Compiled and Edited by Allison Slavick
Jan 22, 2015
The 2014-15 U.S. Cross Country Ski Team was announced in late November on the eve of the International Ski Federation (FIS) World Cup opener in Ruka, Finland. All ten members of the A and B Teams are past members of Olympic and World Championship teams, including defending World Champions Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, Alaska) and Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minnesota). Twelve athletes were named in total to the A, B and D Teams. Strong 2014 seasons boosted Simi Hamilton (Aspen) and Sophie Caldwell from the B to A Team. Hamilton won a stage of the Tour de Ski while Caldwell finished in sixth in the Olympic freestyle sprint, the best women’s cross country Olympic result in U.S. history.
In addition to Hamilton, Caldwell, Randall, and Diggins, the A Team roster includes Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, Washington), Andy Newell (Shraftsbury, Vermont), and Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, Vermont). The B Team includes Erik Bjornsen (Winthrop, Washington), Noah Hoffman (Aspen), and Ida Sargent (Orleans, Vermont). The D Team includes Patrick Caldwell (Lyme, New Hampshire), and Ben Saxton (Lakeville, Minnesota). All ten athletes will start the January 3-11 seven-stage Tour de Ski.
“This is a strong team with proven performance. Each year we see more depth. We are approaching the beginning of the season with more hard training than we have in the past, knowing that we may sacrifice performance in some of the early World Cups, with the intent of being sharpest in February for World Championships” said Chris Grover, Head Coach.
The U.S. women demonstrated their collective potential in Davos, Switzerland on December 13, 2014. Finishing together was Stephen in 20th, Diggins in 21st and Bjornsen in 22nd, just six seconds apart from each other and forty seconds away from the top five finishers of the day in the 10k classic race.
The FIS Nordic World Ski Championships will be a major focal point in the season Feb. 17 - March 1 in Falun, Sweden, where Randall will defend the World Cup sprint title she won the last three seasons.
The U.S. Ski Team named three women to its 2014-15 Women’s Ski Jumping Team, on the eve of the first World Cup event in Lillehammer, Norway on December 5. They include World Champions Sarah Hendrickson and Lindsey Van, along with Jessica Jerome (all Park City, Utah). Five athletes jumped for the U.S. including Hendrickson, Jerome, Nina Lussi (Lake Placid), Nita Englund (Iron Mountain, Michigan) and Tara Geraghty-Moats (West Fairlee, Vermont). It was the first World Cup for Geraghty-Moats. Hendrickson, the current World Champion, finished 9th by following her first 89-meter jump with a strong second jump of 96.5 meters. Jerome finished 11th, improving upon her first jump of 87 meters with a second jump of 92.5 meters.
“I was rather frustrated with today,” commented Hendrickson. “My training jumps went really, really well, but my competition jumps were not as good for me technically. My nerves got the better of me. Granted, I haven’t competed in a World Cup in over a year, but it is hard for me to not be performing at a higher level.” Nita Englund of Iron Mountain, Michigan finished 18th in the field of 30 jumpers that qualified. “I am excited for my first World Cup points, and I thought it was a great start to the season,” said Englund. “The conditions were challenging because there was a lot of tailwind today.” Team members Lussi and Geraghty-Moats did not qualify for a second jump.
The U.S. Ski Team supports top international level athletes in collaboration with Women’s Ski Jumping USA and its nine-member U.S. Visa Women’s Ski Jumping Team. A four-athlete World Championship Team will be selected primarily from World Cup results and will be named in February, in advance of the World Championships in Falun, Sweden where the women will compete in both a normal hill event February 19-20 and the new mixed gender team event February 22. The USA has won two of the three World Championships held for women.
Five time Olympian and gold medalist Billy Demong (Vermontville, New York) along with World Championship medalists Bryan and Taylor Fletcher (Steamboat Springs) were named to the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team for 2015. Adam Loomis (Eau Claire, Wisconsin) and Brett Denney (Steamboat Springs) joined the Fletcher brothers for the Ruka, Finland World Cup opener. Demong will ski a selective schedule of events leading up to the 2015 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Falun, Sweden in late February.
Support of National Nordic Foundation allowed the Soldier Hollow organizing committee to commit to host the Continental Cup for Nordic Combined in Park City, with the December 12-14, 2014 events moved to Gorgoza Park, due to low snow conditions. Jumping was at the Utah Olympic Park. More than 40 athletes from Europe, Japan and North America participated, with the U.S. contingent led by Billy Demong (Vermontville, New York) and Taylor Fletcher (Steamboat Springs) with 6 talented upstarts joining as well.
Taylor Fletcher just missed closing the gap to the podium, moving up from 20th in jumping to finish fifth. Demong was 17th. Also finishing in the points were Michael Ward (Aspen) at 28th and Colin Delaney (Lake Placid) at 29th, for his first Continental Cup points. Jasper Good (Steamboat Springs) just missed the points in 32nd, Ben Loomis was 35th - both career bests - and Ben Berend (Steamboat Springs) 40th.
