US Nationals: Freestyle Sprints Recapby Mary Kozloski
January 5, 2018
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Caitlin Patterson of Craftsbury Green Racing Project and Alaska Pacific University’s Reese Hanneman were victorious in the 1.5k freestyle sprint races on day two of the 2018 U.S. National Championships presented by L.L. Bean. Patterson proved once again that she is a jack-of-all-trades, claiming back-to-back national titles in both the distance and sprint races. Hanneman is no stranger to winning national titles either, he is now a 3-time U.S. National Champion in the sprint.
As the sprints began, there was even more on the line for the qualifiers in this race. Not only did the top 25 move on to the heats, the qualifier results were also considerations for Olympic selection.
In the women’s sprint, Minnesota native Annie Hart (Stillwater, MN) who now skis for the SMST2 team qualified first and lead by 1.78 seconds.
“I was pretty disappointed after the 10K skate day, which turned into a course and conditions that just did not suit my style of skiing”, explained Hart. “I was pretty bummed, to say the least, but got very similar advice from both Pat O’Brien, my coach at SMS, and also my strength coach Max Lipset. Both of them understood my frustration with the uncontrollable, but encouraged me to bring the best version of myself to today, and race in a way that I would be proud of. So that’s what I did! I felt great for the qualifier and combined with really incredible skis I was very happy to finish the qualifier in first. I’ve never won a high-level qualifier, and while they don’t give podium flowers for the initial effort, that was a huge victory and affirmation.”
Hart dominated her quarterfinal heat but couldn’t hold on in the semifinal, finishing third, unable to move through to the final heat as the lucky loser. Hart missed out on the final heat by less than a hundredth of a second.
“Being in the first quarterfinal I wasn’t really sure how the course would play out so I lead the race from point to point, which in retrospect may have burnt a little too much energy early on”, explains Hart. “I went into the semifinal with a different plan, to follow and then carry the draft into the final. The plan almost worked perfectly, but I just hopped in behind the wrong person going up the steep hill and just lost a little too much of the draft. I never gave up and managed to close the gap to the leading two women, but just ran out of real estate. I missed making the final by less than a hundredth of a second, which definitely stings a little bit, but I am feeling good and am confident I can make up that hundredth of second in one of the next two races.”
In the women’s final heat Caitlin Patterson skied to a convincing first place finish, 4.2 seconds ahead of Jasmi Joensuu of University of Denver and Petra Hyncicova of University of Colorado Boulder who finished third. Kaitlynn Miller of Craftsbury GRP and APU’s Hannah Halvorsen, who is also a U20, finished fourth and fifth overall, but were the second and third Americans.
There were other impressive sprint results from Midwest women skiers who, typically consider their strength to be distance races. Rosie Frankowski (Minneapolis, MN) of APU, qualified 11th and raced through to the semifinals but was unable to move further, which landed her with an impressive tenth place finish. Alayna Sonnesyn (Plymouth, MN) of the University of Vermont qualified seventh and remained strong throughout the heats. Sonnesyn narrowly missed the final heat but earned her eighth overall.
“Today's sprint was so much more than I expected”, said Sonnesyn. “I consider myself much more of a distance skier and it had been almost two years since I saw sprint heats at this kind of level. That being said, my focus on the qualifier was to just go as hard as I could from the start. My skis were super fast and I felt so good. I thought I was doing well but in a qualifier it's so hard to tell. I was so happy to see my result. I wasn't really sure what to expect for the heats as it had been a while, but I was confident because I felt so good in the qualifier. I knew it would be fast so I tried to get out as hard as I could in the quarterfinal and semifinal. It worked really well the first round, but by the semifinals my legs were pretty tired and I was just trying to hang on. Both round included lunge finishes so I was really happy with the way I skied the final 100 meters. By far my proudest sprint race ever! Really excited for the 20k classic on Sunday though.”
Northern Michigan University’s Nicole Schneider (Wayzata, MN) finished 19th overall, Hannah Rudd (Plymouth, MN) of University of Alaska Anchorage was 20th, NMU’s Sarah Bezdicek 22nd and CXC’s Felicia Gesior (Waukesha, WI) finished 26th.
