Holly Brooks is doing everything she can to make sure she's on the U.S. Ski Team's radar as the Winter Olympics approach.
A coach for the Alaska Pacific University nordic ski program, Brooks on Saturday won her second race in the USSA SuperTour race series, which opened last weekend with a pair of races in West Yellowstone, Mont., and continues this weekend with two races in Bozeman, Mont.
The SuperTour victories alone won't win Brooks a spot on the Olympic team. Team selection depends on several factors, especially results at the U.S. championships when they come to Kincaid Park next month. But by excelling in the first three SuperTour races, Brooks is establishing herself as one of the top racers in the country and giving herself a shot at the Olympic team.
"I'm trying," she said.
Brooks dominated the women's sprint competition Saturday to claim $750 in prize money and make an impression on John Farra, the nordic program director for the U.S. Ski Team who attended the races. Last weekend, Brooks won a 10-K skate race and placed second in a 5-K classic race at West Yellowstone.
"I was really happy to have the race I had today. John Farra was here watching, and that's important, to show that it wasn't just West Yellowstone where I can ski fast, that it wasn't just a one-time-wonder thing," Brooks said. "Some people call people who ski fast at West Yellowstone and nowhere else Thanksgiving turkeys, and I really don't want to be a Thanksgiving turkey."
Instead Brooks feasted on her competition, cruising to victory in both the finals and semifinals after charging to an early lead in both races. She used a long uphill early in the 1.2-kilometer course to accelerate past everyone else and no one managed to close the gap.
"It seemed to me that people leading on that uphill had the advantage, because it was hard to pass on. There were a lot of big sweeping turns," Brooks said. "I'm not super fast coming out of the blocks, but I was jockeying into position and looking for holes where I could get around people. That long gradual uphill was my strength."
Brooks led a parade of APU skiers into the top 10 of the women's race. Becca Rorabaugh of Fairbanks was third, Laura Valaas sixth, Katie Ronsee seventh and Kasandra Rice ninth. Two other Alaskans -- Nicole DeYong and Jaime Bronga -- finished 10th and 11th, respectively.
Anders Haugen of APU was the top Alaskans in the men's race, placing seventh.
Skiers race again today in Bozeman and next week they head to Silver Star, British Columbia.
By winning Saturday's sprint, Brooks showed her versatility. She said she rarely competes in sprint events that feature quarterfinals, semifinals and finals like Saturday's. When races like that are held in Anchorage, she's usually too consumed with coaching to also be a racer.
"I haven't done a sprint with heats in five or six years," she said.
Brooks is more experienced and perhaps more comfortable at longer distances, and until the last two weeks her highest-profile skiing accomplishment was a narrow runner-up finish in last season's 50-kilometer American Birkebeiner.
"A distance skier in a sprint," she said. "It feels like a set of intervals, but the intervals are spread out all day."
Find Beth Bragg online at adn.com/contact/bbragg or call 257-4335.
Bozeman SuperTour Sprint Results
Top 3 women -- 1) Holly Brooks, APU/Salomon; 2) Caitlin Compton; 3) Becca Rorabaugh, APUNSC. Other Alaska finishers -- 6) Laura Valaas, APU; 7) Katie Ronsse, APUNSC; 9) Kasandra Rice, APUNSC; 10) Nicole De Yong, SVSEF; 11) Jaime Bronga, UAA; 14) Kate Fitzgerald, APUNSC; 22) Kate Arduser, APUNSC/Rossignol; 30) Tazlina Mannix, USST/APU; 36) Rachelle Kanady, MSU.
Top 3 men -- 1) Garrott Kuzzy, USST/ CXC Team Vertical Limit; 2) Michael Sinnott, SVSEF; 3) Chris Cook, Steinbock Racing. Alaska finishers -- 7) Anders Haugen, APUNSC/Rossignol; 13) Mark Iverson, APUNSC/Rossignol; 16) Brenton Knight, APUNSC; 24) Mike Hinckley, Rossignol; 25) Peter Kling, APUNSC; 26) Bart Dengel, APUNSC; 30) James Southam, APUNSC; 46) Zach Violett, XC-Oregon; 48) David Besh, Alaska Winter Stars.