In last year’s lone distance race at U.S. Nationals, a 5k freestyle, Caitlin Compton edged Kikkan Randall by the thin margin of 3.5 seconds.
Today, Compton again beat Randall over the same technique and distance. But unfortunately for Compton, today’s event was double that distance. And by the end of it, Randall was able to make up the lost ground, taking her second event in a row here in Anchorage by ten seconds.
“When I came through the lap lane, I started to feel my body kick in a little bit,” Randall said afterwards. Like Kris Freeman in the men’s race, Randall said that she wasn’t sure that her result would have stacked up favorably in a World Cup field—but it was just enough.
Four kilometers into the 10k race, Compton was leading Randall by about ten seconds. But on the next lap, Randall put in a strong surge, and her time for the second half of the race ran about twenty seconds faster than Compton’s.
Compton started in front of Randall, and didn’t have the benefit of knowing that she was leading the race over the Alaskan at the halfway point. But regardless, she said that her result was a good one.
“No complaints,” said Compton. “Kikkan has been having an unbelievable World Cup start, so that was a good race.”
U.S. Ski Team member Liz Stephen was third, and had the advantage of chasing her teammate Morgan Arritola, who started one bib ahead of her. By the end of the race, Stephen had nearly bridged the 30-second gap.
“It was great—it was probably the first race this season where I felt like I was racing and not just going for a hard ski,” Stephen said. “It’s always nice to be able to see someone ahead of you.”
An Olympic hopeful with strong results early this winter, Anchorage’s Holly Brooks skied the first lap within striking distance–just six seconds behind Randall, and sixteen from Compton. But she couldn’t quite hold the pace, ending up in seventh, 1:17 back.
And while at this point it may no longer be a surprise, 50-year-old Beth Reid (formerly Heiden, and sister of Eric) continued her strong run here, finishing eighth.
By the time the 150 men’s racers had made their way around the five kilometer loop three times each, Compton said that the course was fairly “soft” and “churned up.” But that didn’t stop Randall.
“It is an amazing credit to Kikkan and her ability—if it’s rock solid, she’s on fire. If it’s soft, mushy, she’s on fire. Just a super-versatile skier,” Compton said.
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.