US Elite Racing: SuperTour Season Recap

by Adam Bodensteiner
March 28, 2023

SuperTour Season Wrap-up

The 2022/2023 SuperTour season came to a close last weekend in Craftsbury, Vermont. For the athletes, it was the final opportunity to vie for domestic standings, including several national championship events. Before getting to the season finals, however, the SuperTour circuit picked up again in the latter part of February after the World Junior/U23 Championships break. Period III brought racing on courses exceedingly familiar to the Midwestern skiers.

Mayor’s XC Ski Challenge

For racers hailing from the Twin Cities area, a race weekend on their home trails was a great opportunity to enjoy the support of friends and family. Midwestern skiers represented well on the results sheets.

Freestyle Sprint

Period III kicked off at Minneapolis’ Theodore Wirth Park on February 18th with a 1.3 km freestyle sprint. Lauren Jortberg (SMST2) and Katerina Hyncicova (CZE, Northern Michigan) took the top spots in the first quarterfinal along with lucky loser Hannah Rudd (BSF). Quarterfinal two was won by Renae Anderson (Team Birkie) who advanced with Anabel Needham (Michigan Tech). Margie Freed (GRP) and Erin Bianco (Team Birkie) qualified out of quarterfinal 3. Samantha Smith (Sun Valley) and Michaela Keller-Miller (GRP) took the top spots in quarterfinal 4. Sarah Goble (BSF) and Ingrid Thyr (Team Birkie) advanced with Alexandra Lawson (GRP) who snagged the last lucky loser spot to move into the semi-finals. Hyncicova and Anderson set the pace in a quick first semi-final and lucky losers Jortberg and Lawson held ultimately their spots to advance to the finals. Samantha Smith and Sarah Goble edged out a heavily Minnesotan heat (Rudd, Bianco, Keller-Miller, and Thyr) to claim the last two final spots. In the final, Jortberg edged out Anderson by 0.73 seconds to claim victory. Sarah Goble crossed the line in third, about half a second behind Anderson. Hyncicova, Lawson, and Smith rounded out the top 6. Midwestern skiers did well, comprising the rest of the top twelve. Top results include: Hannah Rudd in 7th, Erin Bianco in 8th, Margie Freed in 9th Michaela Keller-Miller in 10th, Anabel Needham in 11th, Ingrid Thyr in 12th, and Jordan Schuster (Team Birkie) in 24th.

In the Men’s race, Julien Locke (CAN, Nordic Pulse) and Zak Ketterson (Team Birkie) were the first to make it out of the quarterfinals. Ketterson is back from racing on the World Cup Circuit. Out of quarterfinal 2 were Thomas O’Harra (APU) and Braden Becker (GRP). Quarterfinal 3 was won by Luke Fricker (CAN, Northern Michigan) and his teammate Jonathan Clarke. The last two quarterfinal heats proved to be the fastest. Kristoffer Karsrud (NOR, Northern Michigan) advanced from quarterfinal 4 with Finn O’Connell (BSF) and lucky loser Joseph Lynch (St. Scholastica). Last but not least, moving on from quarterfinal 5, were Logan Diekmann (BSF), John Schwinghamer (St. Scholastica) and second lucky loser Nicholas Randall (CAN, Big Thunder Nordic). In the first semi-final Ketterson was able to overcome Locke to advance along with Fricker. In the second semi-final, Diekmann crossed the line first, followed by Karsrud. Schwinghamer and O’Connell were able to narrowly snatch the lucky loser positions to move on. The final was a battle to the line between Karsrud and Ketterson, with Karsrud claiming the win ahead of the Team Birkie skier. Three seconds later Diekmann crossed the line in 3rd, followed by O’Connell. Schwinghamer and Fricker rounded out the top six. Other top

20 km Classic Mass Start

The second race of the weekend was a 20 km classic mass start, consisting of seven 3 km laps. For Minnesota native and SMST2 athlete Alayna Sonnesyn, since she didn’t participate in the previous day’s sprint, this was her first race on the SuperTour circuit.

