World Cup nordic skiing sprint champion Kikkan Randall of Anchorage closed her competitive season Wednesday with a runner-up finish at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association's Distance Nationals in Norden, Calif., slogging through warm, slushy conditions one day after the SuperTour ended with a hill climb in blowing snow and howling winds.
Liz Stephens, Randall's teammate on the U.S. Ski Team, won both the distance title, in a 30-kilometer mass-start classic race, and the SuperTour, which comprised four races.
Randall, a three-time Olympian who finished third overall in the World Cup, the most elite circuit in the sport, also finished second to Stephens in the SuperTour.
Rosie Brennan, who like Randall trains with the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center, finished third in the 30-K, and APU's Sadie Bjornsen followed her third-place overall in the SuperTour with an eighth-place finish in the 30-K.
Wednesday, Randall hung with Stephens for more than two laps before her teammate pulled away on the third and final lap to win in 1 hour, 41 minutes, 54.8 seconds. Randall clocked 1:42:57.3 and Brennan followed in 1:43:59.2. Nicole DeYong of Anchorage finished sixth in 1:46:05.6, less than three seconds out of fourth place, and Bjornsen took eighth in 1:46:11.0.
Stephens, a ferocious climber, flashed that part of her repertoire Wednesday when she crushed the field in the 6-K hill climb pursuit that took racers to a peak elevation of 7,953 feet on Mount Disney. Stephens trailed Randall, who led the overall standings heading into the climb, by about two and a half minutes at the start of the pursuit and topped Randall by 38 seconds for the overall SuperTour title.
Conditions were so punishing and visibility so sketchy that Randall at one point skied off the course and figured she lost 20-30 seconds before she realized her error and backtracked to get back on course.
Wednesday also featured a 15-K for junior women, and APU's Celia Haering won that race in 1:00:40.4.
Erik Bjornsen, also of APU, won the men's overall title in the SuperTour and is among several Alaska-connected skiers who will compete in Thursday's men's Distance Nationals, which cover 50-K. Reese Hannaman of APU finished ninth overall in the men's SuperTour, APU's Mark Iverson was 11th, Fairbanks' David Norris was 14th and APU's Brent Knight was 15th.
USSA Distance Nationals
30-kilometer mass-start classic
1) Liz Stephens, 1:41:54.8; 2) Kikkan Randall, APU, 1:42:57.3; 3) Rosie Brennan, APU, 1:43:59.2; 4) Jessie Diggins, 1:46:02.9; 5) Sophie Caldwell, 1:46:04.4; 6) Nicole DeYong, Anchorage, 1:46:05.6; 7) Maria Graefnings, 1:46:07.6; 8) Sadie Bjornsen, APU, 1:46:11.0; 9) Caitlin Gregg, 1:46:19.3; 10) Linn Soemskar, 1:46:56.5.
Other Alaskans -- 13) Chelsea Holmes, 1:47:02.2; 14) Kate Fitzgerald, APU, 1:47:04.6; 18) Caitlin Patterson, 1:47:29.0; 21) Lauren Fritz, APU, 1:49:26.2; 29) Sarah Cresap, APU, 1:54:18.8; 32) Jessica Yeaton, 1:59:55.0; 34) Kinsey Loan, APU, 2:01:36.8.
Anchorage Daily News