Hamilton Takes Freestyle Sprint Title in Anchorage

Nathaniel HerzJanuary 2, 20106
Hamilton on his way to victory in the finals
Hamilton on his way to victory in the finals. Photo by Rob Whitney

After four years in college, Simi Hamilton isn’t supposed to know how to sprint. Try telling that to Mike Hinckley.

With 500 meters to go in the freestyle sprint at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Hinckley made a huge move on the field, passing Hamilton on the outside of the last significant hill on the course. After finishing second last year, it looked like Hinckley had this one in the bag.

But on the ensuing downhill, Hamilton tucked in behind Hinckley, and used the draft to slingshot himself past on the final corner.

“I thought about standing up and staying right behind him until the last 100 [meters],” Hamilton said afterwards, “but I was coming up on him pretty hot….I realized that he was taking the corner just a little bit wider—he wasn’t quite on the apex, so I cut in, and that’s when I started to make my move.”

After easily winning his quarterfinal and semifinal heats, Garrott Kuzzy ended up off the back in the final round, hindered by a tangle with Mark Iverson. He recovered and still managed third place, but the disappointment showed at the finish.

“I’m looking forward to Monday,” he said afterwards. “Today’s just a tune-up.”

Garrott Kuzzy leading his quarterfinal heat
Garrott Kuzzy leading his quarterfinal heat. Photo by Rob Whitney

Like Kuzzy, Hinckley and Hamilton also had relatively easy paths to the finals. In both of his initial heats, Hamilton was able to stake himself to an early lead by the midpoint of the 1.5k course, and his speed showed as he took the hole shot each time the gun went off.

Though he had captured a number of sprint qualifiers already this year, today was the first time that Hamilton had been able to keep his lead all the way through the end of the rounds. Travis Jones, Hamilton’s coach at the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, said that his athlete’s difficulties stemmed from a lingering illness that he picked up during a training camp in Lake Placid this fall.

“I think he has probably been racing at about 85, 90 percent the whole fall,” Jones said. “He’s the healthiest he’s been right now, but he’s still not 100 percent.”

Unlike in other professions, Hamilton’s bachelor of arts degree from Middlebury College might lead some to discount his prospects on an international stage. But Jones said that because his athlete wasn’t training big hours when he graduated from high school, Hamilton didn’t make any sacrifices by going to school for four more years.

“If a kid graduates from high school and they’re already training 600 hours, then it’s hard to go through college and continue to progress,” Jones said. But Hamilton, he added, was only doing about 450 hours at that point.

As for the $1,200 check that goes to the national champion, Hamilton said that it will be going towards rent. But of that $1,200, he’ll only be keeping 90 percent for himself. The final tenth, he said, will be going towards the Willie Neal Environmental Awareness Fund.

Founded after its namesake was killed this summer in a rollerski accident in Maine, the fund is dedicated to the same kinds of initiatives that Neal worked on throughout his life. Hamilton said that he and his teammates Mike Sinnott and Max Durtschi will be donating ten percent of their race winnings this year to the cause.

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Nathaniel Herz

Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.

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  • dougherty_andrew

    January 3, 2010 at 1:17 am

    No mention of the top junior sprinter Tyler Kornfield finishing an impressive 4th today; it looks like college isn’t such a bad thing for the development pipeline.

  • bill mckibben

    January 3, 2010 at 8:44 am

    If anyone is wondering if Simi Hamilton just came flying out of nowhere, of course he didn’t. He had amazing results as a junior, and then after a period of real indecision about whether he wanted to keep ski racing, recommitted himself to the sport at Middlebury and working with Andrew Gardner began a steady climb back to the top reaches of the sport. Yesterday’s crushing performance (qualifying five seconds up on a very legit field) comes as no surprise to many of us who watched him ski last winter on the eastern carnival circuit. That his only real challenger was former Midd skier Kuzzy came as no surprise either–both have the kind of work ethic necessary to get a degree and to ski hard. If I were the combative type, I’d say it’s a pretty good riposte to the notion that you can’t really develop as a skier in college. But as a fan of the USST let me say the real message is clear: Andy Newell’s chances in Vancouver just improved a lot. Anyone think Hamilton and Kuzzy won’t qualify in the sprint there? By my math, that’s two less Norwegians for Newell to worry about come the heats.

  • Jhettenb

    January 3, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Tyler Kornfield had a great performance today but to take a shot at the USST development pipeline is ridiculous. The one thing that you have to remember is that he was racing fellow Americans. The goal and main focus of the USST is to be competitive on a World Stage not just national. Considering that rational I’m not sure if it means he is a really fast junior or that the U-23’s and SR’s are not fast enough! As far as Kuzzy and Hamilton making the heats in Vancouver I think that they both would have a chance but they need to make it on the team first. As far as I know the US still only has 7? Spots for Vancouver unless the US is given more spots it seems impossible for both of these guys to make the team. Hopefully the U.S does receive more spots and that won’t be a problem.

  • nordic_dave

    January 3, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Congrats to Simi. He is really doing well as is Kuzzy.
    Garrott also impressed upon me in a conversation, the attributes of late blossoming post graduate skiers. Duly noted…..as he is certainly doing very well with CXC and now USST. Meanwhile Hamilton is now with SVSEF and his head coach made his comments very well known about the Pipeline Development as it relates to college skiers at the USSA Coach’s Conference in Minneapolis. Perhaps you missed that part Mr. Mckibben.

  • Lars

    January 4, 2010 at 8:37 am

    As i understand it the US got 8 spots for the olympics and is likely to get more as the bigger skiing nations don`t fill up there quota.

  • Mike Trecker

    January 4, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Yeah Simi! Sweet race! Congrats to Garrott for sure as well.

    I would like to add a little to the conversation here. There is alot of talk about the Olympics right now for these guys, and that’s fine. However, I just read a fantastic insight to both careers of Beckie Scott and Kikkan Randall. They both have had the experience that once they hit the front with a big win such as a national title, it still took another 10 years of hard work and dedication to become dominant. Andy Newell has displayed this type of commitment and it has taken this long as well. Kris Freeman, same thing. Petra Majdic is dominating right now, but we all saw her at Salt Lake coming on and it has taken this long to get there.

    If Garrott and Simi display that same ethic and keep their nose to the grind stone, the payoff will come down the road. Let’s not worry too much about Vancouver for these guys. If they make the trip fine, but it’s only the beginning.

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