By Ian Tovell and Rachel Bachman Perkins
Find FasterSkier’s coverage of Friday’s freestyle sprints here.
Saturday: 10 k Interval Start Classic
After another 4+ inches of snow fell throughout the day on Friday, NENSA described the conditions for today’s 10-kilometer interval start race as a “banner day for classic skiing” on the two-lap course at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. The weekend of racing, titled the Henchey Memorial Carnival, included athletes of all levels, was described as “a celebration of the type of ski racing that [the late Bill Henchey] loved.” All three stages scored points toward the U.S. SuperTour Standings, while Friday and Saturday encompassed the UVM Carnival, and Saturday and Sunday’s distance races were part of NENSA’s Eastern Cup race series that allows developing athletes to qualify for Junior Nationals.
Results from the 10 k classic stage on Saturday established the start order and deficit for Sunday’s 7.5/10 k freestyle pursuit. The women took to the course first on Saturday at 9:45, with the men following at noon.
As the women lapped through the 5 k checkpoint, a familiar name topped the standings. Friday’s sprint winner Katharine Ogden (SMS T2) came through the halfway point in a time of 15:23.5. Rosie Frankowski (APU) was in second, 5.3 seconds back, while Alayna Sonnesyn (SMS T2) came through in third (+9.4). Second alternate for the Canadian Olympic Team, Jasmine Drolet (DAR) came through in fourth (+14.9), with Becca Rorabaugh (APU) right behind in fifth (+15.0). Ava Thurston (Mansfield Nordic Club) was 8th (+36.2), as the first U18 skier through the 5k mark.
Over the second lap, Ogden held onto her lead, claiming her second victory of the weekend in a time of 30:59.8. Though she has won all three SuperTour sprint races she has entered, this is Ogden’s first domestic distance win of the season. She was second to Caitlin Patterson (CGRP) in the 10 k classic in the U.S. Cross Country Championships in early January, then took second to Rosie Brennan in the same event the following weekend in Sun Valley.
“The race today was a lot of fun,” Ogden wrote to FasterSkier after the race. “It was a gorgeous Vermont day. Sunny, new snow, perfect grooming. Basically, a wonderful time. I love racing in Craftsbury with so many people I love. I also had some awesome skis, which is always a blast. It was especially fun to have my mom and dad and sister there! In terms of pacing and tactics, this course really has a lot of constant output, so I was mostly just focusing on skiing well and smoothly, and taking advantage of swapping between doublepole and striding to get little bits of recovery where I could. I got to ski with a little pack of EISA people (past and present) at the very end, which was fun.”
SMS T2 went one-two, as Sonneysn was able to catch and overtake Frankowski, placing second (+26.6) and third (+26.8), respectively. Yet another Sonnesyn-Frankowski matchup…
Rorabaugh crossed in fourth (+29.3), with Drolet rounding out the top-five (+34.4). Thurston was able to stay in the top-10 placing ninth (+2:18.5).
As the first collegiate racer, Drolet (DAR) topped the EISA podium with a time of 31:34.2. Yesterday’s collegiate sprint winner, Anna Bizyukova (UVM) was second (+36.1) and tied for seventh overall (+1:09.5). Erin Bianco (CBC) placed third (+58.3) and took the final spot in the top-10 overall (+1:31.7).
In the men’s race, it was between two athletes through the 5 k mark; Adam Martin (CGRP) went through with a time of 13:18.6 with Zak Ketterson (Team Birkie) only 2.1 seconds behind. Johnny Hagenbuch (SVSEF) was third (+9.3) at the half, with teammate Peter Holmes (SVSEF) in fifth (+15.0). Sitting in fourth was Finn O’Connell (BSF Pro), but his split did not register as he crossed the checkpoint.
Martin was able to hold on for the win, closing the race with the fastest second lap split. Taking the win at home, he stopped the clock at 26:56.9. Martin took second in last weekend’s 10 k mass start free in Lake Placid, and won the 15 k classic at both the U.S. Cross Country Championships in Soldier Hollow, and the second SuperTour race weekend in Cable, WI.
Yesterday’s sprint winner Ketterson held solidly onto his position, finishing in second (+12.4), while Hagenbuch came through in third (+24.4).
“I’m really psyched to win today,” Martin wrote in a post-race email. “Interval start classic races are my favorite, so racing today at Craftsbury was close to my ideal race. A big snow storm came through Thursday night into Friday, so today’s near perfect conditions are a testament to our incredible grooming crew. I started toward the end of the A-seed directly in front of Zak Ketterson. I believe Zak put some time on me in the first 3 or 4 k, but I was able to claw that back by the lap mark and narrowly increase my lead by the finish. It deserves mention in all races, but at home when I know many of the volunteers, I especially want to thank everyone who came out to help put the races on, and as always our incredibly hard working wax techs.”
