Continental CupRacingUS NationalsIn-Depth Race Coverage: Slow Heats with Tight Finishes in the SoHo SuperTour Classic Sprint

FasterSkierJanuary 8, 2022

By Rachel Bachman Perkins and Ben Theyerl 

Precipitation was no longer a threat for the final day of racing in Soldier Hollow on Friday, a 1.5-kilometer classic sprint offered alongside the 2022 U.S. Cross Country Championships, yet classified as SuperTour only. However, athletes still faced unseasonably warm weather as blazing sun brought temperatures into the low 50’s on course during the midday heats. 

Howling wind and rippling bibs could be heard as background noise as Adam Verrier called the event on the livestream, creating extra work for the athletes who would fight through degrading course conditions throughout the heats. This extra work showed in the times on course; with the combination of freestyle technique and significantly faster course conditions, Sunday’s sprint races featured times over a minute faster on average. A similar difference was seen even between the qualifier today at 9 a.m., when temperatures were still colder and tracks firmer, and the heats which began at 12:30 p.m. 

Warm temperatures, degrading tracks, and loose granular spray set the stage for a challenging classic sprint in Soldier Hollow. (Photo: Tobias Albrigtsen / @untraceableg)

“Sprint” seemed to perhaps be a misnomer, as times in the women’s heats climbed over five minutes and were well above four minutes in the men’s heats. Combined with a qualifier, this meant athletes who raced through the final saw between 16 and 20 minutes of racing, testing their endurance and fitness differently from the average sprint event.   

Women’s Race: Katharine Ogden on Top from Qualifier to Final

On the heels of a second place finish in yesterday’s 15k classic, Katharine Ogden (USST/SMS T2) set the bar in the qualifier, finishing in 3:51.79.

Julia Richter (U of Utah) was the second fastest qualifier (+0.77), ahead of Lauren Jortberg (BSF Pro) in third (+1.48). Both Ogden and Jortberg won their quarterfinal to advance comfortably into the semis, however, Richter took fifth in Heat 4 and did not advance.

In the first semifinal, two Craftsbury teammates Annika Landis and Caitlin Patterson led the way in the opening climb, with Ogden and Sydney Palmer-Leger (USST/U of Utah) sitting in third and fourth a few strides behind. Descending from the high point, a third Craftsbury racer, Michaela Keller-Miller, had pulled to the front, but was quickly overtaken by Patterson and Ogden as the pack headed into the final short herringbone climb before the long descent toward the stadium. Patterson and Ogden sat in low tucks, letting their fast skis glide as long as possible before transitioning to doublepole as they headed over the bridge and into the finish. 

Sydney Palmer-Leger heads out for the 10k interval start classic race during the 2022 U.S. Cross Country Championships in Soldier Hollow. (Photo: John McColgan)

Upping the power in the final 200m, Palmer-Leger accelerated to make contact with Patterson as the women crossed over the bridge, but Patterson had better glide in the quick descent from the bridge’s exit, maintaining an advantage as they headed into the final stretch. Patterson tucked in on the tails of Ogden in the left-most track to go one-two in the heat, with Palmer-Leger not quite in the fight for an automatic qualifier spot finishing 1.5 seconds behind Patterson in third. 

In the second semi, Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF) Pro Team members, Lauren Jortberg and Hannah Rudd lead the charging, looking as if their skis were gliding well as they pushed the downhills, perhaps with compromised kick as both showed signs of slipping in the final punchy climb. 

In the long glideout, Lauren Jortberg moved from the far left side of the course outside of the track into the second track, losing some time on Rudd who had stuck with the second track from the start. Nevertheless, both held a significant gap over the remainder of the heat as they doublepoled over the bridge and into the finish lanes. Rudd took the win in 4:55.52, roughly +0.7 seconds ahead of Jortberg in second. 

A few meters behind, Craftsbury teammates Margie Freed and Alexandra Lawson raced side by side to third and fourth, and as the heat proved to be seven seconds faster on average than the first, both advanced to the final.

As the women’s final headed out of the stadium and toward the first climb, Lauren Jortberg who was the first in a train of two BSF skiers, had her ski stepped on as she was switching from doublepole to a run outside the track. This caused Jortberg to stand up, spin sideways and crash in slow motion. Rudd, who was just behind, quickly moved around Jortberg without going down, soon taking the lead charging up to top of the first climb with Patterson, Freed, and Ogden close behind.

