Sunny skies and corduroy ski conditions greeted 400 cross-country racers for the USSA West Yellowstone Ski Festival “First Tracks” SuperTour races over the Thanksgiving holiday in Montana.
The West Yellowstone races at 7,000-foot-plus altitude opened the cross-country ski race calendar for the 2013-14 Olympic season. They were part of the U.S. Continental Cup series—highest level of Nordic competition in the U.S.
Friday’s 1.3-kilometer freestyle sprint winners were Caitlin Gregg, 33, of Madshus Racing/Team Gregg and Sweden’s Emil Johansson, 22, of the University of Colorado.
They emerged as the winners through quarterfinal heats involving the fastest-qualifying 30 racers, then semi-finals with the top 12 and finals matching the top six.
In the finals No 1 qualifier Gregg out-sprinted No. 8 Jennie Bender, 25, of Montana’s Bridger Ski Foundation while No. 7 Johansson was about two seconds faster than No. 21 qualifier Reese Hanneman, 24, of Alaska Pacific University.
The Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation had 14 racers entered in Friday’s “First Tracks” opener including Gold Team and Competition team racers, and SVSEF alumni like Kevin Bolger of the University of Utah and Annie Pokorny of Stratton Mountain.
SVSEF racers making the quarterfinals were Matt Gelso, two-time NCAA collegiate champ Miles Havlick and Bolger among the men, and first-year Gold Team racers Rose Kemp and Mary Rose for the women. Bolger and Kemp made the semi-finals and just missed finals berths by less than a second.
Gelso, 25, is the former University of Colorado All-American skier from Truckee (Ca.) High School and the Auburn Ski Club.
Kemp, 23, came out of the Bogus Basin Nordic Ski Team and competed for coach Abi Holt—a former SVSEF skiing star—at the University of Utah. Rose, 22, from Steamboat Springs, Co., raced for the University of Colorado.
Saturday’s races on the Rendezvous Ski Trails were 10k and 15k freestyle distance events with individual starts on a 5k loop. There were 199 finishers in those two events, plus another 192 in Masters and Junior categories for the final day of racing in “First Tracks.”
Fueled by Caitlin Gregg’s victory in the SuperTour skate sprint on Friday, Team Greggtallied two more podiums on Saturday.
Caitlin Gregg won the women’s 10-kilometer freestyle individual start by more than a minute and 20 seconds, and her husband Brian took second to Norwegian Mads Strøm of the University of Colorado in the men’s 15k skate.
Idaho Nordic’s Kurt Wolf, 33, clocked the fastest Masters Men time on the 5k skate course in 13:01. Hailey’s Matt Gervase, 64, was second in Men’s 60-64 at 18:35. Park City’s Stacy McCooey, 31, was the top Masters woman at 15:53.
SVSEF junior racer Eli Jensen, 15, had the second-fastest time among 5k juniors at 13:50, 19 seconds behind Noah Putt, 15, of Utah’s Wasatch Ski Academy (13:31. Fastest junior girl was Sydney Palmer-Leger, 11, of the Park City (Utah) Ski Team, 15:34.
Prize money at West Yellowstone ranged from $750 and $500 for first and second places, to $150 for fifth and $100 for sixth.
The FIS-sanctioned West Yellowstone SuperTour were excellent training milestones for the Bozeman SuperTour classic sprint and classic distance races Dec. 7-8.
Coming up at Bohart Ranch near Bozeman, Mt.: Classic sprints on Saturday, Dec. 7; and mass start classic races (10k women, 15k men) on Saturday, Dec. 8. The Bridger Ski Foundation is organizing the event.
The Yellowstone and Bozeman events represented the first period of SuperTour racing that can be important for potential U.S. Ski Team nominations and possible starts at the World Cup level.
They are followed by the 2014 U.S. National Cross-Country Ski Championships starting Saturday, Jan. 4 at Soldier Hollow, Utah. Events there are classic and skate sprints, 10k/15k classic individual start and 20k/30 skate mass start.
The 2014 SuperTour Finals coupled with the 30k/50k U.S. National Distance Championships and the return of national relays are part of the Anchorage Centennial Celebration in March at Anchorage, Ak. There will be no hill climb this year since the finals aren’t a Mini Tour.
