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I just got back to Alaska from Park City, Utah after almost three weeks spent down there for U.S. Nationals. I met my family in Park City on Christmas Eve, and spent a really fun and relaxing holiday season there with them. It was actually quite nice to avoid all of the craziness and holiday party obligations that usually crop up in alarming amounts while at home around that time.

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The weather was amazing, and we enjoy some nice family skis together. Of course, there are those holiday traditions that would make it seem weird if they were absent, so of course we tried to give it some sort of tradition. My parents actually brought our trusty, ancient lefse pan down from home, so that we could partake in our usual family tradition of making lefse. Lefse is a traditional Scandanavian treat, and our process usually goes like this; mom and dad work the pan and the dough, churning out lots of the thin, flaky pancakes, while Logan and I lather on the butter and heap on the brown sugar, folding them over and over again and repeating the process.

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After a pretty chill week, all of the athletes and teams showed up, and it started to feel more like getting ready for a ski event. I moved in my with my APU team, and we had a nice house with one of the nicest morning views I have ever seen in a rental:

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The organizers at Soldier Hollow did an amazing job of blowing tons of snow, just in case, and spreading it into some really awesome courses. The race courses were, without a doubt, the most difficult I have ever skied on in the U.S. The climbs were massive and long, and coupled with the altitude of nearly 6000ft, made for brutally hard races.

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The first race was the 15k classic, individual start. While I have traditionally had better results as a sprinter, I have been working very, very hard on improving my distance skiing over the past training year. So I actually had been looking forward to this race with more excitement than usual, and I knew that I had what it took to do well, even on such a hard course.

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Because of the incredibly big climbs, and the altitude, and that it was an individual start, I had a pretty distinct game plan for the race. I told myself that I wouldn’t go over Level 3 (threshold) for the first lap, and then on the second lap I would force myself to stay in Level 3 on all of the climbs, and then the last lap would be pure pain and whatever I had left. So it was to my amazement that I was getting incredibly good splits on lap one; I was leading, I was tied for the podium, etc… When you hear things like this while consciously trying to ski a very conservative pace, it is a little weird. At first I was like “what!? How am I leading?”. But as it went on and the good splits continued, I knew I would be fighting for the win.

photo - Bert Boyer

photo – Bert Boyer

(Bert Boyer has some awesome pics of nearly everyone who raced at Nationals, and he is selling them with all the money going to NNF. Super cool, thanks Bert! Check them out HERE)

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It ended up going well; I finished second behind my friend and team-mate Erik Bjornsen, who was also the National Champion in last year’s 15k, and ahead of longtime U.S. Ski Team member and mulit-Olympian Kris Freeman, who has been 4th at World Championships twice in this exact event. I was so stoked!! It was a little crazy to think back almost 15 years, to remember Kris signing a poster for little ten year old me, barely tall enough to see over the table he was sitting behind.

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On the podium with Erik and Kris:

photo -

photo – USSA

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The next day was the skate sprint. I had a pretty decent qualifier, considering I lost my pole right out of the start and had to spend a few seconds getting it back on. From the first heat, I was feeling good, and I just tried to relax and see what I could do. Trying to get after it on the main climb in the qualifier:

photo - Toko

photo – Toko

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The heats went well, besides being a little bit nerve wracking after the quarters to wait to be lucky loser. It was actually really sweet, because my brother Logan and I were both in the same quarter, and we were both luck losers from that heat because our heat was so fast, so it was fun to move on together. We would go on to move on all the way to the A final together.

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As with all mens sprint races, there was some contact and some carnage. Torin and Dakota tangled here in our semifinal, which resulted in Dakota going down. It was definitely a bummer, but part of the game when the level gets high:

photo - USSA

photo – USSA

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And then this bizarre frame, where I can only assume Dakota is trying to correct from his tangle, and unfortunately wasnt able to pull out of it. I am at a loss as to how there arent any other skiers visible in frame, because we were all within a few feet of each other:

photo - USSA

photo – USSA

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One of the highlights of the week was racing the A final with my brother. It was so fun to hear the announcer try to figure out what was going on when there kept being two “Hanneman”s in the same heat. I was incredibly proud of Logan getting 5th at nationals, as well as his really good distance results, considering that he had a broken back 4 months ago. He is so, so talented, and had to work very hard to get back to this point after that injury; I know that he is capable of some absolutely world class results down the road. It was fun to share the day with him:

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It was also so sick to see Ben Saxton skiing so fast. Ben is one of those young guys that is just a monster talent, and we had fun racing together in Europe last year. Ben has really put his nose to the grindstone over this past year with training, and it is obvious. He is totally stepping up his game, and will certainly be a threat for many years to come. My second podium of the week:

photo - Toko

photo – Toko

Because the first two races went really well, I decided to skip the 30k skate in order to better prepare myself for the classic sprint at the end of the week. I knew I was in good form, and figured I could do pretty well in the 30. I have been working on my distance skiing, and my skating, a lot. But I also knew I was capable of a big result in the classic sprint, so that’s where I put my cards.