Patterson looked strong with solid kick as she chased a slipping Rudd up and over the final long climb, but it was Ogden on fast skis who quickly moved into second on the subsequent downhill.

Over the last punchy climb the women ran. Heading into the long glideout, Ogden was off the front in the left-most track, but Rudd and Patterson remained within reach a few ski lengths behind. Descending off the bridge, the top three accordioned together, all choosing the same track with Ogden confidently leading the way to the finish. Patterson, who was in third, moved into her own lane to the right, slowly gaining ground on Rudd as they headed to the line. 

Katharine Ogden leads Caitlin Patterson and Hannah Rudd to the line during the SuperTour classic sprints in Soldier Hollow. (Photo: Livestream Screenshot)

Ogden maintained her lead to stop the clock in 5:01.63, while Patterson edged out Rudd for second (+0.98) and third (+1.53), respectively. After regaining contact with the pack following her crash, Jortberg finished fourth (+6.64), with Lawson fifth (+7.11), and Freed sixth (+21.55).

“I was having a lot of fun out there today!” Ogden wrote to FasterSkier after the race. “The sprint was definitely on the long side, especially late in the day, but that did not significantly affect my strategy; I am confident in my endurance as well as my short duration power. I was really excited to have fast skis from Pat [O’Brien] and it was fun to experience the high level of sprinting in the U.S. currently. I also haven’t really done a full sprint day in a while so that was a lot of fun! It was also so impressive to see Caitlin get her fourth podium in as many races and to see Hannah Rudd have an incredible breakout performance today!”

Katharine Ogden celebrates her win in the classic sprint while Caitlin Patterson edges out Hannah Rudd for second and third. (Photo: Livestream Screenshot)

In a post-race email, Patterson reflected on her experience racing through the heats. 

“My racing today went fairly well, and it was a beautiful day to be out skiing and spectating,” wrote Patterson. “The sun-warmed snow became quite wet and broken apart for the heats, and combined with the wind, it certainly made a long sprint with plenty of herringbone and some sloppy tracks. I tried not to really think about the time duration much, it was mostly about getting from start to finish, however long it would take. All of the heats required some scrappy skiing, moving around through the slush and timing the length of the tuck. Now I’m really looking forward to some recovery after a good week!”

Patterson also spoke to the week of racing in Soldier Hollow, where she finished on the podium four times in as many races, including wins in both the 10k individual classic and the skate sprint. But she was not the only person in a green suit putting together a successful week. Yesterday, she shared the distance classic podium with teammate Adam Martin. On Tuesday, Crafstbury went 3-4-5 in the 20k skate, with Lawson and Freed leading a chase group behind Frankowski and Patterson. And today, five CGRP women raced in the semis, with three advancing to the final. 

“Everyone at Nationals is really feeling the fatigue, and myself and my team were no exception out there today. The race coughs are becoming quite terrible from so many days of racing at altitude, which is not the most fun to be coughing uncontrollably in this time of COVID. However, I was really proud of our whole team, with 5 women in the top 10! We have a really strong group, as evidenced by the performances in the distance races too; it came as no surprise to me that the women were awesome today, because training and doing intervals all summer and fall we’ve been neck-in-neck and pushing each other.”

The women of Craftsbury with coach Pepa Miloucheva. CGRP put five women into the semifinal and three into the final of the SuperTour classic sprint in Soldier Hollow. (Photo: Facebook Crafsbury Green Racing Project)

For Rudd, this was her first career SuperTour podium. Originally from Plymouth, MN, she graduated from University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) in May, 2020 before heading to Bozeman to join the newly minted BSF Pro Team. Placing in the top-10 in each of the three stages of the 2022 U.S. Cross Country Championships, Rudd has steadily worked her way up the results list, finishing 10th in Sunday’s freestyle sprint, 8th in the 20k mass start free, and 6th in the 10k interval start classic. She ends her week in Soldier Hollow on a podium high note. 

Hannah Rudd is a member of the BSF Pro Team based in Bozeman, MT. (Photo: bridgerskifoundation.org)

“Yesterday was a pretty exciting day for me!,” Rudd wrote to FasterSkier after the race. “The sprint course at Soldier Hollow this year was very challenging as it included three solid climbs. During the qualifier, the course remained very firm and fast. However, the temperature quickly began to rise throughout the day, and by the time the quarterfinals began, the sun was baking the course, the wind was blowing, and temps were nearing 50 degrees. This made the snow begin to transform and slow down and turned the tracks into mashed potatoes in some sections. 

