overtook MWSC's Steve Scott.
Starting farthest to the outside in the A-final, Widmer was by far the quickest off the line and threw down an impressively fast jump skate to accelerate clearly to the front after only about 30m. Coming back around on the flat by the biathlon range, Freeman pulled the same move he did in the semis, pulling even and just barely passing Widmer to take over the lead heading into the rollers and the last short steep hill. All four skiers were staying close and as they headed into the finish lanes, Widmer made a hard charge to try and pass Freeman back for the win. For a moment it looked like he might do so, but Freeman continued to accelerate all the way to the line and pulled out a clear victory over the Canadian. Giese came in for a close third while Chamberlain settled for fourth.
Photo by Andy Canniff of Fischer.
Men's qualification results: http://www.nensa.net/sched&result/2006/Men_SS_Sprint_Qual.pdf
Women's heat bracket results: http://www.nensa.net/sched&result/2006/Women_SS_Sprint.pdf
Men's heat bracket results: http://www.nensa.net/sched&result/2006/Men_SS_Sprint.pdf
Be sure to check out lots more photos and videos from Spring Series in our new <Multimedia Gallery.
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