O’Connell finished fourth (+29.5) in the men’s overall, with Karl Schulz of Sun Valley next to round out the top-five (+38.1). It was a strong day for the Craftsbury Green Racing Project and the Sun Valley Gold Team, as both placed three skiers in the top-10.
In the collegiate race, Finn Sweet of UVM took first in a time of 28:08.5 beating two fellow Vermonters. Peter Wolter (MID) was not far behind, coming in second (+1.7). Fellow UVM skier, Gregory Burt finished third (+3.7). These athletes were 11th, 12th, and 14th in the overall standings, respectively.
10 k Classic Results:
Sunday: 7.5/10 k Freestyle Pursuit
The final day of racing in the Henchey Memorial Carnival featured a pursuit start for the 7.5/10-kilometer freestyle races, with start order and time back from the first starter determined by the previous stage’s results. Switching the order of the previous day, the men took to the course first, with Adam Martin (CGRP) heading out 12 seconds ahead of Zak Ketterson (Team Birkie). Johnny Hagenbuch (SVSEF) left the gate 24 seconds back, with Finn O’Connell (BSF Pro) next (+29.0), and Karl Schulz (SVSEF) starting fifth (+38.0).
With live timing giving splits solely based on time of day, overall position was tough to track from afar. As racers lapped through the 5 k checkpoint, Schulz had skied the fastest first lap, coming through midway in a time of 12:29.4. Goble Reid of BSF Pro came through with the second fastest time (+9.5), just ahead of teammate O’Connell (+10.3). Reid had started 13th, 1:18 back from Martin. Sam Wood (+12.9) of Sun Valley came through with the fourth-fastest time after starting 12th overall, 1:14 back. “Retired” long-time Craftsbury Green Racing Project team member Ben Lustgarten rounded out the top-five fastest splits at the midway point (+ 13.6). Both Martin (+37.8) and Ketterson (+25.4) were outside the top-10.
As mentioned, lap splits only tell part of the story. As the overall winner of the pursuit is whoever crosses the line first, moves and countermoves at the front of the field tell the true story of the day. Wearing a target on his back, Martin was quickly chased down by yesterday’s podium athletes, Ketterson and Hagenbuch. Lapping through the stadium, all three athletes raced together, heading out what would be a tactical second half. In the hunt were O’Connell and Schulz, both of whom were also within reach of the podium.
In the final kilometer, Hagenbuch began to lead the charge toward the finish, creating a small gap to Ketterson and Martin who were evenly matched as the leaders headed into the finish lanes. Hagenbuch held his advantage through the finish to stop the clock in a time of 26:02.0, which would also be the third fastest time of day.
Dead even through the finish, Martin and Ketterson both crossed 1.2 seconds behind Hagenbuch, with second place going to Martin and third to Ketterson. O’Connell was next to the line for fourth (+3.3), with Schulz skiing the fastest time of day to take fifth (+13.0).
“It was a really fun weekend of racing in Craftsbury!” Hagenbuch wrote in a post-race email. “This was the first time I’ve competed here since I was a junior in high school in 2019, and happily the courses are much less intimidating now than they were then… The conditions for the classic race were just about as perfect as it gets; we may have raced on Blue Extra kickwax.”
Hagenbuch also provided a detailed look inside the men’s race, adding his own approach to the day, recognizing his time deficit and strengths.
“Being only 24 seconds back from Adam Martin at the start of the pursuit, I was pretty confident that I could at least catch him. I started with some intent, and I was able to reel in Zak Ketterson and Adam as Finn O’Connell and Karl Schulz reeled me in. The level of exertion dropped a lot once I caught the leaders, and I just tried to ski as smoothly as I could for the remainder of the first lap and the first half of the second five-kilometer lap. I picked up the pace at the start of the long climb from the low-point of the course – the one that includes ‘Screaming Mimi’ – and tried to hold high power through the climb. I established a decent gap – something that I didn’t necessarily expect – but had to keep pushing to hold off the chase group. Fortunately, I was able to maintain the lead and relax a little bit into the finish.”
This is Hagenbuch’s third consecutive 10 k freestyle win of the season; he also stood atop the podium after racing on his home trails in Sun Valley, then again following the 10 k free in Lake Placid two weeks later. Putting together a solid weekend in Craftsbury, the 20-year-old was also third in the sprint qualifier on Friday, which he described as “one of his bests”. A member of the 2022 Junior World Championships team, and a soon-to-be Dartmouth College student, Hagenbuch concluded with insight into what lies ahead for him over the next few months.
“I’ll stay in Craftsbury this week, and then I’ll go directly to the pre-camp for World Juniors/U23s in Norway, which will actually be my first time to the country. Post-World Juniors, I’d like to remain in Europe for whatever competitions are offered to me. I would then go directly to SuperTour Finals in Whistler. From Canada, I would leave on March 28th to miss the first day of school and start classes on Tuesday in Hanover. It will be a whirlwind, but I’m really looking forward to it!”
