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U.S. Cross Country Team Named for 2015 World Championships

The USST announced its much anticipated cross country selections for the 2015 FIS Nordic World Championships Monday Jan. 26th. Headlining the large team of 16 athletes are Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins, the defending 2013 World Champions in the team sprint. Eight skiers prequalified before Monday’s announcement with eight more added after further selection criteria were taken into account.

The 2015 team demonstrates a mix of 12 previous World Championships competitors and four newcomers, the youngest of which is Northern Michigan University senior Kyle Bratrud.

See the full team roster below. This story is developing…

2015 U.S. World Championship Cross Country Team
(Name, Hometown, Birthdate, USSA Club, Past Championships)

Men

  • Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess, Bend, OR, 3/18/86, Bend Endurance Academy
  • Kyle Bratrud, Eden Prairie, MN, 2/9/93, Northern Michigan University Ski Team
  • Erik Bjornsen, Winthrop, WA, 7/14/91, Alaska Pacific University Nordic (2013)
  • Matt Gelso, Truckee, CA, 7/18/88, Sun Valley Ski Education Founation Olympic Development Team
  • Simi Hamilton, Aspen, CO, 5/14/87, Stratton Mountain School/T2 (2011)
  • Noah Hoffman, Aspen, CO, 8/1/89, Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club (2011, 2013)
  • Kris Freeman, Andover, NH, 10/14/80, Freebird XC, (2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013)
  • Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, VT, 11/30/83, Stratton Mountain School/T2 (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013)

Women

  • Rosie Brennan, Park City, UT, 12/2/88, Alaska Pacific University Nordic
  • Sadie Bjornsen, Winthrop WA, 11/21/89, Alaska Pacific University Nordic (2011, 2013)
  • Sophie Caldwell, Peru, VT, 3/22/90, Stratton Mountain School/T2 (2013)
  • Jessie Diggins, Afton MN, 8/26/91, Stratton Mountain School/T2 (2011, 2013)
  • Caitlin Gregg, Minneapolis, 11/7/80, Team Gregg (2009)
  • Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, 12/31/82 Alaska Pacific University Nordic (2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013)
  • Ida Sargent, Orleans, VT, 1/25/88, Craftsbury Green Racing Project (2011, 2013)
  • Liz Stephen, East Montpelier, VT, 1/12/87, Burke Mountain Academy (2009, 2011, 2013)

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS SCHEDULE
FIS Nordic Ski World Championships Falun, Sweden

Feb. 18 – Opening Ceremony
Feb. 19 – Classic Sprint
Feb. 21 – Skiathlon
Feb. 22 – Freestyle Team Sprint
Feb. 24 – Women’s 10k Freestyle
Feb. 25 – Men’s 15k Freestyle
Feb. 27 – 4X10k Relay
Feb. 28 – 30k Women’s Classic Mass Start
Mar. 1 – 50k Men’s Classic Mass Start

Russians Finally Nab Two Wins at Home in Rybinsk, Diggins Fifth for USA

Prior to Sunday’s World Cup in Rybinsk, Russia the home team had yet to see any of its skiers on top the podium. That all changed with the 15/30 k skiathons in which both Maxim Vylegzhanin and Yulia Tchekaleva were victorious. Vylegzhanin crossed the line in the men’s 30 k with a time of 1:21:54.8, besting Swiss skier Dario Cologna by 2.7 seconds. In third was Matti Heikkinen of Finland who trailed the Russian by 6.2 seconds. The Finn was followed by a wall of five Russian skiers, who cemented the country’s dominance in the 30 k by placing 6 in the top-10. In 10th was Canada’s Alex Harvey who finished 16.0 seconds back from Vylagzhanin. Teammates Ivan Babikov, Devon Kershaw and Graeme Killick placed 19th, 34th, and 40th, respectively. Matt Gelso was the lone U.S. finisher and skied to 48th (of 49). Erik Bjornsen started the race but pulled out after the start…

Öberg, Pellegrino Win Rybinsk Sprints, Diggins in Fifth

After a strong qualification round, Sweden’s Jennie Öberg skied dominantly through the heats to take the victory in the 1.3 k freestyle sprint in Rybinsk, Russia. The win was Öberg’s first, in addition to being her first podium and first sprint final on the World Cup circuit. Racing to a time of 3:02.54 in the final, Öberg bested Natalia Matveeva of Russia by 0.48 seconds. In third was Laurien van der Graff of Switzerland who was 0.76 seconds off pace. The USST’s Jessie Diggins was the top North American in fifth after a strong showing in the heats. The result is her best of the year. Teammates Sophie Caldwell and Sadie Bjornsen advanced to the semifinals and ultimately finished seventh and eleventh. Ida Sargent placed 13th after earning third in her quarterfinal. Federico Pellegrino of Italy continued his World Cup sprinting dominance in Rybinsk with a 0.69 second win over Sergey Ustiugov…

Cologna Thwarts Russian Sweep with Win in Rybinsk

Dario Colonga skied to a dominant win in Friday’s World Cup 15 k freestyle interval start in Rybinsk, Russia. Clocking the fastest splits throughout the race, the Swiss skier increased his lead over a strong squad of Russian skiers at each checkpoint. Cologna’s time of 36:53.4 was 16.3 seconds faster than Evegniy Belov of Russia who ultimately placed second. He was followed by a squad of three teammates, including Sergey Ustiugov (+28.8), Alexander Legkov (+35.8) and Stanislav Volzhentsev (+1:01.7). Alex Harvey was the first North American in Friday’s race and placed 10th. The Canadian finished 1:15.7 behind Colonga’s time. Teammates Ivan Babikov and Devon Kershaw finished 22nd and 36th. Erik Bjornsen was the top American in 40th. He was followed by Canadian Graeme Killick and Sun Valley skier Matt Gelso in 43rd and 50th. Results

