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Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt (Rocky Mountain Racers) looks back as she secures her NorAm classic-sprint victory over Alysson Marshall (AWCA/NST D-team) in Friday's 1.2 k A-final at Sovereign Lake in Vernon, B.C. (Photo: CCC)

Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt (Rocky Mountain Racers) looks back as she secures her NorAm classic-sprint victory over Alysson Marshall (AWCA/NST D-team) in Friday’s 1.2 k A-final at Sovereign Lake in Vernon, B.C. (Photo: CCC)

(This article has been updated to include comments from Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt and Alysson Marshall.) 

By Evan Girard

The first sprint race of the 2014/2015 NorAm series took place Friday at Sovereign Lake with fresh, sticky snow making for challenging race conditions. The race was a classic format consisting of one 1.2-kilometer loop for the women and 1.4 k for the men on the twisty sprint loop in Vernon, British Columbia.

Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt (Rocky Mountain Racers) picked up her first NorAm of the season in the women’s 1.2 k sprint. Sickness kept her from racing the NorAm opener in Rossland, B.C., last week but could not keep her off the podium in Vernon. Bouffard-Nesbitt and Alysson Marshall (AWCA/NST D-team) pulled away from the rest of the field in the A-final, though it was Bouffard-Nesbitt, who lead the entire final heat, first reached the finish first, 1.5 seconds ahead of Marshall, to claim the victory.

When asked about racing such a strong field, Bouffard-Nesbitt wrote in an email, “I always feel like the under dog. Even if there are expectations, I like to think I’m the under dog, it helps a lot with nerves. I’m racing among a group of super strong and talented girls who I respect a lot, so I try to learn from them during the races, but I also try not to be intimated. I didn’t leave anything out there today, I just went for it!”

After back-to-back wins at last week’s NorAm opener, Marshall was a clear threat again on Friday. Marshall said she didn’t feel great in qualifying, but after the hard effort she felt strong in the heats. Still posting the second-fastest qualifying time and winning both her quarterfinal and semifinal heats, Marshall was decisive in making it to the final. She narrowly missed out on the top spot, but took her NorAm medal in three races.

“I felt confident going into the final but was slow off the start and made some tactical errors and struggled to get around people with only two tracks skied in on the course,” Marshall explained in an email. “I finally got around and made some time up in the final section but wasn’t able to catch Olivia who had a fantastic day!”

The women’s top qualifier pace was set by Andrea Dupont (RMR), who advanced to the final as the first lucky loser (after Bouffard-Nesbitt edged her for second in their semifinal). Once in the final, she raced to third, seven seconds behind her teammate.

Heidi Widmer (AWCA/NST D-team) finished fourth, Alannah Maclean (NDC Thunder Bay) was fifth, and Dahria Beatty (AWCA/U23) took sixth.

The NorAm men's 1.4 k sprint podium on Friday at Sovereign Lake: with winner Patrick Stewart-Jones (third from l), Bob Thompson in second (l), Raphaël Couturier (third from r) in third, Andy Sheilds (second from r) in fourth, Graham Nishikawa in fifth, and Scott Hill (not shown) in sixth. Thunder Bay took three of the top five in the men's race, and had Alannah Maclean in fifth in the women's race. (Photo: Alberta World Cup Academy/Twitter)

The men’s NorAm 1.4 k sprint podium on Friday at Sovereign Lake: with winner Patrick Stewart-Jones (third from l), Bob Thompson in second (l), Raphaël Couturier (third from r) in third, Andy Sheilds (second from r) in fourth, Graham Nishikawa in fifth, and Scott Hill (not shown) in sixth. Thunder Bay took three of the top five in the men’s race and had Alannah Maclean in fifth in the women’s final. (Photo: Alberta World Cup Academy/Twitter)

Patrick Stewart-Jones (AWCA) dominated the men’s 1.4 k sprint, after winning the qualifier and going undefeated in each of his heats, including the final. Having won the SuperTour classic sprint two weeks ago in Bozeman, Mont., Friday looked like a repeat performance.