“I woke up in the morning feeling quite tired from the past week of racing so I was not sure how the day was going to play out,” Rudd continued. “I ended up qualifying in 22nd, so it was clear that I had some work to do in the heats. I felt like I was able to gain momentum and energy throughout the day, and progressed through the quarters, and semis and onto the final. Going into the final, I knew that my team’s skis were running really well so I tried to ski big and relaxed and put myself in a good position for the last downhill. It was pretty neat to be in a final with my BSF teammate Lauren Jortberg, who is an incredible sprinter and someone that I have learned a lot about sprint racing from over the past few years. I was extremely excited to land myself a spot on the podium and think it will help me to continue building momentum and confidence for the rest of the season!” 

The podium ceremony for the women’s final following the SuperTour classic sprint in Soldier Hollow. Katharine Ogden took the win ahead of Caitlin Patterson and Hannah Rudd, with Lauren Jortberg 4th, Alexandra Lawson 5th, and Margie Freed 6th. (Photo: Facebook Craftsbury Green Racing Project)
Men’s Race: Colorado’s Magnus Bøe Upsets Schoonmaker in the Final 

In qualifying, JC Schoonmaker (USST/UAA) showed why he has been the U.S. Ski Team’s most reliable fixture of World Cup Classic heats this season, winning the qualifying with a time of 3:08.43, 6.42 seconds ahead of 2nd place Peter Holmes (Sun Valley SEF). Andreas Kirkeng (University of Denver) rounded out the top 3 (+6.57), in a field where the top 30 were all within 20 seconds of each other.

With a dominant performance in qualification, the racing throughout the day always seemed to have one eye on where Schoonmaker was in the field. In his quarterfinal, Schoonmaker looked to start conservatively from the back of the field, which led the whole heat to sit back as well. When he moved to the front at the beginning of the first climb, the race surged forward with him. No one could match him, however, and he finished with a comfortable lead, with Kjetil Bånerud (NMU) taking the 2nd semifinal spot (+1.02).

JC Schoonmaker prepares for a sunny and warm classic sprint in Soldier Hollow. (Photo: Tobias Albrigtsen / @untraceableg)

The following two quarterfinals also previewed the competitors, and their preferred way of attacking the course, that would define the semifinal and final racing later on.

The second heat set a stark contrast in pace to the previous heat, with Noel Keefe (U of Utah) and Bill Harmeyer (SMS T2) leading the field out hard from the gun. Hunter Wonders (APU) and Johnny Hagenbuch (SVSEF) were able to keep with the pair though, and ended up out-sprinting Keefe and Harmeyer going into the finish. Still, the duel between Keefe and Harmeyer led to a blistering pace for the heat overall, and they would claim the lucky loser spots for the semifinals.

Then came the 3rd quarterfinal, featuring winner of today’s most aggressive racer award (unofficially handed out here, by Fasterskier), Ian Torchia (SMS T2), who in every heat he was in today would hammer out to the front of the pack while others seemed content to let the field play out. He was joined in the heat by Magnus Bøe (U of Colo.), who made his move on the first climb, stayed out in front, and came through in first place. Torchia, meanwhile, held onto second to advance automatically to the semifinal.

The semifinals marked more an amalgamation of race strategies than anything unique. But it was an amalgamation – which requires multiple parts. And indeed, on a course known for rewarding smart-racing, and in conditions – above freezing, on man-made, wind-swept snow – that reward smart waxing as well.

Magnus Bøe and JC Schoonmaker are off the line during the 2022 U.S. Cross Country Championships freestyle sprint stage. (Photo: Tobias Albrigtsen / @untraceableg)

The first semifinal featured Schoonmaker and Bøe, both of which stayed back in the back during the early part of the course. Going into the first climb, Bøe took a look back, saw Schoonmaker and Harmeyer were sitting in fifth and sixth place, respectively, and decided to attack. He led over the top, into the downhill, and up the final climb. Schoonmaker successfully did maneuver through the pack to counter the move, and on the final climb took the outside line up, cutting in to tuck behind Bøe going into the final downhill. When they came up, Schoonmaker had used the draft to put himself out front, while Bøe held off a late-surge from Hunter Wonders (APU) to take the second qualifying spot into the finals.

