Four races, four wins, and $4,800. Not a bad week for Kikkan Randall.
The Alaskan capped off U.S. Nationals in her hometown by taking the victory in the classic sprint today. In another dominating performance, Randall won qualifying by four seconds, then led each of her heats from start to finish. Laura Valaas and Ida Sargent followed for second and third.
“Kikkan sets a phenomenal example of how to be an elite skier,” Valaas said of her teammate at Alaska Pacific University (APU). “Seeing it pay off for her is really inspring, and it shows me and everyone else out here that it can be done.”
[Randall] was pretty incredible,” said Katie Ronsee, who finished sixth and also trains with APU. “She’s just kind of at another league in a lot of ways. I’m looking forward to watching her in the Olympics coming up.”
Though the script was the same for Randall, the pack shook up somewhat behind her. Valaas was able to improve move up from her third place finish in the freestyle sprint to take second today, and Sargent looked strong from the qualifier all the way through the heats.
“That’s my best event,” Sargent said.
Hometown hero Holly Brooks took fourth, while fifth-place Rebecca Dussault didn’t quite have the same staying power as in the freestyle sprint, where she almost managed to stay with Randall in the final.
Valaas said the course held up well, with the firm tracks set by the groomers staying in place as the day went on.
“Even the hill…was pretty good,” she said. “It’s an ideal course, which you never get at a National Championships, and it was much faster than it has been. It was almost entirely double-pole except for the very tops of the hills—just a few strides here and there.”
As the last major race in the Olympic qualification period, all eyes were on Brooks, Compton, and Dussault as they vied for what will likely be just one or two berths.
Brooks was third place in the qualifier, the basis for points calculation, and she skied significantly faster than her rivals. But today’s event is just one in the year-long qualifying period, although it does take on more importance as one that will be repeated in the Games.
The presence of Brooks, Randall, Ronsee, and Valaas in the finals meant that the heat was two-thirds Alaskan, wrapping up an impressive week for the state and APU, its premier club.
As Ronsse said afterwards, “we’ve got such a great ski community up here, and it’s a great place to be a skier.”
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.