“My plan for the day was to try and put everything into the qualifier,” Stewart-Jones explained in an email. “I’ve been working a lot on my prologues this year because it’s been a weakness in the past and it’s great to see it start to pay off.”

Even though Stewart-Jones felt strong he didn’t feel confident in the heats. Difficult conditions made passing difficult and risky, and his strategy to stay in either first or second during the heats paid off with wining performance.

Second across the line in the men’s final, 1.01 seconds back, was Bob Thompson (NDC Thunder Bay) with a close battle for the second step on the podium. He edged Raphaël Couturier (CNEPH/U23) by 0.75 seconds for second, after advancing to the final as a lucky loser.

Couturier posted the third-fastest qualifying time and decisive wins in his quarterfinal and semifinal on his way to third overall, nine-hundredths of a second ahead of Andy Shields (NDC Thunder Bay) in fourth. Graham Nishikawa (Para-Nordic Team) placed fifth and Scott Hill (NDC Thunder Bay) was sixth.

ResultsBracket results

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Kris Freeman after winning Saturday's 11 k classic individual start at the NorAm opener in Rossland, B.C. (Photo: Fresh Cafe & apres)

Kris Freeman after winning Saturday’s 11 k classic individual start at the NorAm opener in Rossland, B.C. (Photo: Fresh Cafe & apres/Facebook)

By Evan Girard

(Note: This article has been updated to include comments from Kris Freeman, Alysson Marshall and Annah Hanthorn.)

Day 2 of classic distance racing took place Sunday at the NorAm opener in Rossland, British Columbia. This time, however, the men raced a 15-kilometer individual start and the women raced 11 k.

Race organizers opted to not groom the course for Sunday, which ultimately paid off, resulting in hard-packed snow conditions for skiers but slightly icy corners on the largest downhill of the 5 k loop.

Saturday’s 11 k classic winner Kris Freeman (Team Freebird) maintained his top position, winning by nearly 30 seconds in 31:56.5. The former U.S. Ski Team member hoped his momentum would help him in the 15 k, and he remained the lone podium returner after Saturday’s individual start.

Both days I paced the races very well,” Freeman wrote in an email. “All of my laps were within 2 seconds of each other. My plan both days was simple and did not change. Go out fast and don’t fade.”

He explained the 5 k course used Sunday was hillier than Saturday’s 3.75 k course.

“The tracks were so firm on Sunday that I chose to go with bomber kick to get up some of the glare ice tracks,” Freeman added.

After a strong final lap, Matt Gelso of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) Gold Team took second, 29.7 seconds back. He clocked the second-fastest last lap, 0.7 seconds behind Freeman.

“I went out too hard yesterday and faded at the end pretty bad, but today I felt good at the end and finished strong,” Gelso wrote in an email after placing sixth on Saturday. “Thanks to the Sun Valley wax techs, I had very good skis both days so I had the opportunities to be in there both days.”

The third American on the podium, Benjamin Lustgarten, Gelso’s teammate, was 51 seconds back in third.

Michael Somppi (Alberta World Cup Academy) was the top Canadian in fourth, 1 second off the podium. Saturday’s runner-up Welly Ramsey, of the Maine Winter Sports Center, rounded out the top five (+1:06).

After the men’s race, the women’s 11 k classic was modified from two laps of the same 5 k course to three laps of 3.75 k loop.

***

Alysson Marshall (AWCA) atop the podium on Saturday after winning the first of two classic distance races at the NorAm opener in Rossland, B.C. She went on to win Sunday's 11 k classic as well. (Photo: Fresh Cafe & apres/Facebook)

Alysson Marshall (second from r) atop the podium on Saturday after winning the first of two classic distance races at the NorAm opener in Rossland, B.C. She went on to win Sunday’s 11 k classic as well. (Photo: Fresh Cafe & apres/Facebook)

Alysson Marshall (AWCA) continued to dominate after early season SuperTour success with her second classic-distance victory in two days.