The second semifinal was again led out by Ian Torchia, who was then followed by former sprint National Champion Tyler Kornfield (APU). Kornfield seemed content to sit behind Torchia until the first climb, when he put in a burst of speed and broke open the field. The smartest racer, however, may have been Karl Schulz (SVSEF), who rode Kornfield’s attack, and then drafted, to go into the final climb with speed. By the time he hit the downhill, he had a gap which would remain unclosed. Kornfield, who had gone into the downhill in second, found himself joined by Noel Keefe and Ian Torchia into the final sprint for the second spot. As it would happen, all three would make it through to the finals, with Kornfield in second, and Keefe and Torchia being rewarded for their efforts early in the race by claiming the two lucky loser spots to the final.

The A-final then looked like this: JC Schoonmaker, Magnus Bøe, Karl Schulz, Tyler Kornfield, Noel Keefe, and Ian Torchia.

JC Schoonmaker races the qualifier during the SuperTour classic sprints in Soldier Hollow, UT. (Photo: Tobias Albrigtsen / @untraceableg)

With memories of Schoonmaker’s dominating qualifier in mind, it seemed like the field orbited around him off the line. Schulz found himself in front, but not going full bore to open the field up. Even Torchia, when he did make a move to the front, didn’t seem to do so with the same force that had marked his quarter and semifinal attacks. Schoonmaker waited until the first climb to move to the front, and then the final really was on. Schultz seized on the attack, and then put an extra-push into the downhill to try and open up an unclosable gap like he had in his semifinal. It was a good move, but one that didn’t prove to have the same force as his previous attack, and going into the final climb he was joined up with Bøe and Schoonmaker. 

Then, Schoonmaker’s pace seemed to drop-off, with a few noticeable slips that progressed into a herringbone. Bøe, meanwhile, went for the herringbone from the get-go. He was the one that made contact with Schulz before the course gave way to a final downhill on the day. Schultz held a gap on the field through the glideout and over the bridge, but it proved not to be enough of a margin to feel comfortable in the final stretch. Meanwhile, Schoonmaker had fallen back to fifth.

Utilizing his dominating doublepole sprint, when they hit the final 100m it was all Bøe, who closed a significant gap to catch Schulz in the final 50 meters. Looking as if he was leaping forward with each push, Bøe switched lanes, overtaking Schultz just before the line and letting out a fist pump as he realized a SuperTour – and collegiate – victory in a time of 4:08.28. Pushing to the line, Schulz was a close second (+0.35). (Video clip here.)

Magnus Bøe overtakes Karl Schultz just before the finish of the men’s classic sprint final. (Photo: Instagram @cubuffs)

After a gap, Schoonmaker, who was fighting for the final podium spot alongside Kornfield and Torchia, crossed the line outside of the track in third place (+4.53). Kornfield was a half second back from Schoonmaker for fourth (+5.10), with Torchia fifth (+5.64), and Keefe sixth (+11.02).

After the race Bøe explained that he changed his tactics in the heats relative to Sunday’s freestyle sprint, though he joked he thought it wise not to reveal everything. 

“Today was a windy and slow-condition day,” Bøe wrote in an email. “There was headwind in the first half, and tailwind in the second half. Hence, pulling during the first half would be pointless. Furthermore, the second half, particularly for the last downhill there was very little to gain on the slipstream, due to the low speed and the ‘suctiony’ snow (cold conditions create better glide for the person coming behind on ‘heated tracks’). Therefore during all my heats I pretty much went all out from the top of the last uphill all the way to the finish, which on sunday would’ve been a suicide.”

Bøe walked through the final, including how he reacted to lead changes and adjusted his strategy when the race began to play out differently than anticipated. 

The final started off very slow, but then the positioning battle developed gradually from under the bridge. My main focus was to keep my eyes on JC, since he was clearly the favorite of the day, and I knew I would do well if I laid it up to beat him. Hence I never fell for the temptation of passing him, even though I had many chances of doing so. However, he did get tired during the last climb and tried to get others to pass him. This is when Karl took off and gained a massive gap that at first seemed too late to close. As soon as I realized that JC might not be able to catch up, I committed to catching Karl by myself. I made sure to put in a great push before the downhill straight, and did the ‘supertuck’ to gain every single inch I could. Once I started double poling towards the last bend it was just heads down and maximum effort. Was never certain I would catch Karl, I thought maybe he’d have something left at the very end. But lucky for me he didn’t and I had just enough to pull it off.”

