Continental CupRacingUS NationalsU.S. Cross Country Championships: Men’s Freestyle Sprint Preview and Predictions

Avatar Audrey ManganJanuary 1, 2012
Torin Koos (BSF/Rossignol) skiing to 2nd place in the Bozeman sprint, 2011. Photo: Evan Dethier.

RUMFORD, Maine — If sprint days are known for being unpredictable, the outcome of Monday’s freestyle sprint at U.S. Nationals is especially difficult to foresee. There are a handful of strong skiers in the lineup, it rained on Sunday night, and the high stakes will undoubtedly make everyone aggressive out on the course.

Though the racing season has been in full swing since the end of November, Monday will be the first time a lot of big U.S names face each other. Here’s a quick rundown of who to watch for at the top of the results sheet:

Returning to Black Mountain to defend both of his National sprint titles is Torin Koos (Bridger Ski Foundation/Rossignol). Despite a relatively slow start this season, the former U.S. Ski Team member is a safe bet for the podium. Count on him to lay down a fast qualifying time to start the day, too.

Sun Valley currently boasts two of the most consistent performers on the 2011-2012 domestic circuit. Mike Sinnott is leading the SuperTour and will be looking to keep it that way. With sprint victories from West Yellowstone and Silver Star under his belt, he’ll be rady to get after a national title. Meanwhile, his teammate Matt Gelso has famously posted an unprecedented number of consecutive 4th-place finishes, and will no doubt be aiming to battle for a place on the podium in the A-final.

Colin Rodgers (SVSEF) began his coaching career at Sun Valley this season after an illustrious racing carrer, but will again be donning a bib on Monday. He put up the fastest qualifying time in the 2011 Nationals skate sprint, but his swerve to avoid a crash in the semis knocked him out early. Rodgers’ racing experience and tactical knowledge will work to his advantage.

After a stint on the World Cup circuit this fall, Lars Flora (Alaska Pacific University) is back on home turf to throw down in familiar territory. A veteran of the pack, he has more experience than perhaps anyone in the field. With a podium finish at last year’s skate sprint on his resume, look to Flora to be fighting for a top result again on Monday.

Sylvan Ellefson (SSCV/Team Homegrown) should also be a serious threat on Monday. He placed 4th in the West Yellowstone sprint qualifier, and has put together a number of wins so far this season.

Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess (Bend Endurance Academy) is known for his sprinting ability and powerful finishing kick. He recently placed 6th in the Rossland, BC sprint, and with a 5th place showing in the skate sprint from Nationals in 2011, he’ll be looking to improve on that result.

Skyler Davis (Stratton/USST) hasn’t raced yet domestically, as he spent his early season racing on the World Cup. He struggled to find his form on the big stage, but qualified in 4th at the Craftsbury classic sprint upon returning home before Christmas.

In the collegiate line-up, there are a few top-notch athletes to look out for. Reid Pletcher (University of Colorado) proved he can race at full speed when he won the West Yellowstone skate sprint qualifier. Eric Packer (Dartmouth College), a standout sprinter from Alaska, nearly made it to the Nationals A-final in 2011. An untimely fall (the same one that hindered Rodgers) cost him his chances, and though he fought back to finish 8th overall, he’ll be looking for redemption this year. Ryan Scott (Montana State University) is another legitimate threat—he was 4th in the skate sprint qualifier in Bozeman last month.

Predictions:

Audrey:

  1. Mike Sinnott
  2. Lars Flora
  3. Torin Koos
  4. Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess
  5. Skyler Davis
  6. Sylvan Ellefson

Matt:

  1. Reid Pletcher
  2. Mike Sinnott
  3. Lars Flora
  4. Sylvan Ellefson
  5. Skyler Davis
  6. Colin Rodgers

Kieran:

  1. Skyler Davis
  2. Torin Koos
  3. Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess
  4. Matt Gelso
  5. Mike Sinnott
  6. Reese Hanneman

Steve:

  1. Torin Koos
  2. Mike Sinnott
  3. Eric Packer
  4. Sylvan Ellefson
  5. Lars Flora
  6. Reid Pletcher

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Audrey Mangan

Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.

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