“My goal for December has been to get as much solid racing in as I can and to treat each race as an opportunity to go hard and push myself,” Marshall wrote in an email after Saturday’s win.

“Sunday felt like a repeat of Saturday: same course but one extra lap!” she wrote after Sunday’s race. “I went into both days wanting to push myself and maximize my speed on all the different sections. I was worried that I had started too hard and my middle and last laps were slower but luckily I was able to hang on to the finish.”

She topped Sunday’s 11 k classic in 32 minutes even, 21.5 seconds ahead of Annah Hanthorn in second.

A junior skier with the Yukon Territory Ski Team, Hanthorn proved with her second-straight podium of the weekend that despite being younger than her competition, she came prepared to ski with the top women. She claimed second of 42 women and posted the fastest lap of the field.

“I definitely was surprised by Saturday, so going into Sunday I was a little more nervous,” Hanthorn wrote. “But my coach Alain [Masson] is so good… he reminds me to have fun! I so appreciate that.”

The icy corners made her most uneasy, especially after Hanthorn crashed with a teammate while warming up.

“I was definitly thinking about skiing relaxed and to not kill myself on the first lap but to be more in control of my tempo in the race,” she wrote. “I hoped to race similar to the previous race. I asked Alain if there was anything different about a 3 loop to a 2 loop and he said ‘well you can’t slow down,’ meaning I can’t ski slower because it’s longer.”

The sole American female to land on the NorAm podium in third (+33.4), Jennie Bender, of the Bridger Ski Foundation, was pleased to be racing distance well again. Like many racers, Bender was pleasantly surprised with the conditions on Sunday.

“It’s a fast course, so you gotta drop the hammer all around,” she wrote in an email. “I decided not to pace, and just go from the start and see how I held up.”

Regardless of a small crash, Bender maintained third.

Results: Men | Women

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By Gerry Furseth

(Note: This article has been updated to include comments from women’s runner-up Andrea Dupont.)

After several days of warm rain, the first NorAm of the 2014/2015 season was held under blue skies and below-freezing conditions on Saturday at Black Jack Ski Club in Rossland, British Columbia.

U.S. Olympian Kris Freeman (Team Freebird) won the men’s 11-kilometer classic individual start in 26:45.9, with almost perfectly even lap times, the last and slowest lap only two seconds behind the first and fastest.

“I caught a stomach virus in West Yellowstone which put me on my heels a bit,” Freeman wrote in an email. “My strength has been coming back and I felt great today.”

Another American, Welly Ramsey of the Maine Winter Sports Center took second place, 49.4 seconds behind Freeman, after moving up from sixth at the end of the second lap.

“I didn’t have much of a plan,” Ramsey wrote in an email, “but today was my [24th] birthday and I certainly think being a year older and smarter helped.”

The top Canadian, Michael Somppi of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) grabbed the final podium spot, 1.6 seconds out of second and 7 seconds ahead of Ben Lustgarten of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) Gold Team.

“I had a slow start to the season in the Super Tour races the past two weekends so it felt good to have better energy today and perform more at the level I know I’m capable of,” Somppi wrote.

Brian Gregg (Team Gregg/Madshus) rounded out the top-five U.S. domination in fifth, 15 seconds off the podium after crashing on the third lap.

***

In the women’s 7.5 k classic, Alysson Marshall (AWCA) continued her strong start to the season (after a SuperTour sprint victory in West Yellowstone and fifth-place finish at the second SuperTour stop in Bozeman, Mont.) with a distance win in 21:02.7.

“My plan was to push hard from the start and try to maintain that speed,” she wrote after the race. Her second lap was slightly slower, but still second fastest.

Like most of the athletes, Marshall was impressed with the course.

