US Elite Racing: US Nationals Classic Recap

by Michaela Keller-Miller
January 8, 2022

The 2022 US Cross Country Ski Championships at the Soldier Hollow Nordic Center in Midway, Utah wrapped up Friday with a classic sprint. The day before the classic sprints, athletes toed the line for an interval start classic race. These final two races marked the culmination of a packed week of racing, and the skiers who were able to push through fatigue and rapidly changing weather saw success in the back half of the week.

On Thursday, light rain from the day before carried into race morning, making for klister conditions that deteriorated throughout the day. The women started first with a 10 kilometer interval start race that used the same 3.3 kilometer course from the women’s mass start on Tuesday. By the first starter, the drizzle had mostly subsided, and skiers were left to battle the climbs and the clock. The race of the day went to Caitlin Patterson of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project (CGRP), who started strong and pushed through the finish to earn the win in 28:12.0 with an impressive victory margin of 53 seconds. Patterson’s win brings her total number of national championship titles to an astounding 11. The fight for the remaining places was closer, but Katharine Ogden of SMST2, who arrived midweek from World Cup racing in Europe, showed her prowess to finish in second place in 29:05.4. Mariah Bredal of BSF Pro rounded out the podium with a time of 29:13.2. Hannah Rudd (BSF Pro), continuing her streak of top 10 finishes this week, placed eighth in 29:43.8. Rosie Frankowski (APU) was ninth in 29:53.2, Margie Freed (CGRP) was 12th in 30:07.2, Abby Jarzin placed 16th in 30:15.7, and Michaela Keller-Miller (CGRP) finished 17th in 30:34.9.

Patterson checks in after an outstanding week, “Thursday’s 10k classic was an excellent race for me and I’m very happy with it, both the results and the race feelings. I skied my own race, starting hard but able to keep pushing the pace throughout and reeling in bibs ahead of me. Skis were great- shoutout to the GRP wax crew for excellent kick and glide!”

Rudd skiing to her third top 10 performance of the week. (Credit: Jackie Schneider.)

Following the women’s classic distance race, the men took to the course for a 15 kilometer interval start. By the men’s start, temperatures had risen, and the tracks had begun to break down. The day’s conditions were no match for Adam Martin of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, who followed his teammate C. Patterson’s lead with a dominant performance. Skiing smooth and powerful throughout, Martin claimed the victory in 39:18.0. The next fastest skier to cover the course was Tuesday’s winner Scott Patterson (APU) in 40:06.9. Following close behind was JC Schoonmaker of the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) in 40:10.9.

Martin powering up a climb on his way to a national title. (Credit: Linda Kerker)

Reporting on his win, Martin writes, “Going into Thursday, I wanted to win, but I knew it would take many pieces falling into place to have a shot at it. I started toward the front of the A seed, so I tried to push hard from the start with the continual reminder that the fastest skiers were skiing behind me. My body responded well to the effort and my skis were good. Eventually I started hearing some back splits that I was leading, but I didn’t really believe it until I finished and saw my time hold up as the rest of the A seed came through. Now, I feel really happy that everything came together for the race!”

Friday brought the last day of racing at this year’s January national championships with classic sprints in downright balmy weather. The 1.5 kilometer qualification took place in the morning, and conditions drastically slowed for the heats as temperatures continued to rise, reaching 50 degrees. The men began the day’s qualification, where Schoonmaker topped the field by six seconds in 3:08.43. Peter Holmes (Sun Valley SEF) qualified in second in 3:14.85 and Andreas Kirkeng (Unviversity of Denver) was third in 3:15.00. As the top 30 qualifiers moved through to quarterfinal heats, Adam Witkowski (Michigan Tech) advanced in 12th place in 3:21.65 and Ian Torchia (SMST2) moved on in 26th in 3:26.67.

Throughout the heats, Torchia performed well, placing second in his quarterfinal to automatically move through to the semifinals. As expected, both Schoonmaker and Kirkeng took control of their quarterfinals to also advance, and quarterfinal times hovered at or just below four minutes. In the first semifinal, skiers took a more relaxed approach, holding back and sprinting into the finish. Schoonmaker again took the top slot in 4:18.73. The second semifinal relied less on strategy, starting fast and qualifying four skiers for the final based on time. Torchia, finishing fourth in the second semifinal, advanced to the final as a lucky loser with a time of 4:10.10.

