PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (April 1) – Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) and Taz Mannix (Anchorage, AK) each collected their second U.S. titles in 48 hours Sunday, winning the gold medal in the ski marathon – the men's 50K and women's 30K classic technique, mass-start races – as the U.S. Cross Country Championships concluded.
Freeman, a Type 1 diabetic who picked up his 10th national crown – and fourth this season, and Mannix, whose first U.S. gold medal came Friday in the pursuit title race, also won the title as Grand National Champion, which is bestowed on the skier with the best overall results at the U.S. championships. The short-distance title races were held in January at Michigan Tech in Houghton; the Maine Nordic Heritage Center hosted the long-distance races, including the pursuits and the marathons.
In the men's four-lap race, Freeman won with a time of 2:01.01.6 with Canadian Alex Harvey second in 2:01.22.2. However, since only U.S. skiers qualify for U.S. medals, the silver medal went to Team CXC racer Garrott Kuzzy (Hayward, WI) in 2:04.13.6 with the bronze going to Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA), who produced his first World Cup podium this season – in a sprint in Otepaeae, Estonia.
Mannix, Stephen duel to the end
Earlier, Mannix – who came out of Susitna Valley High School (Talkeetna, Alaska) and APU Nordic programs before being named to the Ski Team this season – edged teammate Liz Stephen by 1.3 seconds in a final sprint. Her winning time after the three-lap race was 1:20.03.7 with Stephen, also in her first year with the Ski Team, timed in 1:20.05.0.
“It was a pretty good day. I definitely was in control all the way,” Freeman, a two-time Olympian, said. “I threw some surges in to break up the pack, and around 25Ks I dropped everyone but Harvey. He's a good skier – he had good skis, but he's a good skier and stayed with me.
“Then, heading into the last five Ks, I put in another couple of surges, and finally in the last three Ks he couldn't keep up,” the winner said. “It was a good race.”
He said snow conditions were dramatically different from a year ago when he also won the 50K CL in Maine. “The snow was fast on the first [12.5K] lap, nice and firm, then it was a little softer on the next lap, and softer on each of the next laps. They were perfect New England spring conditions,” according to Freeman.
“I had a great season although I never had a GREAT result all year. A couple were pretty close; I wish I hadn't fallen in the pursuit at Worlds,” he went on, “and I had bad luck [with a snowstorm] in the 15K, but aside from that I had six top-20s and a 21st, and way fewer World Cup races than I usually do, so I think this was probably my best all-round season.”
Coach: Freeman “unleashed the fury”
Coach Matt Whitcomb said the women had hard and fast, icy conditions, which – as Freeman said – softened as the men raced. “Harvey responded to every surge 'Bird' [Freeman] threw out there until the end; he really worked hard…and with about three Ks 'Bird' unleashed the fury, and that was it.”
In the women's race, he said, “It was tight to the end and Taz out-sprinted Liz for the finish. It was so close and they did a great job. At about nine Ks, they blew the pack apart and skied off. It's good to see them coming on the way they did,” Whitcomb said.
In addition to the U.S. titles, the races doubled as SuperTour Finals. By finishing fifth, Lars Flora (Anchorage, AK), who already had clinched the SuperTour overall title, also secured the men's distance championship. In the women's ranks, Caitlin Compton (Minneapolis) was 10th, but it was good enough for her to win both the women's overall and distance titles from Team CXC teammate – and sprint champion – Laura Valaas (Wenatchee, WA).
2007 U.S. CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Nordic Heritage Center
Presque Isle, ME – April 1, 2007
Men's 50K Classic, Mass Start
(Only U.S. skiers eligible for medals)
1. Kris Freeman, Andover, NH/U.S. Ski Team, 2:01.01.6
2. Alex Harvey, Canada, 2:01.22.2
3. Garrott Kuzzy, Hayward, WI/Team CXC, 2:04.13.6
4. Torin Koos, Leavenworth, WA/U.S. Ski Team, 2:04:43.5
5. Lars Flora, Anchorage, AK/Subaru Factory Team, 2:06.04.4
Women's 30K Classic, Mass Start
(Only U.S. skiers eligible for medals)
1. Taz Mannix, Talkeetna, AK/U.S. Ski Team, 1:20.03.7
2. Liz Stephen, East Montpelier, VT/U.S. Ski Team, 1:20.05.0
3. Brittany Webster, Canada, 1:20.33.1
4. Kate Whitcomb, Sun Valley, ID/Team FSx, 1:22.18.2
5. Haley Johnson, Presque Isle/Maine Winter Sports Center, 1:22.19.0
For complete results:
Source: US Ski Team