The National Nordic Foundation (NNF) provides support for the athlete development pipeline of U.S. Cross Country and Nordic Combined skiing, and sponsors the Continental Cup, a second tier international race series for Nordic Combined and a critical development proving ground. For more than a decade, the U.S. has historically hosted the opening events on typically reliable snow in the western states. By hosting the event the U.S. gets additional start rights and an opportunity for up-and-coming athletes to get international experience on home turf. The Continental Cup rankings directly impact a nation’s World Cup quota; the NNF has strategically planned to host the events early in the season to try and grab extra start rights.
Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Northeastern Vermont may be best known in the US ski world for successfully pulling off the 2012 SuperTour finals in spite of some of the lowest snow conditions imaginable for springtime in New England. This year they will host a mid-winter event that may be their biggest yet: The USSA SuperTour Festival. The Festival is a multi-weekend race series that brings together juniors, Masters, top SuperTour racers, and EISA college skiers for top level competition on the FIS homologated courses in Craftsbury.
The first weekend starts out with the U.S. Masters National Championship, the top level of domestic racing for Masters. Master racers will compete in two races, the second of which will coincide with the Craftsbury Marathon, 25k/50k classic races that follow point-to-point courses through quintessential Vermont countryside. Although the Craftsbury Marathon is an annual event, this will be the first time that it will also count towards the Masters Championship. Between the two Masters races, SuperTour racers will kick things off with a mass start 20k/30k classic and a classic sprint.
The second weekend will bring more non-stop racing action, with three days of racing and three overlapping events. Dartmouth College will host their winter carnival at Craftsbury during the first two days, so the top EISA college skiers will be there to compete for NCAA qualifying spots. The second two days are a New England Nordic Ski Association Eastern Cup, and all three races count as USSA SuperTours. With the Craftsbury SuperTours and the American Birkebeiner as the only SuperTour races between U.S. Nationals and SuperTours finals, the Craftsbury race series will be a huge determining factor in which SuperTour racers qualify for Period III on the World Cup.
In between race weekends, Craftsbury will also host community ski events. On Wednesday, February 4th, top SuperTour racers will host “Skiing with the Stars,” in which they will ski with junior skiers to inspire the next generation. Also planned are ski clinics, training deals, a high school race, and night sprints. For more information, updates will be online as the SuperTour Festival approaches at www.craftsburysupertour.com.
Competitors have a new event to choose from for the Great Bear Chase Ski Marathon, March 7, 2015, in Calumet, Michigan, hosted by UP Health System. Race organizers have added a 50k skiathlon to the lineup. Skiers entering the event will complete the first 25k using classic technique on the Swedetown Trails race course, change skis in the exchange area in the stadium, and ski the next 25k freestyle. The skiathlon will have prize money for the top four male and female winners, and awards for the top three skiers in each age group.
“As far we know, this is the only marathon-length skiathlon in the U.S.,” said race director Angela Luskin. “The skiathlon has become a popular event at other ski venues and we think the marathon length will have broad appeal.” Participation in the skiathlon will be capped at 100.
The Great Bear Chase will continue to offer 10k, 25k, and 50k races for both classic and freestyle techniques. For more information and to register, visit www.greatbearchase.com.
Rikert Nordic Center, in Ripon Vermont, will host the 14th annual New England Women’s XC Ski Day on Sunday, Jan. 25. Organized by the New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA), the popular event is coming to back to Vermont. The day features cross-country ski clinics with top-notch instruction and coaching for all abilities from first time skiers to competitors. In addition, there will be ski waxing demonstrations, a special raffle and gear and apparel vendors set up at the event.
“NENSA’s Women’s Day is an opportunity for skiers at all levels to celebrate being in the outdoors at one of Vermont’s most scenic touring centers,” said Abby Weissman, event organizer. “The day provides a no pressure, fun environment for learning and camaraderie, all for a great cause.” The event benefits the STRiDE Foundation, a Vermont-based nonprofit devoted to sports mentoring for girls in cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, mountain biking and basketball. The event is made possible thanks to lead sponsors L.L. Bean and Swix along with VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations. To register or for more information, visit the NENSA website, nensa.net/women, or phone 207-688-6503.
Gunnison-Crested Butte Valley in southwestern Colorado is off to a momentous start to winter. Crested Butte Nordic Center opened with some of the best early season conditions on record. All season long, the Center will offer free skiing and ski gear for youth ages 17 and under. The Mountain Store Citizens Race Series is held on Saturday mornings at locations within Crested Butte Nordic’s groomed trail network. The series began with five and ten kilometer lengths in early December, with race distances increasing up to 20 k leading up to the 29th annual Alley Loop Nordic Marathon on February 7. Upcoming Citizens Race dates are January 10, 17 and 24. The Valley has the unique distinction of being one of the birthplaces of mountain biking and continues to push the envelope with a fat bike race series, including a race on February 6 in Crested Butte in conjunction with Alley Loop. Check Facebook for more details.