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Watching the 30k was one of the coolest spectating days I have had here in the U.S. 6 laps of that Olympic 5k course, some slowish, new snow, and a hungry and aggressive mens pack all added up to a really epic race. I was so, so happy to see my friend, and ever the crowd favorite Sylvan Ellefson ski a commanding, yet only 2 second win. How was is commanding if it was only 2 seconds, you ask? He broke away solo with over 10k to go, and held off the surging pack to the line.

photo - USSA

photo – USSA

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It was really cool to see him pull it off with so many of his family and fans there cheering. I couldn’t pass up posting this awesome shot of his grandpa congratulating him on just become a National Champion:

photo - USSA

photo – USSA

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Because I had a few days between races, I had to make sure to keep my body sharp. That meant some hard ski workouts, and some running in the afternoons. That mean lots of time to explore the old ranchs of the Heber Valley:

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The classic sprint was the last event of Nationals, and I knew it was a chance to really make a good case for myself. It is certainly quite the tightrope to walk; trying to be intense and focused enough to get the job done, while still staying mentally relaxed enough to execute well. We woke up that morning to a little bit of fresh snow, but the tracks were really well groomed and firm, and the new snow just packed right down.

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The course was longer and harder than the skate sprint course. This time, we went all of the way to the very top of Hermod’s Hill, which is by far the biggest climb I have ever seen in a sprint course. This made it a very, very difficult course, on par with something at the Olympics or World Championships. In qualifying, I tried to go out very hard on the first double pole section, and then pace myself up the first half of the climb before cranking it over top, and then of course taking it home as fast as possible. I felt pretty good, and ended up winning my first ever U.S. Nationals qualifier, which was a good sign for the rest of the day.

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In the heats, I was able to ski off of the front of the pack while keeping a relatively conservative pace, which kept giving me more and more confidence. I was excited, because I knew that if I could turn the screws in the final, that probably very few of the guys would be able to match the pace.

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Based on my observations of how people were skiing in the heats, I knew that my team-mate and winner of the 15k classic Erik Bjornsen would be skiing fast in the final. Based on the course, and the guys who were in the A final, I figured that my best tactic would be to push the pace HARD from the gun, and just try to blow it wide open. So that’s what I did… It ended up working well, and I couldn’t believe that I had won my first U.S. National Championship!!

photo - USSA

photo – USSA

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Erik and I breaking away at the base of the big climb:

photo - Toko

photo – Toko

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Here is a video of the finals from that day. The Mens A Final starts at 1:37 (the order of heats in the video is Mens B Final, Womens B Final, Mens A Final, Womens A Final):

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I was stunned that I had actually put it all together. I ran over to my coach Erik Flora, and gave him what I believe is the first ever hug between us (yeah, he and I were that stoked!!). He has helped me so, so much over the last 4 years to get to this point, and I owe him everything. It was so fun to stand on top of the U.S. Nationals podium!!

photo - SkiTrax

photo – SkiTrax

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There were a couple of cool articles, with some nice pictures,  about my first National Championship. It was really cool to have Fasterskier, SkiTrax, and USSA there covering the event.

Fasterskier: “Hanneman Wins Classic Sprint at U.S. Nationals; …”

USSA Press Release: “Hanneman Takes First Ever U.S. Title”

SkiTrax:  “Hanneman and Narvshikina Triumph in 1.6km CL…”

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After putting together such a great, consistent week of racing, I was really content. I have never finished on the podium at the U.S. Nationals before; this year, I was on the podium in every race I entered (3). I won my first Nationals Championship, which is a great milestone for me. Everyone I talked to was really stoked and people were pretty sure I would be going to the Olympics.

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While I was not surprised to not get named to the Olympic team, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a teeny bit disappointed. I am mostly bummed that the US Team chose not to fill the quota that they were allowed to bring, as I think it would have been good for the future and the excitement of our sport. I think it would be good for them to show the Nordic community that there is hope for someone who has recently started skiing at a world class level, although maybe that person hasn’t been on the small U.S. Ski Team in the past. I am not even necessarily advocating for myself, but friends of mine like Sylvan Ellefson, Caitlin Gregg, and Dakota Blackhorse-Von-Jess who have shown us this year that they are worthy of that team.

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But it is what it is. Those of us who got very close to making the team, but didn’t, must move on and re-evaluate what we are doing. There is a great short piece written by former U.S. Ski Team head coach Pete Vordenberg about athletes being “on the bubble” and not making the team. I wish I had read this when I was a junior and was so disappointed about not making Junior Nationals, World Juniors, or whatever it was at the time. Read Pete’s article HERE.

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I am so thankful to everyone that has helped to get me to this point; from chubby little punk kid at Fairbanks Junior Nordics who really only wanted to go ski in the Terrain Garden, to a U.S. National Champion. I cannot believe it. I owe so much to so many people, and I cant begin to thank them all adequately. My irreplaceable coach Erik Flora; everyone at Alaska Pacific University for supporting our incredible team and everyone at the APU Nordic Ski Center who works so hard. My amazing personal sponsors for helping me get to these races, and the training camps necessary to compete at this level: The Alaska Community Foundation; Girdwood 2020; PDC Engineers; The Alaska Club; Eye Clinic of Fairbanks; The Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Center of Alaska. My equipment sponsors; Fischer, WoodskiSwix, Oakley, Toko, 2XU, Suunto, and E’Klaar.

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I am very excited though; I am currently leading the SuperTour overall standings, and have a mathematical lock on the Sprint standings, so I will be getting to race a bunch of World Cups this March. I am very stoked for this opportunity, and I am currently in Alaska training and preparing for this next block of my competition season.

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Thanks for reading! I will try to blog more frequently during the next portion of my season!

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One Response to “US Nationals; My first National Title and those Olympics”

  1. zimborst Says:

    Great racing at Nationals, Reese! I too was bummed that the US Ski Team didn’t take 17, and you should have been one of those, along with Caitlin Gregg, Sylvan or Matt Liebsch. You’ll have fun racing in the spring in Scandinavia, and you can show them the shortsightedness of their choice!