SUN VALLEY, Idaho — Patience and sprinting go hand-in-hand, or so says the men’s SuperTour 1.3-kilometer classic sprint winner, Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess.
“Being patient can often serve you really well,” said Blackhorse-von Jess (Bend Endurance Academy) during a post-race interview on Saturday on the Lake Creek trails.
“I learned a lot about how I was feeling, how the course was feeling, and how my skis were feeling in that first quarterfinal. Patience was really the name of the game and I kept it all day,” he explained.
After placing third in last weekend’s SuperTour skate sprint in West Yellowstone, Mont., both Blackhorse-von Jess and his coach, Ben Husaby believed that the proper composure would put Blackhorse-von Jess back at the top in Sun Valley.
“The game plan [going into Saturday’s race] was to improve upon last week’s results,” Husaby said.
“Historically he’s gone out pretty hard in all the rounds, so it was nice to see him work his way through each of his heats from fourth or third place up to the front,” he added. “I think he was confident and he skied really smart all the way through today.”
With confidence and patience, Saturday’s SuperTour classic sprint winner skied through the rounds in the middle of the pack — rather than charging the front.
Even up until the final 100 meters of his quarterfinal, Blackhorse-von Jess trailed David Norris of Alaska Pacific University (APU) and Kevin Bolger (University of Utah).
With the pressure on in the finishing straight, Blackhorse-von Jess made his move, stepping out of his lane to ski around Bolger and Norris on the outside.
The three then lunged for the line, with Blackhorse-von Jess ultimately winning the quarterfinal in 3:05.98, just 0.18 seconds ahead of Bolger and 0.75 seconds ahead of Norris.
The semifinal played out similarly, as Blackhorse-von Jess sat back while Miles Havlick of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) and Eric Packer (APU) lead the heat until the final downhill.
What Blackhorse-von Jess called “phenomenally” fast skis helped him catch Havlick and Packer by the last turn into the finish, where he passed the two — again on the outside — for the semifinal win in 3:04.37, edging Packer by 0.62 seconds and Havlick by 0.78 seconds.
In another close and stacked semifinal, APU teammates Reese Hanneman and Tyler Kornfield (who would go on to place second and third in the final) lunged for first and second, respectively, with 0.28 seconds separating them. Hanneman won the heat in 3:04.23.
Taking the opposite tactic of Blackhorse-von Jess, Hanneman led his semifinal from the first climb until he crossed the finish line.
“I tried to ski at the front and control [the semifinal],” Hanneman explained. “I wanted to pace myself a little bit for the final, because I knew I was going to see Dakota there and I wanted to have a good chance to throw down against him.”
Though Hanneman’s front-runner tactic differed from Blackhorse-von Jess’s, his belief in the power of patience did not.
“I classic ski really well if I can keep it relaxed,” Hanneman, 25, said. “So I focused on stretching it out and using the terrain to stride big.”
Kornfield also found staying calm during Saturday’s rounds helped him to the podium.
“I like to take it off from the back and see how the field is skiing,” Kornfield, 24, said. “I start a little slower and pick my way up as the course goes on.”
Also advancing to the final from Hanneman and Kornfield’s fast semifinal were two lucky losers, Petter Reistad (University of Colorado-Boulder), who was 0.37 seconds back in third and Niklas Persson (University of Utah), 0.52 seconds back in fourth.
Despite the stacked sprint finalists toeing the line, Blackhorse-von Jess, 29, managed to maintain his winning composure through Saturday’s final.
After the gun, he positioned himself in third behind Packer and Hanneman until the top of the last hill. Blackhorse-von Jess then maneuvered into a tuck behind Hanneman for the final downhill, and once more took the outside corner for the overall win in 3:00.45.
Hanneman finished 1.13 seconds later in second and Kornfield was 4.11 seconds behind Blackhorse-von Jess in third.
Rounding out the final was Packer in fourth (+6.02), Persson in fifth (+9.06), and Reistad in sixth (+35.21).
With his first SuperTour win of the season under his belt, Blackhorse-von Jess said he would continue tapping away at other season race goals.
“What I’d really like to do is get back in the rounds at the World Cup and have some success,” he said. “If I could bring this racing there, that’s the dream of being a ski racer.”
Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.