One last national title is up for grabs on Saturday in Rumford, ME, as a skate sprint wraps up the 2011 U.S. championships.
Rock-hard, borderline icy conditions should make for a lightning-fast, hectic day of racing around the 1.4-kilometer course.
The men’s field is headlined by Torin Koos (Methow ODT), but he’ll have his hands full with Simi Hamilton, the U.S. Ski Team’s 23-year-old sprint stud.
Koos won last Sunday’s classic sprint in convincing fashion, but that was with Hamilton sidelined by lingering effects from the flu. On Friday night, Hamilton told FasterSkier that he was finally healthy and ready to compete.
Hamilton is coming off his inaugural campaign on the World Cup, where his best finish was a 16th place in Davos, Switzerland, in December. He’s also the defending champion in the skate sprint—his first career national title came last year in Anchorage, when he out-kicked Mike Hinckley entering the homestretch—and the fast course in Rumford should favor his speed.
Smart money would bet on a showdown between Koos and Hamilton, but there are a few others who shouldn’t be counted out. APU’s Lars Flora skied three-quarters of a national championship-caliber classic sprint before faltering in the finals, while Sun Valley’s Mike Sinnott is still looking for his first individual sprint win. Two dark horses are Eric Packer—a Dartmouth student who skied very well early on Sunday—or Stratton’s Skyler Davis.
On the women’s side, APU has the strongest contingent with Holly Brooks, Sadie Bjornsen, Morgan Smyth, and Katie Ronsse. Craftsbury’s Ida Sargent would be a favorite in this event, but she was still suffering from the effects of a December car accident earlier this week, and she’s not starting on Saturday.
Caitlin Compton (CXC) could make some waves, as well as her teammate Jessie Diggins. And the U.S. Ski Team’s Liz Stephen is not known for her fast-twitch muscles, but if she survives her quarterfinal, she has the fitness to go late in the day.
Conditions in Rumford have been stable for the last few days, and service staffs did not seem particularly frantic on Saturday morning. We grabbed a quick video with Sun Valley coach Chris Mallory.