US Nationals Previewby Mary Kozloski
December 31, 2017
A dry December for Anchorage, Alaska, has forced the hosts of the 2018 L.L.Bean US National Cross Country Championships to have a 2.5k man-made race course at Kincaid Park. Despite the conditions, nearly 350 skiers will compete in some of the biggest races of the season. Not only are the national titles at stake, skiers will also be competing for coveted spots on the U.S. Team for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, FIS U23 World Ski Championships, FIS Junior World Ski Championships, U18 Scando Cup, along with NCAA qualification for collegiate skiers. The races take place January 3-8 and include a 10/15k skate race on Wednesday, a skate sprint on Friday, a 5/10/20/30k classic race on Sunday and classic sprints on Monday.
- Kincaid Park, Anchorage, AK
- Wednesday, January 3
- Friday, January 5
- Sunday, January 7
- Monday, January 8
In addition to winning national titles, skiers will also be competing for spots on a number of prestigious international competition teams:
Nordic Juniors Competition (U18 Nations/Scando Cup) - Vuokatti, Finland, Jan 26-28, 2018 - Skiers under the age of 18 (up to 6 women and 6 men)
FIS Junior World Ski Championships - Goms, Switzerland, Jan 28 - Feb 2, 2018 - Skiers under the age of 20 (minimum 6 women, 6 men).
FIS U23 World Ski Championships - Goms, Switzerland, Jan 29 - Feb 2, 2018 - Skiers under the age of 23 (up to 6 women and 6 men).
There will be a forceful Midwest presence at the Championships this year, contending for everything at stake. Leading the pack are Olympic hopefuls, Caitlin and Brian Gregg of Team Gregg. They have already proved their strength and fitness early this season coming away with podiums in the West Yellowstone Super Tour and the NorAm Mini Tour titles, which was hosted in Rossland, British Columbia. Other midwesterners and Minnesota natives, who have both claimed SuperTour podiums earlier this year, are CXC Team member Kyle Bratrud, who is the defending U.S. National Champion for the freestyle distance race, and Northern Michigan University’s (NMU) Ian Torchia. Torchia was unfortunately not able to race in the 2017 U.S. National Championships due to an illness, but is coming back strong this year. NMU’s Zak Ketterson, Vivian Hett, Nicole Schneider and Kristen Bourne have proven in the early season races that they are leaders as well.
Alayna Sonnesyn, Abigail Drach, Annie Hart and Ben Saxton are all Minnesota natives who now mainly reside in the east. Sonnesyn, who skis for the University of Vermont, dominated the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) last season and grabbed a few NCAA podium finishes. Drach, who skis for Dartmouth, wasn't too far behind Sonnesyn in the EISA last season as well. Hart and Saxton ski for the SMST2. Saxton is one to watch in the sprint races, while Hart is one to watch in the distance freestyle races. Hart competed in a FIS World Cup race early this season in Beitostolen, Norway where she grabbed a spot in the top 20 in a 10k individual freestyle race, finishing 19th overall.
U20/U18 midwest men to watch are Patrick Acton and Luc Golin who are currently standing in first and second overall for the midwest U20 men’s standings. Alex Nemeth and Anders Sonnesyn are first and second overall for the U18 midwest men’s standings.
The top five women in the midwest U18 standings, will also be competing at nationals this year. Abigail Jarzin who is currently standing in first, Sarah Olson second, Mara McCollor third, Kelly Koch fourth and Lucinda Anderson fifth.
Best of luck to all the Midwest competitors!
We will be providing same day coverage for all of the races with race summaries and photos.
About the author...
Mary Kozloski is from Green Bay, WI and is a UW Green Bay Ski Team Alumni, where she skied and studied Communications and Business Administration for four years. Mary continues to love and stay connected to the sport through writing. She is a travel and outdoor enthusiast and enjoys exploring everything Colorado has to offer, which she has called her new home state since fall of 2016.