After Double Hip Fracture, Steira Returns to World Cup

After suffering a double hip fracture in October, Norway’s Kristin Størmer Steira returned to the World Cup circuit on Friday, where she placed fifth in the 10-kilometer freestyle, 41.4 seconds behind her teammate Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, who won the first of three races this weekend in Rybinsk, Russia. Steira plans to race two of the three in Rybinsk after breaking her hip in two places when she fell during a workout on the glacier during a Norwegian national-team altitude camp. She continued training for several weeks after the injury before she went to the doctor and was diagnosed with two fractures to her pelvic bone. During the long recovery, Steira, 31, has worked systematically at returning to racing in time for the World Championships from Feb. 8 to March 1 in Falun, Sweden. Last weekend, she competed in her first races of the season on the Scandinavian Cup in Falun and was pleasantly surprised. “It went far…

Jacobsen Wins, Stephen Second in Rybinsk Opener

In her first World Cup competition since Lillehammer in December, Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen came out with a vengeance and won the interval-start 10 k freestyle race in Rybinsk, Russia. The Norwegian clocked a time of 28:12.5 over the difficult and hilly course. That put her 14.4 seconds ahead of runner-up Liz Stephen of the United States. Stephen started one bib ahead of Jacobsen, who was able to track her along the course. “For me today is amazing,” Stephen said in an International Ski Federation press release. “I didn’t realize right away but this is not only my first World Cup podium but also the best ever distance result for a US female. I really can’t believe it.  It’s great to be here.  I like racing in Rybinsk.  It is a hard course with long climbs, which suits me very well.” Stephen’s previous bests in top-level competition were 5th place in…

Østberg Stays Ahead of Nilsson for 2nd World Cup Win in Otepää Classic Sprint

For Ingvild Flugstad Østberg on Saturday, there was mostly one woman threatening her quest for the win in the 1.2-kilometer classic sprint in Otepää, Estonia: Sweden’s Stina Nilsson. Østberg topped the women’s qualifier by 0.24 seconds over Nilsson in 2:52.93. Then she won her quarterfinal ahead of Sweden’s Ida Ingemarsdotter and fellow Norwegian Kathrine Rolstead Harsem, respectively, both of which advanced to the semifinals with a fast-enough time. Nilsson placed second in her quarterfinal to Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla, and was again second to Falla in their semifinal, after strategically letting up at the finish when she nearly caught Falla on the last descent. Nilsson’s skis were fast enough, and she knew it. Østberg knew it, too, as she tried to keep her behind her in the finishing straight of the final. Østberg did so, keeping seven or so meters ahead of the Swede to clinch her second-sprint victory of the season and fourth World Cup podium by…

Thomas Northug Breaks Away for 1st World Cup Win in Otepää

Without his older brother Petter Northug toeing the line and competing for attention on Saturday, Norway’s Thomas Northug made a name for himself with his first-career World Cup win in the men’s 1.5-kilometer classic sprint in Otepää, Estonia. The 24-year-old Northug qualified seventh (4.4 seconds behind teammate Pål Golberg, the fastest qualifier in 3:17.61), and went on to place second in his quarterfinal and fourth in his semifinal, narrowly advancing to the final as a lucky loser with Golberg (who placed third). Northug avoided a dramatic late crash in the semifinal from Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov, who poled between his own legs in the finishing straight and spun completely around, clipping Northug’s ski — who  was behind him — but Northug scooted around and outlunged Sweden’s Emil Jönsson for fourth. In the men’s final, two of five Norwegians opted for skate skis on a slowing and chewed-up course. Northug wasn’t one of them and broke away on the first…

Bjørgen Captures First Tour de Ski Title; Stephen Finishes in Top Five

Norway’s Marit Bjørgen locked up her first women’s Tour de Ski title on Sunday in the 2015 Tour’s final stage, a 9 k freestyle pursuit in Val di Fiemme, Italy. Bjørgen crossed the line in a time of 33:27.5. Defending champion and stage-six winner Therese Johaug of Norway was second, 1:39.2 behind Bjørgen, and also had the day’s fastest time on the notoriously difficult course (32:16.4). Norway’s Heidi Weng started the day in second but took third (+1:59.5), unable to maintain Johaug’s furious pace despite posting the second-fastest time of the day (33:15.8). American Liz Stephen – the only North American skier left in the field – started the day in sixth but managed to climb into the fourth position in front of the Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk, who did not finish, and Norway’s Ragnhild Haga. However, Haga would reclaim the lead over Stephen in the final kilometer. Stephen stayed just behind…

Sundby Clinches Repeat Tour de Ski Win With Gutsy Uphill Performance

Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway started the final pursuit of the Tour de Ski, a 9 k stage finishing with more than two kilometers of brutal uphill on the Alpe Cermins, 3 seconds behind teammate Petter Northug. The pair worked together on the first few kilometers in Val di Fiemme, Italy, stretching their lead over Calle Halfvarsson of Sweden and Evgeniy Belov of Russia. But once they hit the climb, Sundby left his teammate in the dust and skied to a 34-second win for the overall Tour de Ski title. It’s his second consecutive such title, but Sundby said that this one meant more. “This one was way sweeter… the competition is much better this year,” he told FIS in an on-air interview. Northug managed to hold onto second place. Belov ditched Halfvarsson, a tall Swede who struggled on the 28% grade, and raced into third place in the Tour,…