It took a week, but winter has finally returned to Rumford, ME.
In the last two days at the 2011 U.S. National Championships, the tropical climate that dogged organizers has departed, replaced by temperatures far below freezing.
With distance skate races on tap for Thursday, the 2.7-kilometer loop at Black Mountain has been widened in spots, augmented by snowmaking and shoveling. The men and women will be doing 11 and seven laps, respectively, for a total of 29.7 and 18.9 kilometers.
The men get things underway at 10:00 a.m., with Sun Valley’s Mike Sinnott as the first starter. Favorites in that race include Wednesday’s winner, Lars Flora; his teammate, James Southam; and CXC’s Brian Gregg and Tad Elliott.
The women go off at 12:30, with Evelyn Dong in the first bib. After a tough day Wednesday, APU’s Holly Brooks should be out for blood, along with U.S. Ski Team members Liz Stephen and Morgan Arritola. CXC’s Caitlin Compton and Jessie Diggins could be strong, as well, and APU has a few more threats in Morgan Smyth, Sadie Bjornsen, and Kate Fitzgerald.
We caught Chad Salmela, the head coach at the College of St. Scholastica, for a video about Wednesday’s challenges for service staffs, as well as for athletes. (Bear with us for the first few seconds.) And we also shot some footage of the morning’s 10 k/5 k adaptive race. (If the videos don’t show up at first, leave a few minutes for processing.)
Start lists available here. (Click “Thursday,” then the race you want to look at.)