With temperatures in the single digits, fresh snow and blowing winds, the conditions at the Michigan Tech Trails in Houghton, Michigan played a big role in sorting out the first winners of the week long U.S. Cross Country Championships. Titles in the 15k and 10k freestyle event went to Kyle Bratrud (Eden Prairie, Minnesota) and Olympian Caitlin Gregg (Minneapolis) on January 4.
The opening races saw a few unexpected forces, none as surprising as Northern Michigan University skier, Kyle Bratrud, a 21-year-old from Eden Prarie, Minnesota.
“My goal coming into today was to get a top ten,” Bratrud explained. “Coming from NMU, I ski this course all the time and I know it pretty well and I was excited when I saw this snow.”
Bratrud led early, putting in thirty seconds over his closest rivals in the first 7.5 kilometers. Veteran racer Kris Freeman (Andover, New Hampshire) overcame a slow start to ski into second place. Dartmouth skier Patrick Caldwell (Lyme, New Hampshire) skied smoothly into third place, a tenth of second in front of Sun Valley skier Matt Gelso for the final podium position.
In the women’s race, Gregg, fresh off the period one World Cup schedule, returned to take the 10k event handily. “It feels absolutely great to come back to the U.S. and race so well at the national championships. The race today was hard and I had to fight the whole way! I am so grateful for the awesome support from the U.S. Ski Team while I was over in Europe this fall on the World Cup.”
Gregg used up-tempo skiing establish a lead early over the slow snow. Chelsea Holmes (Girdwood, Alaska), skiing for the APU Nordic program, skied to a second place finish over her APU teammate, Rosie Brennan (Park City) who caught a ride with Gregg.
“The race was quite tough,” Holmes described. “The nature of the course and the cold snow meant there was no rest out there. I am happy with the effort I gave, it was a great way to kick off the week!”