Fairbanks, Alaska – The Wedgewood Resort 2009 US Cross Country Ski Championships will be starting at 6:00PM Tuesday, March 24 on the Jim Whisenhant Ski Trails at Birch Hill Recreation Area in Fairbanks, Alaska. The opening event is the Yukon Title Company 5Km/10Km Classic Technique Interval Start race. The race series is hosted by the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks which has hosted several major national and international events.
The field for the first race includes 43 women and 52 men. The women’s “A” seed includes USST skiers Liz Stephen and Morgan Arritola who dominated this series one year ago. Other USST members in the field include Morgan Smyth, Lindsey Dehlin, and Rosie Brennan.
Also in the “A” seed are Alaska skiers Becca Rorabaugh (APU), Kate Pearson (APU/Rossignol), Taz Mannix (APU/USST), Aurelia Korthauer (a red-shirt skier at UAF), Jaime Bronga (NSAA/UAA), Kate Fitzgerald (APU), Sadie Bjornsen (UAA) and Nicole Deyong, now skiing for Fischer-Craft and SVSEF.
World Championships Sprint Silver-Medalist Kikkan Randall and Laura Valaas (both APU/USST) scratched from the Tuesday race.
The men’s race features several skiers with very low FIS points, including Canadians Ivan Babikov (winner of the hill-climb stage of this year’s Tour de Ski), Dan Roycroft, Stefan Kuhn and Graham Nishikawa. From the USST are Chris Cook, Matt Gelso (also Auburn SC), Noah Hoffman (SVSEF), Leif Zimmerman (Bridger SF) and Garrott Kuzzy (CXC Elite).
Top Alaskans in the field include Brent Knight (APU), James Southam (APU), Lars FLora (Saab-Salomon/APU), Mike Hinckley (Alaska Winter Stars) and state high school champion Scott Patterson. UA Fairbanks skiers in the field include Erik Soderstrom, John Parry, Will Coleman, Robert Pakk and Alex Morris.
Local hot junior entries include David Norris (FAST), Reese Hanneman (FAST), Jordan Buetow (FXC), Kelsey Boyer (FXC) and Logan Hanneman (FAST).
Skies have been very sunny, and with the solar gain from the long days temperatures have reached the low-to-mid-20’s the last couple of afternoons, with a breeze starting up later in the afternoon. According to the coaches testing skis, the snow has been getting faster in the last couple of days after being quite slow last week.
Tracks will be set in the morning and should be rock hard and fast by race time. The course will be the “Three Hills” 5Km loop which has been used for several major races including the 2003 JO 5Km Classic, several state high school championships and a number of NorAm and SuperTour races. The major climb on the course occurs just past the 1.5 mark – the skiers descend to the stadium then climb 42m non-stop to the highest point on the trail system. The final meaningful ascent starts just before 4Km and climbs more than 30m back up to the stadium. Men will ski two laps of the course.
So far, ash from the Mt. Redoubt eruption has not proven to be a hazard for the races – although it has stranded the TD, Assistant TD and PA Announcer in Anchorage. If the ash clears all should be in Fairbanks by tomorrow. It is unknown if any skiers who had hoped to be here for the races have been delayed by the atmospheric conditions.