In the women’s freestyle sprint at the 2010 U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships in Anchorage, it was never a question of who, but rather how much.
After a dominating eight-second win in the qualifying round, Kikkan Randall skied her way to an easy victory here this afternoon over Rebecca Dussault and Laura Valaas. Though Randall’s margin of victory dwindled slightly as the day went on, she was never seriously challenged by any of the competitors in her three heats.
The real story today was Beth Reid, who at age 50 is 23 years Randall’s senior. After just barely advancing out of the quarterfinals as a lucky loser, the eleventh-seeded Reid then had to go up against second-seed Laura Valaas, third-seeded Caitlin Compton, and two of Valaas’s teammates from Alaska Pacific University. With a fierce charge at the line, she managed to hold off Katie Ronsse for a spot in the finals.
Reid (formerly Heiden), is no stranger to the limelight—she already owns a bronze medal from the Winter Olympics. But that hardware was awarded for her success in speedskating, not skiing.
After the race today, Reid said that her resurgence in the sport is owed to the increased training that she has been doing with her daughter, Joanne, a freshman at the University of Colorado (who also made the heats in the sprint today). Because their family lives at sea level in California, her daughter “doesn’t have any friends that rollerski.”
Reid said she definitely didn’t expect to be in contention for a national championship; rather, her goal for the day was to finish in the top of the field.
“I didn’t want to embarrass myself,” she said.
In front of Reid, the finals unfolded in a less-than-spectacular fashion. From the gun, Randall was able to build a small lead over Rebecca Dussault, while the rest of the pack struggled to maintain contact. In the end, Dussault was able to keep Randall within two seconds—closer than she had been in their semifinal heat, but still not enough to top the world championships silver medalist.
“She was certainly out of reach in the qualifier, but as the day went on I started skiing closer to her,” Dussault said. “That brought a lot of hope to me—if I want to be on anyone’s tails, it’s Kikkan Randall in a sprint race.
“I think sprint and the intensity of it just really fits Kikkan’s personality, and I just love to watch her race,” Dussault said.
Erik Flora, Randall’s coach at APU, said that her goal for this period is simply “getting more racing under her belt.”
“She was just in control and hit all the sections,” he said.
Hometown hero Holly Brooks advanced easily through her quarterfinal heat, and held on for third in her semi. But in the final she fell off the pace set Randall and Dussault, and had to settle for fourth.
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.