Zak Ketterson in the thick of it in the men's freestyle sprint at Theodore Wirth Park

The men’s 20 km was the first event of the day. The first half of the race was relatively uneventful with a large group at the front. A group of about ten finished lap five together with Graham Houtsma (BSF) in the lead. In the last 6 km, Ketterson, who had been sitting comfortably in 4th, started to apply pressure. He was able to break away and never looked back, increasing his lead over the final two laps. Ketterson was alone as he crossed the bridge into the stadium to claim victory. About 25 seconds later, the next competitors came into view, Logan Diekmann and Finn O’Connell. The battle for 2nd was a sprint between teammates and Diekmann was able to edge out O’Connell. Reid Goble (BSF) was the next Midwestern finisher in 7th. Athletes from Midwestern college programs were well represented in the top 25.

Erin Bianco in the zone during the women's 20 km mass start at Theodore Wirth Park

The women’s race played out similarly to the men’s, starting with Alayna Sonnesyn in the lead of the pack. Throughout the race Sonnesyn’s smooth strides and calm appearance didn’t betray the slow attrition happening at the back of the lead group. She led for the majority of the race. Sonnesyn and Alexandria Lawson started to turn up the heat in the second half of the race, leaving Margie Freed and Sarah Goble to chase, with others not far behind. In the end, Sonnesyn emerged over the bridge and into the stadium and crossed the finish line first with a small but comfortable gap over the two GRP teammates, Freed and Lawson. It was another club sprint for the rest of the podium spots and Freed beat Lawson to the line by a toe for 2nd. Next, in 4th was Mariah Bredal (BSF), followed by Samantha Smith in 5th. Erin Bianco and Sarah Goble finished in 6th and 7th, respectively. Katerina Hyncicova, Anabel Needham and Hannah Rudd closed out the top ten in that order; Rudd finished less than a minute behind Sonnesyn. Other top Midwestern finishes include: Michaela Keller-Miller in 12th, Renae Anderson in 14th, and Ingrid Thyr in 20th.

American Birkebeiner

50 km Freestyle Mass Start

Alayna Sonnesyn in the heart of the lead women's group during the Birkie Skate

Coming into the 2023 edition, Alayna Sonnesyn was undefeated in the Birkie Skate race; she has won three times in as many starts. However, based on Sonnesyn’s remarks on social media after the fact, a fourth win was far from guaranteed this year. Sickness leading up to the race on February 25th left the prospect of even attempting the race in doubt, and Sonnesyn admitted leaving a change of clothes at the OO trailhead, slightly under halfway, in case she had to bail. This was not the case, however, and she was able to stay with the lead group of women. Spectators on main street Hayward were treated to a battle as Sonnesyn and Jessica Yeaton (AUS) came off of the lake and across the bridge together onto the finishing stretch. In the end Sonnesyn crossed the line a little over 7 seconds ahead of Yeaton to claim her fourth American Birkebeiner Freestyle victory. Caitlin Gregg, olympian and current Team Birkie Coach, used her well earned knowledge of the Birkie course and finished in 3rd about a minute later, ahead of Celine Chopard-Lallier (FRA), Marriah Bredal and Caitlin Patterson, semi-retired racer who was wearing the colors of her former club, GRP. Other top Midwestern finishers included: Hannah Rudd in 8th, Michaela Keller-Miller in 11th, Erin Bianco in 13th, and Alayna Sonnesyn’s older sister, Marit Ross-Sonnesyn in 16th.

The women’s Birkie skate podium with now four-time winner Alayna Sonnesyn and five-time winner Caitlin Gregg (Credit: American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation)
Brian Gregg in the men's mix midway through the Birkie Skate (Credit: American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation)

The men’s race started 20 minutes after the women’s elite wave. After coming within a boot-length of the victory last year, semi-retired racer and coach of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, David Norris, decided not to leave the race to a sprint and attacked almost from the gun. Over the course of the 50 km race Norris only increased his lead and earned the satisfaction of skiing into downtown Hayward completely alone. The next skiers to appear on main street were defending champion Gerard Agnellet (FRA) and Francis Izquierdo-Bernier (CAN) almost three minutes later. Angellet won the sprint for 2nd place. The next American finishers were Thomas O’Harra and Tyler Kornfeild (Team Robinson Trentino). Top midwest finishers include: Matt Liebsch in 9th, Reid Goble in 10th, Brian Gregg (Team Birkie) in 12th, and Zak Ketterson in 14th.

