FasterSkier’s coverage of the 2014 U.S. Cross Country Championships is brought to you through the generous support of The Memory Clinic in Bennington, Vt.
MIDWAY, Utah — In the men’s A-final this Sunday at the 2014 U.S. Cross Country Championships, there were several up-and-coming competitors who had some interesting stories about how they got to Soldier Hollow, and where they drew the inspiration for their success from. FasterSkier caught up with three of them to hear their stories.
Ben Saxton (SMST2), Second Place
When conversing with Saxton, he often spends more time talking about his teammates from the Stratton Mountain T2 Team than about himself. This was apparent after the finish of the freestyle sprint in Soldier Hollow, when he discussed how Simi Hamilton, who recently won the freestyle sprint in the Tour de Ski, inspired him in Sunday’s race.
Saxton and his other teammates were staying at Erika Flowers’ aunt and uncle’s house on the day that Hamilton won. Due to the early morning and sleeping relatives, they did their best to keep the volume down.
That didn’t last long. “When Simi won, we just lost it,” Saxton said in an interview. “When there’s that much positivity its hard not to feel some of that back home.”
The Minnesota native certainly felt the positivity going into Sunday’s freestyle sprint. Skiing amongst veteran racers who have competed in World Cups and Olympics, Saxton held his own throughout the heats and into the final.
The 20-year-old had an incredibly strong finish, gaining ground on Torin Koos until the very end. “We came into the lanes and it was just adrenaline. It was awesome,” he said. “For a brief second when we popping around the bridge all I was thinking about was Simi’s finish in my head, and I was like ‘I got to do this,’” Saxton said.
Saxton finished the day in second place, a personal best and further evidence that the SMST2 team is doing something right.
“I know Andy, Simi, Sophie, Jessie have all been enjoying incredible success on the WC right now. I’m just excited that the racers from T2 still in America are continuing that.”
Jordan Buetow (Bates College), Fourth Place
For Buetow, there aren’t many opportunities to sprint in on the college circuit, so when he came to nationals he knew this was one of his only opportunities for the season.
A relatively new face to U.S. Nationals success, Buetow wasn’t too surprised with his result. “I’ve been focusing on this A-Final in the skate sprint for several years now. The last four years I’ve gradually improved every year,” he said in a post race interview.
For someone who normally races distance races throughout the year, the sprint result is a huge deal for Buetow. In addition, having the U.S. Nationals skate sprint on his radar for the past few years only makes the result feel that much better.
“I just wanted to have fun today. And it turned out well!”
Logan Hanneman (UAF), Fifth Place
The younger of the two Hanneman brothers in the A-final wasn’t even sure that he’d even be able to compete going into this year’s racing season. In an unfortunate turn of events this past August, he broke his back at the NTG camp in Park City, Ut. Not only that, he remained at the camp for the rest of the week and trained with his injury. Upon his return to Alasaka, Hanneman had it checked out and was greeted with bad news. It turned out that he had sustained a very serious compression fracture.
After the discovery, Hanneman wore a back brace through most of the fall and wasn’t able to take it off until the middle of November. “The bone is as good as it is going to get and I just have to keep strengthening it,” he said in an interview.
To come from such an injury and make it to the A-final of the U.S. Cross Country Championships is truly impressive. When asked what his secret was to his astounding comeback, Hanneman wasn’t quite sure. “Maybe all the no pole skating,” he said. “All my intervals this fall were that.”
Looking forward, Hannemen doesn’t have too many expectations for the rest of the season and is content that he was able to find success in Soldier Hollow. “At this point of the year I don’t have the distance training, but sprinting seems to go ok. I was very exhausted [today], I honestly don’t know where it came from.”
“I’m very fortunate to be moving again,” he said.
– Alex Matthews Contributed Reporting
Lander Karath is FasterSkier's Associate Editor from Bozeman, Montana and a Bridger Ski Foundation alumnus. Between his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, he is an outdoor enthusiast and a political junkie.