For nine Alaska cross-country skiers, it's time to talk Turkey.
Nearly half of the skiers who will represent the United States at the World Junior Championships and U-23 World Championships next month in Erzurum, Turkey, will also be representing Alaska -- nine of the 19 skiers named to the teams are from here or train here.
Of those nine, six are men -- Scott Patterson, Eric Packer, Forrest Mahlen and Erik Bjornsen of Anchorage and brothers Logan and Reese Hanneman of Fairbanks.
The three women include Stephanie Kirk and Sadie Bjornsen of Anchorage and Becca Rorabaugh of Fairbanks.
Kirk is from South High and is the only high school skier among the Alaskans headed to Turkey. All of the others are either NCAA skiers or part of the Alaska Pacific University nordic program.
The majority of the Alaska contingent earned their spots at last week's U.S. Cross Country Championships in Rumford, Maine, although Sadie Bjornsen -- who didn't race because she was ill -- was a discretionary choice based on previous results. In a World Cup team sprint race earlier this winter, Bjornsen teamed with Anchorage's Kikkan Randall to win a silver medal, the first by any American duo in a team sprint.
Alaskans grabbed five of the eight spots on the U-23 team -- Packer, Rorabaugh, Reese Hanneman and the Bjornsen siblings. All train with APU except for Packer, an Alaska Winter Stars skier who races for Dartmouth College.
The other four Alaskans are part of the 11-skier World Junior team. Kirk and Patterson are both products of the Alaska Winter Stars training group, Mahlen trains with APU and Logan Hanneman races for UAF.
There could have been even more Alaskans headed to the age-group world championships, but five others who qualified for the teams decided not to make the trip -- Tyler Kornfield, Marion Woods and Patrick Johnson of Anchorage and David Norris and Rebecca Konieczny of Fairbanks.
Woods, a teammate of Kirk's at both South High and the Alaska Winter Stars, has been one of the nation's top juniors the last couple of seasons; last winter, she swept the gold medals at the Junior Olympics.
Bryan Fish, development coach for the U.S. Ski Team, said missing the world junior championships won't hurt Woods in the long run.
"She will have three more years to qualify and compete at (World Juniors)," U.S. Ski Team development coach Bryan Fish said in an email. "Taking it step by step is an excellent plan for long-term athletic development.
"Marion would have been an asset on the team, but I am more excited to see what the future holds for her if skiing is a long-term goal of hers."
Both race series are Feb. 19-26 in Erzurum, Turkey. The U.S. teams will gather a week before then for training camps in Latvia and Estonia.
Reach Beth Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
2012 World Junior team
Men -- Logan Hanneman, Fairbanks; Mike Vigers, Vail, Colo.; Cole Morgan, Sun Valley, Idaho; Scott Patterson, Anchorage; Will Wicherski, Williams College; Forrest Mahlen, Anchorage.
Women -- Joanne Reid, University of Colorado; Corey Stock, Cambridge Sports Union; Emily Hannah, Steamboat Springs, Colo.; Stephanie Kirk, Anchorage; Mary O'Connell, Steamboat Springs, Colo.
2012 U-23 World Championship team
Men -- Noah Hoffman, Steamboat Springs, Colo.; Erik Bjornsen, Anchorage; Eric Packer, Anchorage; Ryan Scott, Montana State; Reese Hanneman, Fairbanks.
Women -- Jessie Diggins, Central Cross Country Ski Association; Sadie Bjornsen, Anchorage; Becca Rorabaugh, Fairbanks.
By BETH BRAGG
Anchorage Daily News