As only Friday and Saturday’s events were part of the UVM carnival, collegiate race numbers dwindled on Sunday. The top EISA skier for the second day in a row was Finn Sweet (UVM) with a winning time of 27:44.6. Going one-two for UVM, teammate Bjørn Westervelt was the second collegiate skier across the line (+3:04.4), while Bowdoin’s Carson Williams finished third (+3:59).
In the women’s 7.5 k pursuit, Katherine Ogden (SMS T2) was first on course with a sizable gap to the next racer. Her teammate, Alayna Sonnesyn, and APU’s Rosie Frankowski of APU Nordic headed out at 26 and 27 seconds back, respectively. Becca Rorabaugh of APU was next out of the start gate at 30 seconds back, with Alexandra Lawson of Craftsbury beginning 42 seconds back as the fifth starter.
Working to close the gap to Ogden during the first lap, Frankowski skied the fastest split through the 3.75k checkpoint with a time of 9:27.0 with Sonnesyn skiing the second fastest split (+1.9). Their work proved effective, as they caught the leader and lapped through the stadium as a group.
Rorabaugh had the third fastest 3.75 k split at the half (+14.7), while Lina Sutro (SMS T2) of SMS T2 skied the fourth fastest (+16.7) and Lawson the fifth (+15.9).
In Craftsbury’s Day 3 recap video (embedded below), produced by Mountain X Media, Frankowski described the second lap as “cat and mouse” as each of the athletes took advantage of her individual strengths to push different sections of the course. Eventually, Ogden began to fall off the pace, while Sonnesyn and Frankowski stayed tight through the final kilometer.
In the end, Sonnesyn found the advantage, heading into the finish lanes with a gap over the other two women to take the win in 19:40.5. Frankowski crossed 3.5 seconds back for second place, with Ogden taking third after a 23.5 second gap. Rorabaugh was fourth (+31.3), with Lawson fifth (+57.5). U18 standout Ava Thurston (Mansfield Nordic Club) skied her way from 9th to 6th (+1:31.8).
“I felt really good today and am excited about that!” Sonnesyn wrote to FasterSkier after the race. “It’s been a lot of racing the last 10 days and I was feeling the fatigue start to accumulate, but I’m also feeling confident in my distance skate skiing right now, so I was pretty excited to work hard out there.”
Over those ten days of racing, Sonnesyn has raced in five events and only missed the podium once in Friday’s freestyle sprint. She also won the 10 k mass start freestyle last weekend in Lake Placid.
“It was really fun to do a pursuit race today! We don’t typically do pursuits in the U.S. and the last few years I’ve only competed in World Cup pursuits where I started in the wave, so it was a unique and exciting day. I knew Rosie, Becca and I would want to work pretty hard in the beginning to chase down Katharine and that’s exactly what we did (although we never outwardly spoke about this plan with each other). We charged pretty hard from the start and once we became a full pack we started playing a little more cat and mouse on the second lap. We were all trying to conserve energy for the final few kilometers while also keeping up the pace, which made for some tactical racing.
“The last 1.5k are pretty much all uphill. From the bottom Rosie started charging again and I hung on. Prior to reaching the super steep pitch on Screaming Mimi, I put in a surge so I could take the most direct route around the corner. From there, I put my head down and gave it everything I had left up the last bit of the climb and into the finish.”
A graduate of UVM and now a member of the Stratton Mountain School T2 team, Sonnesyn has perhaps spent more of her competitive ski career based in the Northeast than near her childhood home in Plymouth, MN.
“The Midwest will always be my home but Vermont has become my second home the past eight years. It was pretty incredible hearing so many people cheering my name this weekend and definitely kept me charging up those hills. Really fun to be around such a great ski community and feel the love for the sport. Makes me appreciate this sport and all of the people in it!”
Wrapping up with her next steps, the two-time American Birkebeiner champion (2019 and 2021) has her eyes set on the Midwest’s marquee event.
“I’m currently en route back to the Midwest to spend a few weeks at home training for the Birkie. I’m excited to be back and the fever is definitely setting in!”
In the collegiate standings, UVM’s Annie McColgan took the win as the Catamounts topped both the men’s and women’s EISA podiums. McColgan’s time of 22:57.0 put her in 14th overall in the women’s standings. The second collegiate athlete was Emma Strack of St. Lawrence University (+2:20.9), with teammate Charlotte Browne in third (+6:15.5).
As Period III draws to a close, the SuperTour race calendar breaks for the remainder of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. The next race event will be the 50 k American Birkie, kicking off on February 26 in Hayward, WI.
7.5 / 10 k Freestyle Pursuit Results