Racing in balmy conditions and forced to run as a warm-up because the only snow was the stuff on the course and organizers were treating that set-up gently, Alaska nordic skiers fared well Saturday in the opening race of 2012 Super Tour Finals in Craftsbury, Vt.
Led by Olympian Holly Brooks of Anchorage, Alaska women finished 2-3-4 behind burgeoning star Jessie Diggins, 20, of Minnesota, in the 3.2-kilometer freestyle prologue.
Diggins ripped through the course in 6 minutes, 41.2 seconds, with Brooks seven-plus seconds back in 6:48.4. Sadie Bjornsen, who like Brooks competes for APU, clocked 6:49.8 for third place, and APU athlete Becca Rorabaugh clocked 6:57.3 for fourth. APU's Rosie Brennan took ninth in 7:03.8.
Also in the top 15 were Alaskans Chelsea Holmes (11th, 7:04.1), Lauren Fritz (12th, 7:04.9) and Caitlin Patterson (14th, 7:08.4).
On the men's side, Erik Bjornsen of APU topped Alaskans with a tie for third place in 6:10.9. Reese Hanneman of APU took ninth in 6:22.0, followed by David Norris of the Alaska Winter Stars in 10th at 6:23.1 and Alaskan Eric Packer in 11th at 6:23.7. Simeon Hamilton won the men's prologue in 5:59.4.
Brooks earned $300 for her second-place finish. Each of five races for each gender in the Finals includes daily prize money of $500 for first place, $300 for second, $200 for third, $150 for fourth and $100 for fifth.
The overall Tour Finals winners will each get $1,200, with second-place overall gaining $600 and third place $400.
The Tour Finals include four more events for each gender, beginning with Sunday's 15-K classic mass start for men and 10-K classic mass start for women.
Also scheduled this week are a classic sprint race, a freestyle hill climb and freestyle national championship distance races of 30-K for women and 50-K for men.
Temperatures hovered near 40 degrees when athletes competed Saturday morning and rose into the 50s by the afternoon.
2012 USSA Super Tour Finals
Saturday's 3.2-K freestyle prologue
Women's Top 10 -- 1) Jessie Diggins, CXC, 6:41.2; 2) Holly Brooks, APU, 6:48.4; 3) Sadie Bjornsen, APU, 6:49.8; 4) Becca Rorabaugh, APU, 6:57.3; 5) Susan Dunklee, Craftsbury Green, 7:00.6; 6) Sophie Caldwell, Dartmouth, 7:01.3; 7) Liz Stephen, Burke Mt., 7:02.3; 8) Rebecca Dussault, Gunniso, Colo., 7:03.0; 9) Rosie Brennan, APU, 7:03.8; 10) Caitlin Gregg, CXC, 7:04.0.
Other Alaskans -- 11) Chelsea Holmes, Sun Valley, 7:04.1; 12) Lauren Fritz, APU, 7:04.9; 14) Caitlin Patterson, U. Vermont, 7:08.4; 26) Kinsey Loan, APU, 7:28.4; 30) Celia Haering, APU, 7:34.4; 54) Sarah Cresap, APU, 8:01.6; 55) Crystal Pitney, Alaska Winter Stars, 8:05.1; 70) Erika Klaar, APU, 8:48.4.
Men's Top 10 -- 1) Simeon Hamilton, Sun Valley, 5:59.4; 2) Sylvan Ellefson, SSC Vail, 6:06.0; 3) tie, Noah Hoffman, SSC Vail, and Erik Bjornsen, APU, 6:10.9; 5) Kris Freeman, SSC Vail, 6:13.4; 6) Michael Sinnott, Sun Valley, 6:13.5; 7) Tad Elliott, SSC Vail, 6:14.5; 8) Samuel Naney, Methow, 6:21.0; 9) Reese Hanneman, APU, 6:22.0; 10) David Norris, Alaska Winter Stars, 6:23.1.
Other Alaskans -- 11) Eric Packer, Dartmouth, 6:23.7; 25) Peter Kling, APU, 6:39.1; 31) Tyler Kornfield, Alaska Winter Stars, 6:40.7; 43) Scott Patterson, U. Vermont, 6:52.4; 47) Andy Liebner, Marquette, Mich., 6:54.6; 48) Forrest Mahlen, APU, 6:57.2; 52) Jack Novak, APU, 6:58.6; 54) Erik Soederstroem, Ostersunds, 7:01.0; 59) Erin Phillips, APU, 7:06.6; 72) Donald Haering, APU, 7:16.3.