After Thursday’s 15 k skate in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Scott Patterson was a bit disappointed.
The Alaska Pacific University (APU) skier finished 13th, a solid result for Under-23 World Championships. But he was hoping for a top ten, and pinned those hopes on the 30 k skiathlon on Sunday.
Patterson came up short again, in his own estimation, but turned in a 15th-place performance. Despite being a few placed short of his goal, he said that he felt he raced well.
“I am somewhat happy with the effort, but definitely not satisfied with the result,” Patterson wrote in an e-mail.
To start with, he hadn’t felt great in the classic portion of the race, he explained.
“My strategy going into the day was to stay relaxed and hang with the lead pack through the classic portion then move up and attack whatever group I was with during the later portion of the skate,” he explained. “The classic portion was a bit chaotic and I was feeling quite poor. I also did not dial in my skis well enough and was hindered by my klister dragging… I was not optimistic about my final placing after how I was feeling.”
Both Patterson and U.S. Ski Team Development Coach Bryan Fish commented on the changing ski conditions compared to the rest of the week. Fish explained that temperatures had warmed up almost 15°F since the previous day, meaning that the courses were not as firm. Patterson, in turn, explained that his skis were running a bit slow.
He initially felt good when switching on to skate skis, but as the race went on he struggled to stay with his groups, especially on the downhills.
“Instead of tired legs, I felt like I could actually ski,” he wrote. “Utilizing some newfound energy I moved up a few placed. However, the increasing moisture caught up with me and my skis slowed down significantly as the race progressed. Looking back, I probably should have selected a different pair of skis.”
Nevertheless, he worked together with Andrey Melnichenko of Russia and Claudio Muller of Italy to reel in some skiers.
“I gave it my best and managed alright, but I was definitely looking for more,” Patterson lamented.
He finished a minute and 24 seconds behind race winner Magne Haga of Norway, who beat Clement Parisse of France by 0.6 seconds in a sprint finish. Dmitry Rostovtsev of Russia was third, +2.6. Patterson was 34 seconds out of the top ten.
A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, it’s Patterson’s first season training full time with out a college courseload. He’s also on the rebound from a freak ski accident at the end of October, where a pieces of broken skis belonging to teammate Erik Bjornsen impaled his leg. It took Patterson almost a month to get back on skis and when he began racing he was still on blood thinners, according to his blog.
“After the crash he had earlier this season, I expected a slow return to racing and a probable sub-par season,” APU Head Coach Erik Flora wrote in an e-mail. “Scott has totally proven otherwise, he has had an impressive return to racing with a good January and February. His results are certainly a testament to his talent and hard work. His results today in the 30km are good, I agree with Scott, there is more for the future.”
Fish reiterated that even though Patterson felt like he could have been capable of more, his results are certainly nothing to be ashamed of.
“A 13th and 15th at World U23’s are great results. Scott [Patterson] is a fierce competitor. I am sure he feels like he is leaving Almaty a little shy of his goals. That being said, he has every reason to be proud of where his fitness and skiing is. Rarely, is there a ‘perfect’ race. It is easy to second guess and easy to critique from afar, but the pure beauty of competition is the ‘in the moment’ decision making. It takes experience. It takes a lot of well-planned training. It takes trusting your teammates and those support staff surrounding the athletes. Maybe, most important is the guts it takes to risk it all out on the race course. It is easy to look at the end result.”
–Bryan Fish, U.S. Ski Team Development Coach
Close behind Patterson was Paddy Caldwell, a Dartmouth College athlete who is a member of the U.S. Ski Team’s “D” team. In his first U23 Championships – Caldwell placed 10th in the 20 k skiathlon at World Junior Championships last season, but has since moved up an age class – he was satisfied to place 20th, 2:18 behind Haga of Norway.
“I’m really happy with today and with how this week has gone as a whole,” wrote Caldwell, who also placed 15th in the 15 k freestyle. “Today I really wanted to hang on as long as I could on the classic portion then hit the skate leg hard. I fell off the classic pack more than I would have liked but aside from that I am really pleased with how today went. The skate leg was definitely the better half of the race for me. I skied between packs for my middle lap but then jumped in with a good group for the last lap and a half.”
He reported that after this, it’s back to New Hampshire to return to class at Dartmouth and race on the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association carnival circuit.
Kyle Bratrud of Northern Michigan University placed 37th (+5:30), and Ben Saxton of Stratton Mountain School T2, and also a U.S. Ski Team “D” team member, placed 41st (+7:08).
“I’ve been very impressed here in Almaty as to how this whole group has struck a good balance of ski professionalism,” Fish wrote. “To me, that means being focused and detail oriented yet staying relaxed and loose.”
In the women’s 15 k skiathlon, Joanne Reid again led the way for the United States. A graduate student at the University of Colorado, she is a previous World Junior Championships competitor and NCAA Champion, but did not compete at all last season.
After placing 25th in the 10 k skate, an experience she said helped her re-adjust to the tough level of competition, she placed 22nd in the skiathlon (+2:47.8).
“It is my opinion that no athlete just pops up out of no where,” Fish wrote of Reid’s performance. “There is a cumulative effect to training. Joanne has put in many hours of training of the years. Clearly she is a talented athlete and ultimately it is her decision as to what her future holds.”
Cambria McDermott of Montana State University placed 29th (+3:48.6), Anne Hart of Stratton Mountain School T2 finished 33rd (+4:59.0), and Deedra Irwin of Michigan Tech 34th (+7:56.4).
This was the final competition of U23 World Championships. World Junior Championships conclude on the same race courses tomorrow, with relay competitions.
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.