“Conditions today were much better than I expected,” she wrote. “The organizers and groomers did an amazing job making the race happen with tough conditions and the tracks today were great!”

Andrea Dupont (Rocky Mountain Racers) held on for second, 12.2 seconds behind Marshall after a slower second lap.

“My season has gotten off to a slow start,” Dupont explained in an email. “I have struggled a bit with health in the early season so this is only my second race start of the season. I was pretty happy with today. I am typically more of a sprinter, so for me to have a strong distance result early in the year is a good sign.
“I still feel like I am building back into training so I am hoping my top end fitness will return,” she added. “My goals over the next few races is to continue to build in my distance results and to have a strong sprint. “

Junior racer Annah Hanthorn (Yukon Territory Ski Team) used the fastest final lap to capture third, 13.8 seconds after Marshall and 1.6 seconds behind Dupont.

In her first year as a senior, Dahria Beatty (AWCA) took fourth ahead of junior Maya MacIsaac-Jones (RMR).

Jennie Bender of the Bridger Ski Foundation was the top U.S. woman in seventh, 20.5 seconds behind Marshall.

“I felt pretty solid, and am feeling pumped yet riled that I was only two seconds from 4th place,” she wrote in an email.

Complete results: Men | Women

Video

Photos

Despite the challenges of working at an alternate venue without electrical power, you can follow Sunday’s race live on the internet.

 

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After learning about the sudden passing of Lars Spurkland, who died Friday morning after suffering an aneurysm on Wednesday, the Anchorage ski community instantly rallied and plans to hold a race at Service High on Saturday to honor him.

Spurkland, 39, was the president of the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage (NSAA) and former head ski coach at East High. A 1993 graduate of Dimond High, he competed in orienteering and ski jumping as kid, according to the Alaska Dispatch News.

His friend Jerry Ross told the ADN he died of a ruptured aneurysm that caused cranial hemorrhaging.

“The most I can say about him is besides being a big guy he was a huge personality, always smiling,” said Anson Moxness, who worked for Spurkland at Spurkland Engineering and with him as a volunteer at NSSA, to the ADN. Spurkland was 6-foot-7.

“He was more than just my boss. He was a great friend.”

Read the complete story here.

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Last week, a low-snow situation in Rossland, British Columbia, led race organizers to relocate the first NorAm of the season up to the biathlon trailhead about 7 kilometers north of and about 250 meters higher than the Black Jack trails.

The races start this Saturday with what was originally scheduled to be freestyle sprints. Organizers announced Friday that the races would be 5/10 k classic interval starts for open categories.

With the rain last night and over the last few days the course preparation has been very challenging.  We are unable to get the sprint course to be safe and so have cancelled the Sprint race Saturday,” an update on the Black Jack Ski Club website read.

“We have also taken out one of the big downhills on the distance courses in the interest of skier safety.  Crews have been shoveling all morning and we feel that with the course change, we are able to race both Saturday and Sunday.

“Saturday will be a shorter distance race 10/5km for Open categories.  Distances will remain the same for other categories,” the website stated. “Sunday’s schedule remains unchanged at this time.”

As scheduled, Sunday is more of the same: with 10/15 k classic interval starts.

Saturday’s races start at 11 a.m. PST.

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(Press release)

No Snow at Whistler Olympic Park Forces NorAm Move to Sovereign Lake in Vernon and an Adjustment to the Competition Schedule

Consistently warm wet weather with little relief in the forecast has forced the organizers of the Haywood NorAm, scheduled for Whistler Olympic Park just before Christmas, to relocate the races to Sovereign Lake Nordic in Vernon.  The NorAm and World Jr/U23 Trials will now be held on the Sovereign Lake trails on Friday, December 19 (Buff Sprints, Free Technique) and Saturday, December 20 (Interval Start Free Technique).