University of Colorado’s Magnus Bøe heads out for the men’s 30k mass start free during the 2022 U.S. Cross Country Championships in Soldier Hollow. (Photo: Tobias Albrigtsen / @untraceableg)

A dual citizen of Korea and Norway, 23-year-old Bøe has already built a robust resume in international ski racing, including competing for Korea during the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang. Earlier this week, Bøe was fifth in Sunday’s freestyle sprints and finished 11th in the 15k classic. His only down race of the series happened in the 30k mass start freestyle, where he finished 43rd (+12:30.9).

This week of racing has been up and down, from a miserable 30km where I got lapped, to today’s win. It’s been a lot of fun, and not least has been helpful for my shape. Next up is the Super Tour in Sun Valley, which I am looking forward to. Think I would be able to build on top of what I gained during this week.”

For Schultz, today also marked a career-first SuperTour podium. The 23-year-old Lake Placid, NY Native raced for the University of Vermont (UVM) until graduating in May, 2020, then heading to Sun Valley. Schultz had a podium just-miss earlier this year in a freestyle sprint where he finished fourth during the opening weekend of SuperTour racing in Duluth, MN. 

I was pretty fatigued from the three races prior,” Schultz wrote after the race. “I knew there was a decent headwind on that first climb, so I decided I’d tuck in behind up and over the first climb. I figured I’d need to save my strength for the final climb and long finishing straight, so I played my cards well and pushed where I needed to, and it just worked perfectly. I’ve learned sprinting is about preserving energy for critical parts of the course, it couldn’t have gone better.”

“And I won’t lie,” Schultz continued. “The spectators and everyone cheering allowed me to find another gear, especially up the last climb. I dug deeper than I have before.”

The men’s podium of the SuperTour 1.5k classic sprint in Soldier Hollow: Magnus Bøe took the win ahead of Karl Schultz and JC Schoonmaker. (Photo: Instagram @nysefnordic)

Writing to FasterSkier after the race, Schoonmaker explained how changing conditions forced athletes to make tough decisions about skis as well as tactics. 

“It was a pretty crazy difference from this morning to the afternoon,” Schoonmaker explained. “The morning was icy and fast and the heats got really sloppy and slow.  I had amazing skis in the morning and in the heats I struggled a bit with choosing whether to go for more kick or glide. I ended up asking for less kick to free the ski up a bit and I’m still not sure what was the right call. It was just really challenging conditions.”

Schoonmaker also explained that he had made fewer adjustments to the technique he had found such success with in Sunday’s skate sprint, however, the final proved to break the mold of what has historically proven to be the recipe for Soldier Hollow sprint racing.

“For this course I tried to take a somewhat similar approach as in the skate race by respecting the draft on the last downhill and trying to be careful about the guys behind me there. In the quarterfinal I felt I was able to ski away and create a big enough gap so that I couldn’t get sucked back in by the draft. In the semifinal, I tried to stay more in the pack and use the draft for myself. The final was tricky because I was going to try and use the draft again but Karl put in a really good move on the last hill that I couldn’t match. Then I was leading the rest of the pack and I decided to push over and try to catch Karl rather than go to the back to find the draft. It ended up not working out so great, but I’m happy with the day and the tough effort.” 

We conclude a week of racing at Soldier Hollow, then, with a race that highlighted the strength and depth of the domestic circuit of U.S. skiing at present. Variable conditions on a technical course, which racers approached with tactics as diverse as the regions they hail from, indicated that this is a field that represents top-level racing. It was a testament to the development and growth of the sport in this country that a top-level racer like Schoonmaker can come off the World Cup and find a field where every heat is raced with closeness and intensity in his own country. That bodes well, and is a great place to leave the last national gathering of the US ski racing community before its best representatives look to take a crack at the Olympic Games in Beijing next month.

The spirit of the sport captured at the finish line as Alaska Winter Stars athlete Meredith Schwartz embraces her coach at the finish of the classic sprint in Soldier Hollow. (Photo: Tobias Albrigtsen / @untraceableg)

FasterSkier extends congratulations to all athletes who competed in Soldier Hollow this week, commending their efforts in a fiercely competitive field through a variety of race formats and course conditions. Also, a big thank you to Tobias Albrigtsen and John McColgan, who generously shared their photos with us throughout the week. Stayed tuned for an upcoming gallery highlighting many of the fantastic images that were not included in our reports. 

Full Results:

Qualification | Women’s Final | Men’s Final

Livestream Replay

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