2016 U.S. Na­tion­als: New Champions Crowned

SkiTrax - - Contents - By Lex Treinen

by Lex Treinen

Un­like last year, when bliz­zards and tem­per­a­tures near the In­ter­na­tional Ski Fed­er­a­tion's le­gal limit of -20°F made just fin­ish­ing the races a feat, the 2016 U.S. Na­tion­als in Houghton, Mich. on Jan. 3-9 were blessed with sun­shine and mild tem­per­a­tures. With a strong con­tin­gent of Cana­di­ans and univer­sity skiers in the mix and World Cup starts on the line, the four events saw fast rac­ing across both tech­niques and dis­ci­plines.

Day One: Clas­sic 10/15km In­di­vid­ual - Jan. 3

The rac­ing started off with the men's 15km Clas­sic, and Alaska Pa­cific Univer­sity's (APU) Scott Pat­ter­son showed his re­cent vic­tory at the Sun Val­ley USSA Su­per Tour Clas­sic race was no fluke, win­ning handily by 20 sec­onds. Cana­dian Kevin San­dau of the Al­berta World Cup Acad­emy was sec­ond, and North­ern Michi­gan Univer­sity's Adam Martin fin­ished third af­ter catch­ing a ride off of Scott Pat­ter­son for a large part of the race. “I took ev­ery sec­ond I could,” said Scott Pat­ter­son of his first-ever U.S. Na­tion­als win. San­dau, who said he con­sid­ered double-pol­ing the race be­fore the start, was 15 sec­onds back from Scott Pat­ter­son at the half­way sprint.

In the women's race, the Crafts­bury Green Rac­ing Project showed im­pres­sive form to start the week, as Caitlin Pat­ter­son won and her team­mate Kait­lynn Miller fin­ished sec­ond, at 35 sec­onds back. “It was a great day for the fam­ily and to watch Scott win. He has al­ready com­mended to me that I won by more to­day than he did.” Chelsea Holmes (APU) fin­ished third, de­spite hav­ing de­ci­sively beaten Caitlin Pat­ter­son at the pre­vi­ous Su­per Tour.

Day Two: Freestyle 1.5km Sprint - Jan. 4

Jen­nie Bender of Bridger Ski Foun­da­tion (BSF) handily won the women's sprint, while APU'S Reese Han­ne­man nipped Bend En­durance Acad­emy's Dakota Black­horse-von Jess to take the men's vic­tory. Bender cruised com- fort­ably through her heats af­ter win­ning the qual­i­fi­ca­tion, con­serv­ing what­ever en­ergy she could by draft­ing the first de­scent. An­nie Hart of Strat­ton Moun­tain School T2 (SMST2) fin­ished just be­hind Bender. “I feel re­ally great, so happy,” said Hart. “Of course, there is a part of me that's dis­ap­pointed – you don't go into a race try­ing to get sec­ond.” Scott Pat­ter­son, the pre­vi­ous day's win­ner, fin­ished third. For Han­ne­man and Black­horse-von Jess, the duel was a fa­mil­iar one, but it was top-qual­i­fier Han­ne­man's turn to take the win. Canada's Julien Locke of Team Black­jack claimed the fi­nal podium spot.

Day Three: Freestyle 20/30km - Jan. 7

The 30km freestyle race was Scott Pat­ter­son's to lose, and af­ter a few kilo­me­tres, he knew he was in trou­ble. “I think I was one of the strong­est, if not

the strong­est skier out there to­day; how­ever, some­times things don't work ac­cord­ing to plan,” said Pat­ter­son, who ended the day in fifth. “Our skis were a bit out of the game to­day.” Nab­bing the win was Tad El­liott of Ski and Snow­board Club Vail, who took home his first Na­tional ti­tle since 2012 af­ter years of strug­gling with mononu­cle­o­sis. “I didn't think it was a re­al­is­tic goal go­ing in,” said El­liott, “but in the morn­ing, I started to feel it was pos­si­ble.” Brian Gregg of Team Gregg-mad­shus was sec­ond and Cana­dian Michael Somppi of NDC Thun­der Bay was third.

In the women's race, Holmes charged from the front for nearly all of 20 kilo­me­tres, but was nar­rowly out­sprinted again by her ri­val Caitlin Pat­ter­son at the fin­ish. “If I had been a lot stronger, I would of bro­ken them ear­lier, but I also re­al­ize you can be sucked back in by the way the course skis,” said Holmes of her strat­egy. Ju­nior Katharine Og­den of SMST2 was third.

Day Four: Clas­sic 1.5km Sprint - Jan. 9

APU'S Eric Packer broke up the ex­pected duel be­tween Black­horse-von Jess and Han­ne­man by win­ning the fi­nal of the men's 1.5km sprint, while Miller con­tin­ued to shine in her break­out sea­son by win­ning the women's race over Hart. “It feels amaz­ing,” said Packer of his first-ever Na­tional ti­tle. “It's some­thing I've al­ways dreamed of.” Han­ne­man fin­ished sec­ond and Black­horse-von Jess fin­ished fifth de­spite qual­i­fy­ing four sec­onds ahead of both Packer and Han­ne­man. “I def­i­nitely ex­pected to be chal­leng­ing for the po- dium, but some­times that's how it goes,” said Black­horse-von Jess. In the women's race, Miller won both the qual­i­fi­ca­tion and all of her rounds. “I love Clas­sic ski­ing, so I went out there and tried to go as hard as I could and then car­ried that mo­men­tum through the heats and into the fi­nal,” said Miller. “It was a fun group to ski with in the fi­nals and a re­ally fun race.” BSF'S Bender landed on the fi­nal podium in third.

(above left) Vail's Tad El­liott (c) won the men's 30km FR, his first Na­tional ti­tle since 2012, best­ing Brian Gregg (l) and Canada's Michael Sommpi in 3rd.

(top) Reese Han­ne­man (APU) se­cured his first Na­tional win of the sea­son and his first skate ti­tle. (above) Caitlin Pat­ter­son de­liv­ered a double vic­tory, win­ning both the 20km freestyle and 10km Clas­sic races. (op­po­site) Kait­lynn Miller con­tin­ued to shin

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