In a career that already has spanned three Olympics and a decade on the World Cup circuit before she turns 30, nordic skier Kikkan Randall of Anchorage has become increasingly accustomed to the view from on high.
Friday, she found herself atop yet another podium.
Randall, the World Cup's reigning sprint champion, used her strength and fast-twitch muscles to reap a reward in the longest of women's races by capturing the 30-kilometer freestyle national championship in Craftsbury, Vt.
Randall, 29, out-sprinted U.S. Ski Team teammate Jessie Diggins by 1.1 seconds, clocking 1 hour, 19 minutes, 30.7 seconds to rack her 17th national championship.
She led a parade of Alaska-connected skiers in the top 10. Olympian Holly Brooks claimed fourth place in 1:21:50.2, Chelsea Holmes of Girdwood grabbed fifth in 1:23:23.3 and Sadie Bjornsen, who like Randall and Brooks trains with Alaska Pacific University's Nordic Ski Center, finished ninth in 1:24:17.6.
Also, Kinsey Loan of APU took third place in the junior women's 15-K in 44:34.4 and Celia Haering of APU took fourth among juniors in 44:55.5.
Because warm conditions have prevailed lately in Vermont, the 30-K was actually contested on a 1.5-K track that skiers covered 20 times.
Randall, rising star Diggins and eventual third-place finisher Liz Stephen (1:19:45), another U.S. Ski Team member, dropped the rest of the field by the halfway point. Despite cramping in her quads during the last 5-K or so -- Randall said she is still recovering from a cold -- Randall finished her last race of the season strong.
"It feels so good to finally wrap up the season,'' Randall wrote in an email. "After finishing the last World Cup race two weeks ago, it almost felt like the end.
"But it's always nice to get one more interface with the North American crew before we all head to our respective homes. I can truly let it all sink in now and celebrate with all those that helped me put together such an exciting year!''
Besides winning the World Cup sprint championship -- and that was the first World Cup championship by an American in 30 years -- Randall finished fifth in the overall standings, the highest an American woman has ever finished in the overall.
After helping conduct a "Fast and Female'' clinic Sunday in Craftsbury, Randall said she'll head to New York City for a week to visit her brother, Tanner, a fashion designer. Then she plans to return home to Anchorage for some fun skiing before taking a Hawaiian vacation with her husband, Jeff Ellis.
The men's 50-K scheduled Saturday in Craftsbury effectively wraps the ski season.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
U.S. women's 30-K freestyle national championship
Friday in Craftsbury, Vt.
Top 5 -- 1) Kikkan Randall, APU/U.S. Ski Team, 1:19:30.7; 2) Jessie Diggins, 1:19:31.8; 3) Liz Stephen 1:19:45.0; 4) Holly Brooks, APU, 1:21.50.2; 5) Chelsea Holmes, Sun Valley SEF/Girdwood, 1:23:23.3.
Other Alaskans -- 9) Sadie Bjornsen, 1:24:17.6; 18) Caitlin Patterson, 1:26:42.4; 19) Rosie Brennan, 1:27:17.1; 21) Amy Glen, 1:28:19.5; 22) Becca Rorabaugh, 1:28:51.0; 31) Sarah Cresap, 1:34:00.7; 32) Lauren Fritz, 1:34;16.6; 38) Crystal Pitney, 1:37:37.5; 45) Erika Klaar, 1:42:53.9.
Juniors -- 15-K
Top 5 -- 1) Alicia Rose Pastore, 43:38.2; 2) Margaret Pope, 44:19.0; 3) Kinsey Loan, APU, 44:34.4; 4) Celia Haering, APU, 44:55.5; 5) Amalia Siegel, 47:31.1.
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News