Kikkan Randall of Anchorage was one of three American women in the top 15 of a World Cup 10-kilometer classic race Sunday in Zklarska, Poland, a promising show of force for a U.S. Ski Team that hopes to end a 38-year medal drought at next month's Winter Olympics.
Liz Stephen of Montpelier, Vt., posted a career-best sixth-place finish, Ida Sargent of Orleans, Vt., was a career-best ninth and Randall placed 14th in the race, won by hometown hero Justyna Kowalczyk.
The results came a day after Randall won the freestyle sprint, one of five American women to qualify for the heats.
Randall said she wasn't entirely happy with her performance Sunday -- "I felt tired and sluggish on the first two laps," she wrote in an email, plus she had to briefly pull off-course to remove a discarded race bib that caught on her klister wax.
Randall two weeks ago strained a disc in her lower back, but she reported no ill affects Sunday after racing on a wet, challenging course. "My back did fine today so I think I'm all recovered from that little setback," she said.
Randall is a medal favorite in the freestyle sprint -- and at this rate, some of her teammates could be contending for a podium spot as well.
"It was really encouraging to see Liz and Ida ski so strongly today," Randall said. "The depth on this team is so amazing and continues to get stronger every week."
In the history of the Winter Olympics, the United States has claimed just one medal in cross-country skiing, Bill Koch's silver in 1976.
By BETH BRAGG