MADISON, Wis. — Jennie Bender of Central Cross Country (CXC) won another qualifier in the second straight day of sprints around Wisconsin’s state capital, posting the fastest time in 2:04.0.
After winning Saturday’s classic sprint qualifier by more than 6 seconds, Bender had less of a gap on Sunday. Hilary McNamee of Maine Winter Sports Center was second, 0.5 seconds behind.
“Today was probably the best race of my season so far,” said McNamee, who was third in Saturday’s qualifier and fourth overall. “I like these short, flat courses because I can generate a lot of power and move around them pretty quick.”
With blue skies on a 30-degree morning, the manmade snow conditions on the city streets was holding up, McNamee said. The backstretch at the top of the course remained shady and while the hills were a little softer, she didn’t plan to change her skis.
As for strategy, she achieved one of her best results by using some control on the all-out course with one gradual incline followed by a flat section and a gradual downhill.
“I get off the line quick, and then, woah, relax for a little bit,” McNamee said.”Then on the back stretch just reel it in as hard as you can.”
In the heats, which include semifinals and finals for the eight-woman field, she expected competitors to jockey for the best position on the final descent before the finish.
Saturday’s classic winter, Natalia Naryshkina of Russia was third in Sunday’s qualifier. Naryshkina was 2.2 seconds behind Bender. Her CXC teammate, Sara Hewitt, was fourth (+3.5). Clare Egan (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) was fifth in the qualifier (+3.8).
Alex Kochon (email@example.com) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.