SuperTour Finals

The final race weekend of the 2022-2023 SuperTour season occurred in Craftsbury, Vermont from Wednesday, March 22nd to the 26th. The SuperTour Finals consisted of four events, including three national championship events.

10 km Classic Interval Start

The first race on the docket was the quintessential cross country event, the 10 km interval start, this time classic technique. Racers completed two 5 km laps and left every 30 seconds. Margie Freed was skiing on home turf and no one came close to unseating her after she put down the fastest splits on both laps. Hanna Abrahamsson (SWE, University of Colorado) started two minutes after Freed, but lost four seconds over the course of the race to finish 2nd. Freed’s teammate Alexandra Lawson would end the day in 3rd. Mariah Bredal was in 4th and Alayna Sonnesyn, who started a minute after Freed, ended in 5th. Other top Midwest finishers were: Sarah Goble in 9th, Erin Bianco in 10th, Renae Anderson in 11th, Michaela Keller-Miller in 13th, and Hannah Rudd in 17th.

On the men’s side, John Steel Hagenbuch (Dartmouth) was the second skier to take the course. He posted what would end up as the second fastest first lap split on the day but made up ground during the next 5 km to secure his place in the hot seat, which he would hold for the rest of the competition. Going on course three minutes after Hagenbuch, Andreas Kirkeng (NOR, University of Denver) had what would be the fastest first lap split, but reversed his fortune in the second lap. He took 2nd. David Norris was third, Zanden McMullen (APU) in 4th, and Braden Becker (GRP) in 5th.

Skate Sprint

The first National Championship event of the weekend took place on Friday; a 1.6 km skate sprint.

After setting a blistering qualifying time, Alayna Sonnesyn kept up the fast skiing and advanced easily with Sarah Goble out of quarterfinal 1. Karianne Dengerud (NOR, University of Utah) and Marielle Ackermann (CAN, University of Vermont) advanced from quarterfinal 2. Alexandra Lawson and Ava Thurston (Dartmouth) advanced from quarterfinal 3 with lucky loser Haley Brewster (University of Vermont). Lauren Jortberg, Caitlin Patterson (GRP Alumni), and lucky loser Mariah Bredal moved on from quarterfinal 4. Erin Bianco won the last quarterfinal and advanced with Margie Freed. Dengerud edged out Sonnesyn and they both advanced to the finals from the first semi-final. Semi-final 2 was the faster of the two and Jortberg, Freed, and lucky losers Thurston and Bianco filled out the final heat. Sonnesyn was not to be denied in the final. She led Dengerud to the line for the Skate Sprint National Championship. Bianco and Freed were in 3rd and 4th overall, but both achieved the nationals podium since Dengerud is a Norwegian national. Top Midwest finishers were: Sarah Goble in 7th, Renae Anderson in 14th, Michaela Keller-Miller in 20th, and Hannah Rudd in 23rd.

In the men’s race, Kristoffer Karsrud kicked the heats off, advancing with Noel Keeffe (University of Utah) who had the fastest qualifying time of the day. Michael Earnhart won quarterfinal 2 ahead of Julien Locke. Andreas Kirkeng and Jake Brown (GRP) advanced from the third quarterfinal with Reid Goble as lucky loser. Erikson Moore (CAN, NTDC Thunder Bay) and Braden Becker moved on from quarterfinal 4. Luke Fricker and Sasha Masson (CAN, CNEPH) advanced and Finn O’Connell snatched the lucky loser spot from quarterfinal 5. The semi-finals shook things up a bit compared to the women’s race with some higher bib numbers making it through. Karsud and Kirkeng advanced through to the final from semi-final 1. Masson and O’Connell went and two in the second semi-final heat; Brown and Becker claimed the lucky loser spots. Kirkeng claimed victory in the sprint final by a (relatively) healthy margin over Masson who was in 2nd. As Kirkeng is Norwegian and Masson is Canadian, the National Championship title for the men’s skate sprint went to Brown with Becker and O’Connell filling out the nationals podium. Brown’s new national championship title is somewhat unexpected as he doesn’t usually compete on the SuperTour. Rather, Brown is a World Cup biathlete who opted to put down his rifle for a weekend of cross country racing. Reid Goble finished in 8th.

