In her final sprint race before the world championships, Anchorage's Kikkan Randall looked strong in the qualifying round and the quarterfinals but her skis proved too slick in the semifinals Saturday.
Randall placed eighth in a World Cup classic sprint race in Davos, Switzerland. The result was good enough to keep her in the World Cup sprint lead heading into this week's world championships in Italy.
Randall, a three-time Olympian, was the fifth-fastest in qualifying and won her quarterfinal heat but had trouble with her skis on a big uphill climb during the semifinals, placing fourth and failing to advance to the six-woman finals.
"Unfortunately my skis were a bit more slick in the semis than they had been in the previous heats," Randall said in an email, "and I am not a good enough technical classic skier to be able to make up for the lack of grip. It was definitely a bummer."
Vermont's Andy Newell led the American men with a fourth-place finish, his best result in a classic sprint since he earned a bronze medal in a March 2010 race in Norway.
It was a good day for the Americans, who advanced three women and two men to the quarterfinals. Among them was Anchorage's Holly Brooks, who finished fifth her quarterfinal to finish 23rd overall. Ida Sargent of Vermont was 18th among women and Simi Hamilton of Colorado was 13th among men.
"Today was a good confidence booster coming into the World Championships," Randall said.
Randall will be among four Alaskans represented Team USA when the World Championships begin Wednesday in Val di Fiemme, Italy. Brooks, Sadie Bjornsen and Erik Bjornsen are the others. All four are part of the Alaska Pacific University nordic ski program.
The U.S. Ski Team, led by three-time gold medalist Ted Ligety, turned in a great performance at last week's World Alpine Championships in Schladming, Austria, and the U.S. Biathlon Team captured a rare medal at last week's World Biathlon Championships in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, when Tim Burke of New York claimed silver for the first U.S. medal since 1987.
Those successes have Randall itching for the cross-country team to get in on the fun.
"It's been a super fun week watching the U.S. alpine team ski so well in Schladming and the U.S. biathlon team recording some historic results in Nove Mesto," she said. "The team is super fired up and we can't wait to take our turn over the next couple weeks."