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CRAFTSBURY, Vt. — The cold spell that hit Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom couldn’t stop competitors from heating up the sprint course in the opening day of the Feb. 6-8 Craftsbury SuperTour. Skiing 1.4 and 1.6-kilometer loops at the Craftsbury Outdoors Center, the country’s best – in addition to the EISA college circuit – gave it their all in the freestyle event.
In the men’s 1.6 k sprint, Kris Freeman (Freebird) skied a tactical race to overcome Alaska Pacific University’s Reese Hanneman in the closing meters and win the final. Coming into the stadium he trailed Hanneman, but accelerated to ski even with the APU athlete. When they reached the line the two lunged, with Freeman barely besting his competitor. With a time of 2:59.07 Freeman bested Hanneman by 0.06 seconds to take the win.
Freeman, who trailed the pack after the start of both the final and semifinal, said that despite a slow begging he was able to maneuver his way to the front of the pack.
“I have a horrible start in skate sprints. The douple-pole only transition into skate is particularly difficult for me. I had to fight really hard to get into positioning,” he said in a post-race interview. “Reese [Hanneman] is really good at taking up two lanes and so he managed to keep me behind him the whole time. Coming in the finish, in the semi and the final, it was me and him. He got me in the semi an I got him in the final.”
After the Craftsbury SuperTour weekend Freeman is traveling to Falun, Sweden to compete in the 2015 World Championships. He explained that his preparations are going well before the eighth World Championships of his career.
“I’ve been feeling really good and it’s fun to feel good. My body feels good and I’m recovering in races. That’s all I can ask for,” he added.
In third was Eric Packer (APU) who skied in sixth for much of the race before surging through the pack on the final hill. He trailed Freeman’s time by 2.03. Behind Packer in fourth and fifth were a pair of University of Vermont skiers – Jørgen Grav (+2.72) and Cole Morgan (+2.84), who were the first college skiers. Friday’s race also served as the opening day of the Dartmouth Carnival, and the two UVM skier led their team to a convincing lead in the men’s nordic portion of the event. Rounding out the heat was Alexis Turgeon (CNEPH) who trailed by 9.44 seconds.
The women’s 1.4 k sprint was equally exciting, with Bridger Ski Foundation’s Jennie Bender claiming victory by a large margin. Bender crossed the line with a time of 3:01.29, outlasting a late charge by Erika Flowers of Stratton Mountain School T2.
Bender almost missed a shot at the podium after a fall in the semifinal, but recovered to place first in the heat.
“Sometime breaking stuff and falling takes you out and sometime it gives you a little bit of extra fire,” she said of the fall in the semifinal. “It fired me up so I was able to catch back up. I was nervous that I would be lost in that shuffle but it ended up working out in my favor.”
Bender entered the final worried that the energy she spent to advance from the semifinal would hinder her performance in the final. However, she skied the heat with a cool head and a sound plan that ultimately earned her the victory.
“There was a group of four of us jockeying for a position the whole way up. I knew the most important part was staying with the pack and saving it for the finish,” she said of the final.
Behind Bender was Flowers, who trailed the BSF skier by 1.90 seconds. Claiming the final spot on the podium was Middlebury’s Heather Mooney who was the first college skier in Friday’s competition and finished 4.25 seconds behind Bender. She, along with teammate and ninth-place finisher Kelsey Phinney, led the Middlebury team to win the women’s nordic portion of the day’s Dartmouth Carnival.
Rounding out the final were Becca Rorabaugh (+4.95) of APU, Chelsea Holmes (+8.26) of APU, and Kaitlynn Miller (+9.81) of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project.
SuperTour and EISA competition continues tomorrow with a 10 k freestyle individual start for both the men and women at 10:30 and 12:00 EST. Saturday also marks the addition of Eastern Cup racing, which, in addition to the 10 k, will include a 5 k for both junior boys and girls that begins at 9:30.