Fairbanks, Alaska – James Southam (APUNSC/Atomic) and Kristina Strandberg (Saab Salomon Factory Team) won the rescheduled 5/10km US Nationals classic race yesterday. This race was originally scheduled for January in Anchorage, but was canceled due to cold temperatures.
Weather was not a problem in Fairbanks with sunny skies and temperatures in the teens. However, the recent explosion of Mt. Redoubt prevented some skiers from reaching Fairbanks in time for the race, including Canadian World Cup standout Ivan Babikov.
The field still featured many of the top North American skiers. Southam, coming off strong performances at the World Ski Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic, posted an 8.1 second win over Canada’s Stefan Kuhn. Another Canadian, Graham Nishikawa, claimed third, +11.7 seconds,
Southam opened up all the margin he needed on the first of two laps in the individual start race, holding a 5 second lead on APUNSC teammate Brent Knight after 5km. He also posted the fastest split on the second lap, with Kuhn just behind.
“The last time I won was in 2006, so it’s been a few years” Southam said. “It feels good after a drought and a rough year last year to get back on top and get another championship.”
Because Canadians Kuhn and Nishikawa are not eligible for US National Titles, the US Ski Team’s Chris Cook was awarded the silver and Knight the bronze. Cook, just back from the World Cup, was 4th overall, +17.6 and Knight 5th overall, fading hard in the second lap after his fast start.
Patrick Johnson (Alaska Winter Stars) was the top Junior in the men’s race, placing 8th overall, +36.6.
In the women’s 5km race, Strandberg skied to a convincing 31 second victory over Morgan Smyth (USST). Strandberg recently returned from Europe where she was racing the World Cup – she earned the starts as the leader of the SuperTour. A native of Sweden, Strandberg is not elgible for the National Title, so Smyth took that honor. Juniors Becca Rorrabaugh (APUNSC) and Adele Espy (Maine Coast Nordic) finished 3rd and 4th respectively, and took home the other two National podium spots for the race.
55 men and 42 women completed the race.
Matias Saari of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner has two excellent articles on the race. Read them here:
National Championship racing continues this afternoon with the Team Sprint. This event was also rescheduled form January.
Lance Parrish provided the following excellent photos of the women’s race.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.