APU’s Holly Brooks has been waiting all year to test herself against the eastern women—at least one of whom, Ida Sargent, raced on the World Cup this fall.
If Sunday’s classic sprint qualifier results at nationals are the first measure, Brooks is on her way to acing that test. At Rumford’s Black Mountain, she skied to a three-second victory in the preliminary round over her teammate Sadie Bjornsen. Dartmouth’s Sophie Caldwell was third, with Morgan Smyth (APU) and Sargent (Craftsbury) rounding out the top five.
On the men’s side, APU’s Lars Flora continued his resurgence, topping Torin Koos (Methow ODT) by half a second.
Flora hasn’t sprinted well in the last few years, but this season his speed has returned, with three top-five sprint finishes in domestic races. After the qualifier on Sunday, he wryly described himself as a “comeback sprinter.”
SVSEF’s Mike Sinnott was third, followed by APU’s Reese Hanneman and CXC’s Garrott Kuzzy.
The conditions in Rumford—which had deteriorated severely over the past few days—were far from ideal, but still adequate. The sun came out briefly during the women’s qualifier, but the course didn’t seem to be degrading much beyond its present state.
“It’s a real race,” Koos said.
Both Brooks and Flora said that they would try to capitalize on their aerobic fitness to drop their speedier competitors on the 1.4-kilometer sprint course in the afternoon heats.
“The plan is to push the pace hard,” Flora said. “Especially with Torin in the race with his acceleration ability…If he can rest and accelerate, he’s hard to take down.”
For her part—and despite her success in short events this fall—Brooks described herself as a “hybrid distance-slash-sprinter,” rather than a pure sprinter. She said that she planned to “charge from the beginning, and see where it takes me.”
“It’s not the kind of course that you can’t push the whole time…where I feel like you have to save anything anywhere,” she said. “I just like to go for it.”
Videos of Torin Koos, Garrott Kuzzy, Chris Cook and Michael Sinnott during the Classic Sprint Qualifier: