2018 USSA Su­per­tour Fi­nals and Long Dis­tance Na­tion­als

SkiTrax - - Contents - by Julie Me­lan­son

The U.S. Ski & Snow­board (USSA) Su­per­tour fi­nals and L.L. Bean U.S. Long Dis­tance Na­tional Cham­pi­onships held at Ver­mont’s Crafts­bury Out­door Cen­ter hosted ath­letes fresh from in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion, in­clud­ing the first Amer­i­can Olympic women cross-coun­try-ski gold medal­ists, Kikkan Ran­dall and Jessie Dig­gins, along with all six Crafts­bury Olympians.

Dig­gins (SMS T2) took home the first vic­tory, win­ning the USSA Su­per­tour women’s Clas­sic sprint, with So­phie Cald­well (SMS T2) in sec­ond and Ida Sar­gent (Crafts­bury Green Rac­ing Project) in third, just edg­ing out top-qual­i­fier Sadie Bjornsen (APU) in fourth.

Andy Newell (SMS T2) de­liv­ered the goods in the men’s Clas­sic sprint, best­ing team­mate Ben Sax­ton (SMS T2) in sec­ond, fol­lowed by Erik Bjornsen (APU) in third. Newell, who won the qual­i­fier as well, said, “Rac­ing in the U.S. is al­ways dif­fer­ent be­cause for the first time all sea­son you feel like you are com­pet­ing against your US Ski Team team­mates. We re­ally don’t have that feel­ing in the win­ter since we are all rac­ing for the U.S.A. – it’s all one team.”

There was a pause in the rac­ing for youth to gather round and ask the Olympians ques­tions. The mes­sage of the day was to fol­low one’s dreams and stay with it, even dur­ing the tough­est of days, be­cause the sport can take you any­where you might want to go. Just as with their ski­ing, the Olympians hit the mark. Many stressed that ski­ing and rac­ing should in­deed be fun.

When rac­ing re­sumed, Dig­gins took home her sec­ond-straight vic­tory, win­ning the USSA Su­per­tour women’s 10km FR Mass-start race, with Sadie Bjornsen (APU) a close sec­ond, fol­lowed by Ran­dall in third.

For Sadie Bjornsen, it was a fun day, where she did her best to hang on to Dig­gins (who tum­bled at the bot­tom of the hill). Then Sadie Bjornsen did take over the lead, but Dig­gins was quickly back on the front by the bot­tom of the next hill.

Ran­dall was stoked to fin­ish third. “The level of the rac­ing here has cer­tainly come up over the last sev­eral years.”

Erik Bjornsen cap­tured the men’s 15km FR Mass-start race, as Simi Hamil­ton (SMST2) bat­tled to sec­ond place, fol­lowed by Tad Elliott (Ski Club Vail) in third. Hamil­ton took home his first dis­tance podium for a su­perb end to his sea­son.

Erik Bjornsen broke a pole on the sec­ond lap. “Simi ac­tu­ally grabbed one for me at one point. I was able to put a lit­tle gap in on the last big climb about a kilo­me­tre from the fin­ish and then just stayed in the lead from there. I was happy to not have to sprint to the fin­ish against Simi be­cause there is a chance it would have played out dif­fer­ently.”

The big ques­tion about Na­tion­als tak­ing place in Fair­banks, Alaska was “What about that Mixed-re­lay ti­tle?” Would Strat­ton Moun­tain de­fend the Mixed-re­lay ti­tle at the cham­pi­onships.

“A lot of pride on the line to­mor­row,” were Ran­dall’s words the day prior to the race. “It was tough to lose the ti­tle to SMS last year, so you can guar­an­tee Team APU is hun­gry to get the ti­tle back.”

Hun­gry wasn’t enough, as Strat­ton Moun­tain team bided their time in the Mixed-re­lay 4x5km to once again top the podium, de­fend­ing their ti­tle over APU 1, with Crafts­bury Green Rac­ing Project 1 land­ing third on the podium.

Hamil­ton, Dig­gins, So­phie Cald­well and Pa­trick Cald­well marked their APU-1 ri­vals and kept them in check, as Erik Bjornsen, Sadie Bjornsen, Scott Pat­ter­son and Ran­dall looked strong. Sar­gent, Adam Martin, Alex Howe and Caitlin Pat­ter­son from Crafts­bury chal­lenged early on, but set­tled for third.

Hamil­ton, Martin and Erik Bjornsen were the fron­trun­ners on the open­ing leg and all tagged off to­gether, with APU-1 hav­ing a slight edge. Then Sadie Bjornsen dropped So­phie Cald­well and Sar­gent and gar­nered a seven-sec­ond lead as she tagged Caitlin Pat­ter­son for leg three. So­phie Cald­well bat­tled against Caitlin Pat­ter­son on the third leg and clawed back some time, as APU-1 an­chor Ran­dall en­joyed a four-sec­ond lead, but not for long, as Dig­gins soon joined her.

Ran­dall could not con­tain her Olympic gold part­ner, as Dig­gins raced to vic­tory for Strat­ton once again, with Ran­dall tak­ing sec­ond and Caitlin Pat­ter­son tak­ing third.

“We knew it was go­ing to be tough go­ing against Strat­ton to­day based on how they were

ski­ing all week and we knew it would be key get­ting a lit­tle time go­ing into that last leg,” said Ran­dall.

“Scott gave us the gap, and I was hope­ful go­ing into the last lap. I tried to put the pres­sure on, but Jessie caught me at about 2.5K. She had a bit more and pulled away to take the win.”

The women’s 30km CL, their fi­nal race of the sea­son, was both emo­tional and hard-fought as Dig­gins took home her third-straight vic­tory in sprint to the line, with Sadie Bjornsen fol­lowed by Ran­dall in third.

So­phie Cald­well, who was off the front early on, fin­ished fourth, with Sar­gent tak­ing home fifth. Liz Stephen (Burke Acad­emy), who is re­tir­ing with Ran­dall, was sev­enth, be­hind Rosie Frankowski (APU) in sixth. They were part of a four­some led by Ran­dall that chased down So­phie Cald­well, who was ski­ing in no man’s land, hav­ing been dropped by Dig­gins and Sadie Bjornsen. So­phie Cald­well was caught on the fi­nal lap, as Ran­dall put down the ham­mer for the fi­nal podium of her ca­reer.

Erik Bjornsen took home the men’s 50km Clas­sic Mass-start vic­tory in a close bat­tle, with Martin in sec­ond at 1.5 sec­onds, fol­lowed by Scott Pat­ter­son in third, an­other 22 sec­onds be­hind. Erik Bjornsen re­claimed the ti­tle, hav­ing won in 2016, while Scott Pat­ter­son, the de­fend­ing cham­pion, set­tled for third.

David Nor­ris ( APU) claimed fourth, and Hamil­ton, known for his sprint­ing prow­ess, had a strong day, fin­ish­ing fifth at the fi­nal race of the 2018 L. L. Bean U. S. Long Dis­tance Na­tional Cham­pi­onships. Fin­ish­ing 10th was Canada’s Scott Hill from Team Hard­wood.

Erik Bjornsen re­claimed the Men's 50km CL ti­tle in a close bat­tle with Adam Martin.

Strat­ton Moun­tain de­fended their Mixed Re­lay ti­tle at 2018 US Long Dis­tance cham­pi­onships.

Photo fin­ish be­tween Sadie Bjornsen (l) and Jessie Dig­gins in 30km CL, the fi­nal women's race of the sea­son.

Spe­cial Q & A with Team USA at 2018 USSA Su­per­tour Fi­nals in Crafts­bury

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