The men’s final heat finish was not as predictable. Reese Hanneman and Wisconsin native Kevin Bolger (Minocqua, WI), who skis for Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, battled for first throughout the course. In the final stretch of the race Hanneman and Bolger were neck-and-neck and lunged towards the finish line, but it was Hanneman who had the bigger burst of energy to secure the win 0.65 seconds ahead of Bolger.
“Crazy day of racing from start to finish. Everyone is trying to reach a common goal of getting to the Olympics, so the competition is high!” said Bolger. “The conditions were amazing, the snow that we just got mixed in really well, giving us some fast skiing, which made every heat super competitive. I felt super strong today, there was no doubt in my mind I was the strongest skier out there from the qualifier to the final, but in sprinting a lot can happen. Obviously I wanted the win, but am very happy to finish the day with second! I think being able to qualify second and ski strong and consistent all the way to the final shows a lot. Skiing this course the day before I wasn't 100% sure how I was going to ski it. I knew I didn't ever want to lead with some big climbs and some fast downhills -- leading wouldn't be a good idea. In my quarter final and semi, I tried to ski as relaxed as I could and just ski my race, and put myself in a good position for a sprint finish, which I thought I did really well. Throughout the day and in the final I kept that rolling. I skied relaxed off the start, and let everyone else kind of dictate the pace, and coming into the finish, I knew I had a faster finish then the rest of the guys and found a hole and took it. It wasn't enough to take down Reese but it was a tight finish and with another meter or two I think things would have been different. I’m super happy with the result, and am looking forward to the 30k coming up as well as the classic sprint.”
Tyler Kornfield of APU finished third, while NMU’s Zak Ketterson (Bloomington, MN) ended the day with an impressive fourth place finish and was the top U23 male. Ketterson qualified 20th, snuck into the semi finals as the lucky loser, finished second in the semis, which stamped his ticket to the finals. Andrew Egger (Minneapolis, MN) of Colby College also had an impressive day, finishing tenth overall and second for U23 men.
“My prelim was nothing special, but was good enough to get me into the heats,” said Ketterson. “In the heats, I knew my starting speed was very good and that it was difficult to pass on the course so I wanted to lead as much as I could. I felt stronger and stronger as the heats went on and was happy with 4th. I took a bad line into the finish and got passed unfortunately, but overall I can't complain. It was nice to have lots of cheering and support from my Midwest teammates and family friends.”
In the final results Ketterson was the top U23 male and Egger was second. Michigan Tech University’s Thomas Bye (Eden Prairie, MN) was fifth and finished 24th overall and Ian Torchia (Rochester, MN) of NMU was 10th. Sonnesyn was second for the U23 women, Schneider was fifth, Bezdicek seventh and MTU’s Sarah Goble (Harbor Springs, Mich.) was 11th.
Rudd was third and Anja Maijala (Cloquet, MN) of University of Alaska Fairbanks was 7th for U20 women and MTU athletes Eric Houck (Syracuse, NY) and Mitchell Delong (Houghton, Mich.) were fifth and fifteenth and William Kerker (Minneapolis, MN) of Colby College was 10th for U20 men.
Loppet Nordic Racing athlete Kelly Koch had a strong sprint day. Koch won her quarterfinal heat and finished third in the semifinals but was able to move to the finals as the lucky loser. In the final heat Koch finished sixth overall and was fourth for U18 women. Abigail Jarzin (Green Bay, WI) of Ashwaubenon Nordic Ski Team finished 38th overall and was third, Leah Rudd 8th and Mara McCollor 10th. Anders Sonnesyn (Wayzata, MN) was 9th for U18 men.
Competition continues Sunday, January 7 with a 5/10/20/30 classic race. Live stream coverage of the races can be watched on http://www.facebook.com/usskiandsnowboard/.
Women’s 1.5k freestyle sprint
Men’s 1.5k freestyle sprint
About the author...
Mary Kozloski is from Green Bay, WI and is a UW Green Bay Ski Team Alumni, where she skied and studied Communications and Business Administration for four years. Mary continues to love and stay connected to the sport through writing. She is a travel and outdoor enthusiast and enjoys exploring everything Colorado has to offer, which she has called her new home state since fall of 2016.