“We delayed this decision for as long as possible but the weather just wasn’t getting any cooler,” stated a disappointed Sherryl Yeager, Chief of Competition on Tuesday.  “Racers have to change accommodation and travel arrangements, so a decision had to be made.  Many of my committee have plans to support the new OC at Sovereign and we are grateful to Sharon Clarke and her crew for taking on the race on such short notice,” continued Yeager.  Adjustments to race fees will be provided to athletes who are registered for the Whistler event but unable to travel to Vernon.

The new competition schedule now includes:

Thursday, December 18 – PM – Team Captains Meetings (tbc)

Friday, December 19 – Buff Sprints (free technique)

Saturday, December 20 – Interval start (free technique)

The races have been rescheduled for Friday and Saturday in order to permit teams with previous flight arrangements out of Vancouver on Sunday to make their travel connections.  “With the holiday season upon us and few options for alternate travel arrangements we decided to go with the unusual move to change the race days,” commented Dave Dyer, CCC Race Director.

More detailed information on the new site and an updated Race Package will be available at http://www.sovereignlake.com/.

The 11th edition of the Haywood NorAm Race Series is scheduled to get underway this weekend, Dec 13 & 14, 2014 in Rossland, BC.

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With the end of another exciting weekend of SuperTour racing in Bozeman, Mont. comes a new FasterSkier SuperTour Power Ranking that exhibits little change from last week’s list. However there’s a new men’s leader in Matt Gelso, and the women are loosing ground to a strong Rosie Brennan.

Notes regarding this week’s ranking:

- If you aren’t talking about Rosie Brennan you should be. She’s won the past three races in convincing form and doesn’t show any signs of stopping. She has a 36-point lead in the points list that will be hard for her competitors to erase. However, with double points on the line at the US Cross Country Championships in Houghton, Michigan, a spot on the World Cup in period two is not a given for Brennan.

- Last week we said Caitlin Gregg made a smart move resting before racing the Lillehammer World Cup mini tour, as she had a better chance of earning World Cup points in disciplines that favor her strengths. Long story short, it didn’t happen. However, it didn’t happen for many usually-strong US women either.

- Last week we noted the fact that all three men of the Sun Valley Gold Team were in the Power Rankings. They’ve further solidified their positions after Bozeman, with Matt Gelso taking over the top spot and teammate Miles Havlick just behind in second.

- Like Caitlin Gregg, Reese Hanneman wasn’t able to do much in the World Cup mini tour in Lillehammer, Norway. If he can improve in Davos this weekend, he’ll be able to maintain his spot in the rankings.

Power Rankings:

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 7.59.04 PM

Current SuperTour Points:

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 6.37.30 PM- Lander Karath, Associate Editor

 

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BOZEMAN, Mont. — After winning the first SuperTour distance race of the season exactly a week ago in West Yellowstone, Mont., Alaska Pacific University (APU) skier Rosie Brennan unofficially pulled out a classic-sprint victory over Jennie Bender (Bridger Ski Foundation) in the women’s final at Bohart Ranch on Saturday, the first day of the Bozeman SuperTour. 

Temperatures will well above freezing for the sprint, reaching near 40 degrees Fahrenheit for the afternoon heats and making for slushy conditions.

Caitlin Patterson (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) made the podium in third, and  Becca Rorabaugh (APU) initially finished fourth before being relegated to last in the final for reasons that were not immediately clear.

Natalia Naryshkina (CXC Team) ultimately placed fourth, last week’s skate-sprint winner Canadian Alysson Marshall (National Development Team/Alberta World Cup Academy) took fifth, and Rorabaugh was listed as sixth.

Official results were not immediately available.

In the men’s race, another Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) skier, Patrick Stewart-Jones edged Ben Saxton, of the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) T2 Team and U.S. Ski Team, by 0.11 seconds with a winning time of 3:26.22.

