Midway through the 2020 U.S. Cross-Country Championships in Houghton, Michigan, a couple of things are becoming clear. SMST2 skiers are skiing very well, with podium finishes for Ben Saxton, Alayna Sonnesyn, Sonnesyn again, Kyle Bratrud, and Ian Torchia. APU skiers are skiing well, with podiums for Hailey Swirbul, Erik Bjornsen, and Swirbul again. And 19-year-old Gus Schumacher of Alaska Winter Stars has arrived, his brace of podium finishes announcing him as likely the most dominant American junior skier since Jessie Diggins. (Honorable mention: when an 18-year-old Tyler Kornfield took the American national championship in the classic sprint at 2010 Senior Nationals in Anchorage.)
In addition to the domestic national championship titles on offer this week in Houghton, athletes racing at Senior Nationals are potentially compiling points for better rankings in the standings used to select athletes for various international competitions over the next few months: 2020 World Juniors in Oberwiesenthal, Germany; the U18/”Scando Cup” trip in, well, Scandinavia; and World Cup start rights for later in the 2019/2020 season.
This year brings the added carrot of World Cup races in the second half of March in Quebec City, Quebec; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Canmore, Alberta, and the expanded nation’s group start rights that this brings with it. (For purposes of expanded start rights, if not of larger geopolitical concerns, Canada = America in this context, that is, American skiers have expanded start rights for the Quebec City and Canmore World Cups, and Canadian skiers have an expanded start quota for the Minneapolis World Cup.)
It seems premature to dig into those standings too much today, only halfway through the week of racing. But you can find the current standings here if you would like to start running that math now yourself. Keep in mind that the bonuses provided for performances at U.S. Nationals effectively mean that podium finishes this week are worth double; that’s how Schumacher is tied for second in the overall men’s standings after sitting out all of the Period I SuperTour races while he trained and raced at home in southcentral Alaska.
Speaking of Schumacher, here are his thoughts on the course to be used for tomorrow’s 30 k classic mass start race, courtesy of Reese Brown with the Cross Country Ski Areas Association:
(Here is a direct link if the technology for the video embed stops working.)
And here’s Adrianna Proffitt, a junior skier with Alaska Nordic Racing in Eagle River, Alaska, with her thoughts on tomorrow’s junior girls 7.5 k classic race:
Here’s a map and course profile of the 7.5-kilometer course in question:
And here’s a map and course profile of the 5-kilometer course, which will be covered four times for the women’s 20 k classic mass start and twice for the junior boys 10 k race:
Brown has been doing a magisterial job of covering the races in Houghton. You can find his photo galleries of the first two days’ worth of racing here.
Tomorrow’s races start at 9:30 a.m. local time for the men (5:30 a.m. Alaska Time), 11:30 a.m. for the junior girls (7:30 a.m. Alaska Time), 1:00 p.m. for the women (9:00 a.m. Alaska Time), and 2:30 p.m. for the junior boys (10:30 a.m. Alaska Time).
Gavin Kentch is a lifelong Alaskan. He skis with the Alaska Pacific University Masters team in Anchorage, plays with his two adorable daughters, and occasionally works as a solo attorney. He has a cat named Marit. He was probably on snow this year before you were.