U.S. Nationals Freestyle Sprint Preview and Predictions

Audrey ManganJanuary 8, 2013
Torin Koos (Bridger Ski Foundation/Rossignol), untouchable in the final stretch of the 30 k classic on Saturday. Photo: USSA/Sarah Brunson.

FasterSkier’s coverage of the 2013 US Cross Country Championships is brought to you through the generous support of The Memory Clinic in Bennington, Vt.


MIDWAY, Utah — This time last year when we sat down to make predictions for the final race of U.S. Nationals, we had all just spent several days witnessing a single athlete steamroll the field to win three titles a row. Jessie Diggins was skiing on a plane far and above everyone else in the U.S. and it was impossible to bet against her.

We’ve seen a similar kind of dominance this week from Torin Koos, the difference this time being that it’s not exactly a surprise. A 22-year-old winning everything is exciting and new and easily hyped into proclamations about the next big thing in American skiing. Diggins is a World Cup skier now. Koos, on the other hand, has been around a long time. He’s got eight national titles to his name. He’s been to six World Championships. And he’s still meeting new career benchmarks at the age of 32: that 30 k win was his first in a distance race at nationals.

To be honest, I was ready to count him out for the season after watching him race in Bozeman. He was sick, yes, but when you see someone like Koos struggle like he did it’s hard not to draw ominous conclusions. That goes to show how much I know. Apparently when you’ve got a base fitness like he does, early season illness is hardly a blip on the radar. One month later and Koos is back to his usual self: winning a lot. Winning more than usual, in fact.

So, our prediction of the mens’ skate sprint outcome? Koos for the win. At this point, it will be shocking if he doesn’t. Whether this would be enough to get him to World Championships, we’ll just have to wait and see.

The women’s podium has seen a bit more variation this year. Now that Sadie Bjornsen has gotten the monkey off her back with a win in the 20 k she appears to be on a roll. She’s an even better sprinter than distance skier and will be hard to beat on Tuesday. Then again, Sophie Caldwell has finished ahead of Bjornsen in two out of three freestyle sprints this season. On the whole about five or six women are fairly evenly matched; Bjornsen will win qualifier, hands down, but the heats will take some brains (and a little luck) to win along with brawn. Races can be ruined by a poorly timed move on the Soldier Hollow sprint course. After the classic sprint everyone knows that, but someone will have to be at the front going down that slingshot-y hill each time. I just hope it’s not the people I’m about to pick.

And so we’ve arrived at the morning of the last event of the 2013 U.S. Cross Country Championships. For our final round of predictions I, Audrey Mangan, am taking on my boss, Matt Voisin. I’m not quite sure if I want to win or lose.

Start list.


Matt’s A-Final picks:


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


  1. Sadie Bjornsen
  2. Kate Fitzgerald
  3. Sophie Caldwell
  4. Rosie Brennan
  5. Becca Rorabaugh
  6. Corey Stock


Audrey’s A-Final picks:


  1. Torin Koos
  2. Skyler Davis
  3. Erik Bjornsen
  4. Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess
  5. Mike Sinnott
  6. Ryan Scott


  1. Sadie Bjornsen
  2. Sophie Caldwell
  3. Caitlin Gregg
  4. Kate Fitzgerald
  5. Rosie Brennan
  6. Caitlin Patterson


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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