For the third straight year, Ketchum’s Mike Sinnott of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Gold Team has earned a silver medal in the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championship classic sprint competition.
Sinnott, 27, placed second in the men's 1.3 kilometer classic sprint final Wednesday at Soldier Hollow, Utah. Former Dartmouth College ski captain Sinnott finished a close second behind three-time Olympian Torin Koos. It was the seventh national title for Koos.
Last year at Rumford, Maine, Sinnott finished second to Tyler Kornfield of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Actually, Sinnott was third, but both he and Kornfield moved up a place after Koos was disqualified for illegally switching lanes.
Sinnott also placed second in the 2011 national classic sprint at Rumford.
In Wednesday’s qualifying heats for 210 men at Soldier Hollow, Sinnott was fourth (2:53.38) and Koos third (2:51.81) behind top qualifier Dakota Blackhorse von Jess, 26, of Bend, Ore. (2:49.02). Sinnott then won his quarterfinal heat and semi-final heat. Bend’s von Jess finished third in the sprint final.
Koos, 32, of Wenatchee, Wash. and the Bridger Ski Foundation and Jennie Bender, 24, of Johnson, Vt. and CXC Elite thus captured the classic sprint titles on opening day of the 2013 U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships on the Olympic trails at Soldier Hollow.
University of Vermont graduate Bender earned her first U.S. title in an intense sprint to the finish over Sadie Bjornsen, 23, of Winthrop, Wash. and Alaska Pacific/U.S. Ski Team. The victory brought Bender to tears at the finish. She battled illness during the summer and fall of 2012.
Bender is a three-time Junior Worlds team member and 2011 American Birkebeiner classic queen. She said, “I had a rough fall and summer being sick, so this is pretty mind blowing. Classic sprinting is really my strength so I was really happy to qualify sixth.”
Koos said, “Today is just a classic amazing day at Soldier Hollow. I have been skiing here since 1999. I've had my first World Cup here, my first Olympics here and my first U.S. Championship here, so I always looks forward to coming back.”
Other SVSEF top results: Matt Gelso, 24, placed second behind Koos in one quarterfinal heat and finished second in the “B” Final, good for eighth place overall in the final standings;
SVSEF racer Kevin Bolger won the Junior Men’s “A” Final after sweeping to victory in his quarterfinal and semi-final heats. He placed 44th in the qualifying heats; and former SVSEF racer Cole Morgan of the University of Vermont placed 21st in qualifying.
Sloan Storey of the University of Utah placed fourth in her quarterfinal heat of the Senior Women’s finalsd. Jesse Knori of the SVSEF was fifth in a quarterfinal heat and former SVSEF racer Annie Pokorny of Middlebury College (13th of 151 women in qualifying) placed sixth in her quarterfinal heat.
Action continues Friday at Soldier Hollow with individual start freestyle distance racing, men’s 15 and women’s 10k. Over 430 Nordic athletes are competing. Soldier Hollow, near Midway, Utah was the cross country and biathlon venue for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.