Mixed Relay

Saturday featured a mixed-gender club relay. Teams completed four skate legs of 5 km each.

Team BSF led by a wide margin for the majority of the race, with all of the legs putting down fast times. Reid Goble took the first leg and tagged off to his sister, Sarah. Finn O’Connell handled the third lap and tagged the BSF anchor, Mariah Bredal. Bredal put down a respectable time but BSF’s ambitions were dashed by a charging Sarah Palmer-Leger who closed the gap on BSF and more. This was the Utah team’s only lead of the race, but it was the only lead that counted in the end. The University of Utah Team claimed the victory and the Club Relay National Championship by 1.5 seconds over Team BSF. Craftsbury GRP, anchored by Margie Freed, finished in 3rd only a few seconds behind BSF. Craftsbury GRP II, anchored by Michaela Keller-Miller, finished in 4th.

44 km Classic Mass Start

The final race of the season was a 44 km classic event on Sunday. Skiers completed four laps of 11 km.
The women started first and the race played out in a similar fashion to the distance races held earlier in the year. A lead pack was slowly whittled down over the course of the race. Sydney Palmer-Leger (University of Utah) and Hanna Abrahamsson were the only ones remaining after three laps, Margie Feed chasing a few seconds back. In the end it all came down to 1.8 seconds as Palmer-Leger edged out Abrahamsson for the win and the national title. Margie Freed crossed the finish a little over two minutes later in 3rd. She claimed 2nd for the nationals podium; Abrahamsson is a Swedish national. Caitlin Patterson was next to claim the final step of the National Championship podium. Other top Midwest finishers were: Erin Bianco in 6th, Michaela Keller-Miller in 16th, and Hannah Rudd in 18th.

The men’s race went along similar lines as the women’s. At the halfway point, there was a small group of racers in the lead group, led by Andreas Kirkeng. At the finish Kirkeng again called on his sprinting ability to outpace John Steel Hagenbuch to the line. Hagenbuch had the excellent consolation prize of claiming the National Championship title, as Kirkeng is Norwegian. Next was David Norris, followed by Zanden McMullen a minute later to complete the nationals podium. Reid Goble was the top Midwest finisher in 31st.

SuperTour Results

An exciting season of domestic elite racing has come to a close, with many Midwestern racers posting consistent results throughout the season.

Hailey Swirbul (APU) finished the season as the top-ranked athlete on the circuit, racking up enough wins early in the season to maintain a lead even after she transitioned to the World Cup Circuit prior to the World Championships. Swirbul recently announced her retirement from World Cup racing, so ostensibly the World Cup Period I start rights that come with end-of-season SuperTour rankings would pass to Sydney Palmer-Leger, who is in 2nd. Margie Freed finished the season in 4th, Sarah Goble in 5th, Erin Bianco in 8th, Hannah Rudd in 11th, Alayna Sonnesyn in 15th, Renae Anderson in 17th, Michaela Keller-Miller in 20th.

Andreas Kirkeng is at the top of the men’s overall results; an impressive feat considering the Norwegian did not participate in any SuperTour events between National Championships in early January and the finals in Craftsbury this past weekend. His palmarès from when he did compete were strong enough to keep him at the top. Zanden McMullen is next in line, and as in the women’s competition, the Period I start rights will pass to second place. Reid Goble finished the season in 7th place.

The National Nordic Foundation awarded the NNF Cup to the University of Utah as the overall top team over the course of the SuperTour season. NNF press release highlights strong early season results, punctuated by results in the finals weekend, and the diversity and numbers of Utah skiers’ accomplishments this season as making them worthy champions. Team BSF earned overall runner up in addition to being the top Men’s club. The University of Utah was also honored as the top women’s club. In a new addition this year, the winner of the NNF Cup will be awarded a $3,000 cash prize to go toward the further development of its athletes. Read the NNF press release here.

Official Results:

Mayors XC Ski Challenge
American Birkebeiner
SuperTour Finals
Overall SuperTour Standings

About the author...

Adam Bodensteiner is an Iowa native but fully accepted the cross country skiing lifestyle in Madison, Wisconsin. He is currently based out of North Liberty, Iowa and still finds snow as much as possible despite the almost tropical latitude. In addition to skiing, Adam enjoys running and taking his road bike on gravel rides.