In the final, Torchia took the lead up the initial climb, as Schoonmaker challenged him to overtake the first position on the second climb. After the descent into the third and steepest uphill, Karl Schultz (SVSEF) began to form a slight lead. Schultz powered over the top, extending his lead into the final descent. The other skiers remained closely bunched going down the hill, and Magnus Boee (University of Colorado) made a late-race surge to hunt down and overtake Schultz at the line. Schoonmaker, who entered the final turn in fifth, outsprinted Torchia and Tyler Kornfield (APU), finishing a surprising third place given his success on the World Cup. The top three positions went to Boee, Schultz, and Schoonmaker, respectively. Torchia held on to earn fifth place.

The women qualified following the men’s qualifier in very similar conditions. Ogden had the fastest qualifier of the day, clocking in at 3:51.79. Julia Richter (University of Utah) was second in 3:52.56 and Lauren Jortberg (BSF Pro) was third in 3:53.27. Anabel Needham of Michigan Tech University qualified an impressive fourth place in 3:57.09. Sarah Goble of Sun Valley SEF placed 11th in 4:03.21, Rosie Frankowski of APU was 13th in 4:03.81, and Renae Anderson finished 15th in 4:04.95. Also qualifying for the quarterfinal heats were Michaela Keller-Miller in 21st in 4:07.59, Hannah Rudd in 22nd in 4:08.22, Abby Jarzin in 24th in 4:08.80, and Margie Freed in 26th in 4:10.02. Team Birkie skiers Julie Ensrud and Ingrid Thyr also qualified, as Ensrud was 27th in 4:10.63 and Thyr finished 28th in 4:10.73.

As in the men’s heats, the hot temperatures and slushy tracks led to slower heat times for the women. Automatically moving through to the semifinals by winning their quarterfinal heats were Ogden in 4:55.82, Jortberg in 4:58.86, Rudd in 5:01.08, Sunday’s skate sprint winner Patterson in 4:59.34, and Sydney Palmer-Leger (University of Utah) in 4:53.00. Needham and Freed, qualifying second in their heats, also advanced. Keller-Miller, earning a lucky loser position based her quarterfinal time of 4:59.61, moved through to the semifinals as well.

The semifinal heats were tight, as skiers vied for a spot in the final. In semifinal one, Ogden and Patterson reigned supreme, taking the first two slots in the final. Semifinal two saw faster times than semifinal one, resulting in the top four skiers moving on. Also advancing from semifinal two were Rudd, Jortberg, Freed, and Alex Lawson (CGRP). Keller-Miller and Needham placed fifth and sixth in semifinal one, respectively.

In the women’s final, the race was close from start to finish. On the first turn, Jortberg was caught in the mix and suffered an early tumble, as the remaining five skiers continued onward. Heading into the final uphill, Rudd was in the lead position. Ogden and Patterson both made a move on the outside, overtaking Rudd with a strong herringbone. Rudd, still in the fight, matched Patterson’s downhill speed, passing her back before the final turn. On the homestretch, the trio of Ogden, Rudd, and Patterson fought to the line. Ultimately, Ogden held her lead for the win in 5:01.63. Patterson, making a late pass, overtook Rudd for second place in 5:02.61 and her fourth podium finish of the week. Rudd rounded out the podium in 5:03.16, earning her first ever top-three finish at US Nationals. Coming back from an early fall, Jortberg finished fourth. Lawson placed fifth and Freed finished the day in sixth place.

Rudd reflects on Friday’s classic sprint, "It was a pretty exciting one for me today! I started the day off feeling quite fatigued from the past three days of racing but felt like I picked up momentum and energy throughout the day. It was pretty special to be in the final with my teammate, Lauren Jortberg as well! Our wax techs also made some pretty incredible skis!”

The podium from the women’s classic sprint.

Next up on the elite domestic racing scene is a SuperTour in Sun Valley, Idaho on January 15th and 16th. Expect to see many of the same racers, as they compete in both a skate and classic distance race. These SuperTours mark the end of the Olympic qualification period, as is stated in the US Team Olympic criteria. Standout performances from athletes at US Nationals this past week and at the Sun Valley SuperTours opens the possibility of earning one of the remaining slots for the American Olympic team.

About the author...

Michaela Keller-Miller, a graduate of Wayzata High School and the University of Alaska Anchorage, skis for the Green Racing Project based out of Craftsbury, Vermont. Her ideal day would probably involve a long trail run followed by a stack of pancakes with maple syrup and a chai latte.