Matt Gelso (Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Gold Team) notched his second SuperTour podium in third (+1.37), and Kris Freeman (Team Freebird) was fourth (+2.58).  Last week’s sprint winner, Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess placed fifth (+7.26) and Rune Malo Ødegård (University of Colorado) was sixth (+23.11).

Live timing

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The first weekend of SuperTour racing has come and gone, and with it has emerged new favorites and a new SuperTour Power Ranking. 

Notes regarding this week’s ranking:

  • When creating the SuperTour Power Ranking we’re giving special weight to distance results. That’s not to say that sprinting doesn’t matter – without strong sprinting results, it’s very hard to earn starting spots in on the World Cup or win the overall SuperTour title. However, with World Championship selection to consider, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the U.S. already has strong sprinters racing internationally that will likely qualify through ranking in the top 50 at the World Cup. This is not as true for American distance skiers, especially for the men.
  • Rosie Brennan looked unstoppable on Saturday.
  • Last week we left Matt Gelso off the the list. It was a HUGE mistake, as he won the 15 k and showed he could sprint too. While it remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to keep up the momentum, he will definitely be one to watch.
  • Speaking of Gelso, the Sun Valley Gold Team has all three of its men in our ranking. Gelso, Havlick, and Lustgarten look to be a trio of fast men especially when it comes to distance races.
  • The biggest move this week comes from Ben Saxton. While he underperformed in the sprint rounds, he demonstrated that he could go the distance Saturday, finishing only several seconds behind teammate and strong distance skier, Paddy Caldwell.
  • How did Caitlin Gregg remain so high on the list without racing in Europe this weekend? Because she’s smart and sticking to what she does best. We’ll find out if it pays off when she races in Lillehammer next weekend.

The only way I will make World Championships is if I score World Cup points in this first period. So I am really being careful with my energy and race decisions. I am happy to report that my decision not to race didn’t take a start spot from anyone else, just let me get in another solid day of training before next weekend!” she wrote to FasterSkier regarding her decision to sit out Sunday’s World Cup 10 k classic in Kuusamo, Finland.

  • Finally, you’ll notice that skiers who do not plan to race a full SuperTour/U.S. Nationals schedule are not on the list (college skiers, Canadians, etc.). While these skiers are important for a variety of reasons, they may not make the SuperTour Power Ranking list because they are either not eligible for the racing benefits of the SuperTour, like World Cup starting spots and possible World Championship selection, or because they are focusing on other races this season, such as NCAA qualifiers.

Rankings:

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 5.13.30 PM

Top-ten SuperTour points: 

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 12.11.09 PM

Note: A previous post erroneously used the World Cup points system when adding up SuperTour points. A revised list using the correct methodology is posted above. 

Lander Karath, Associate Editor

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WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont. — Canadian Heidi Widmer of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and Canadian national team came out firing in the first official race of the season with the top women’s qualifying time of 2:55 in the 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint on Friday at the U.S. SuperTour opener.

The top-qualifying American, Annie Pokorny (Stratton Mountain School T2 Team) ranked second just 1 second back, and Rosie Brennan (Alaska Pacific University) advanced in third, 2 seconds after Widmer.

The top 30 moved on to the heats early Friday afternoon. Check Twitter for updates.

Top 10: 

1. Heidi Widmer (AWCA/CNST)

2. Annie Pokorny (SMST2)

3. Rosie Brennan (APU)

4. Alysson Marshall (AWCA/CNST)

5. Caitlin Patterson (CGRP)

6. Eva Severrus (Slovenia/University of New Mexico)

7. Chelsea Holmes (APU)

8. Anika Miller (Montana State University)

9. Petra Hyncicova (Czech Republic)

10. Anne Hart (SMST2)

Other notables:

12. Becca Rorabaugh (APU)

13. Mary Rose (Sun Valley SEF Gold Team)

14. Erika Flowers (SMST2)

19. Jennie Bender (Bridger Ski Foundation)

2014 West Yellowstone SuperTour freestyle sprint heats

 

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