Race dates at Kincaid Park are March 22 for the SuperTour Finals 10k/15k individual skate, March 23 for the classic sprint, March 25 for the U.S. National relay, March 27 for the U.S. National women’s 30k and March 28 for the men’s 50k.
Friday’s sprint qualifying results and Saturday’s 10k/15k skate distance outcome from Yellowstone:
· Friday, Nov. 29, women’s 1.3k freestyle sprint qualifier: 1—Caitlin Gregg, 33, (Team Gregg/Madshus) 2:55.52. 5—Rose Kemp (SVSEF) 2:59.69. 9—Annie Pokorny (Stratton Mt.) 3:02.15. 17—Mary Rose (SVSEF) 3:06.80. 49—Katie Feldman (SVSEF) 3:29.14 (13th-U18). 53—Grace Gorham (SVSEF) 3:37.95. 62—Loni Unser (SVSEF) 3:55.95. 63—Cheyanne Stopol (SVSEF) 3:58.34 (66 finishers).
· Friday, Nov. 29, men’s 1.3k freestyle sprint qualifier: 1—Ryan Scott, 24 (Vail Ski and Snowboard Club) 2:27.14. 10 (tie)—Matt Gelso, 25 (SVSEF) 2:33.06. 12—Miles Havlick, 24 (SVSEF) 2:33.12. 18—Kevin Bolger, 20 (UnivUtah) 2:33.99 (7th-U23). 65—Cole Greenberg, 17 (SVSEF) 2:45.92 (3rd-U18). 66—Stephen Pfeiffer, 18 (SVSEF) 2:46.53 (10th-U20). 98—Andrew Graves, 18 (SVSEF) 2:56.99. 105—Tom Gillespie, 16 (SVSEF) 3:01.19 (128 finishers).
· Saturday, Nov. 30, women’s 10k freestyle: 1—Caitlin Gregg 25:45. 8—Annie Pokorny 28:07 (3rd-U23). 11—Mary Rose 28:42 (5th-U23). 13—Rose Kemp 28:44. 25—Sloan Storey (UnivUtah) 29:44 (2nd-U20). 38—Makayla Cappel (UnivDenver) 30:48. 55—Katie Feldman 32:45 (12th-U18). 66—Haley Montgomery (SVSEF) 35:17. 69—Loni Unser 35:27. 70—Sarah Williams (SVSEF) 35:43 (8th-U20). 73—Grace Gorham 36:29. 77—Cheyanne Stopol 43:14 (79 finishers).
· Saturday, Nov. 30, men’s 15k freestyle: 1—Mads Strøm 34:22. 6—Miles Havlick 35:29 (4th-SR). 17—Kevin Bolger 36:21 (8th-U23). 22—Patrick Johnson (Far West Elite) 36:33. 81—Jake Adicoff (SVSEF) 41:05 (13th-U20). 94—Stephen Pfeiffer 42:50. 101—Andrew Graves 44:48. 105—Nate Thomas (SVSEF) 45:31. 106—Danny Graves (SVSEF) 45:32 (120 finishers).
· Saturday, Nov. 30, U16 boys (ages 14-15) 5k freestyle: 2—Eli Jensen (SVSEF) 13:50 (0:19 back). 6—Peter Wolter (SVSEF) 14:16. 9—Zach Williams (SVSEF) 14:22. 13—River Vorse (SVSEF) 14:39. 14—Ben Brunelle (SVSEF) 14:40. 18—Jacob Truxal (SVSEF) 14:49. 19—Carter Ros (SVSEF) 15:01. 27—Cooper Roquet (SVSEF) 16:17. 32—Keene Morawitz (SVSEF) 16:41 (37 finishers).
· Saturday, Nov. 30, U16 girls 5k freestyle: 11—Annika Landis (SVSEF) 17:37 (2:02 back). 17—Emily Siegel (SVSEF) 18:41 (29 finishers).
· Saturday, Nov. 30, U18 girls (ages 16-17) 5k freestyle: 11—Sophia DeKlotz (SVSEF) 23:14.