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Finnish skier wins 50-K race; U.S. title goes to Hoffman

Etienne Richard of UAA competes in the men's 50K at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Davis Dunlap of UAA competes in the men's 50K at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Sadie Bjornsen of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center leads Liz Stephen of Burke Mountain Academy down a hill in the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park. The two U.S. Ski Team members finished first and second, respectively, in the event.
Erik Hill
Mats Resaland of the University of New Mexico, right, ekes out 12th place ahead of Adam Martin of Northern Michigan University in the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Ann Spencer of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center cruises to a win in the junior 20k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Finnish skier Aku Nikander of the University of New Mexico leads Noah Hoffman of the U.S. Ski Team around a corner on the Spencer Loop during the final lap of the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Sadie Bjornsen exults as she nears the finish line of the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park. The Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center and U.S. Ski Team member claimed first by 29 seconds over Liz Stephen.
Erik Hill
Sadie Bjornsen of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center celebrates her win in the 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Jessie Diggins of Stratton Mountain School and the U.S. Ski Team cruises down a hill in the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
U.S. Ski Team members Jessie Diggins, left, and Kikkan Randall battle for third place on the course in the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Kikkan Randall of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center claimed third place in the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park. She won three events earlier in the week for a successful meet.
Erik Hill
Sarah Cresap of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center leads several skiers to the finish line in the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Liz Stephen of Burke Mountain Academy and the U.S. Ski Team skis to second place in the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Erik Bjornsen of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center leads the pack early in the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Christian Otto gulps down liquid during the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Stacey Moon of the Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage climbs a hill on the Spencer Loop during the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Lukas Ebner of the University of Alaska Anchorage skis the Spencer Loop during the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Skiers tackle a hill in the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Junior men skiers tackle a hill in their 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Noah Hoffman of the U. S. Ski Team, right, leads Finnish skier Aku Nikander of the University of New Mexico up a hill on the Spencer Loop during the men's 50k race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park. Nikander pulled away in the final stretch to claim the win by nine seconds, and Hoffman finished as top American.
Erik Hill
Skiers tackle a hill on the Spencer Loop in the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Andy Newell leads fellow U.S. Ski Team member Simeon Hamilton up a hill on the Spencer Loop during the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Seiji Takagi of Alaska Winter Stars skis to a 12-second win over Thomas O'Harra of APU in the junior 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Aku Nikander of the University of New Mexico wins the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Winner Aku Nikander of the University of New Mexico, left, and runner-up and first American Noah Hoffman of the U.S. Ski Team congratulate each other after finishing the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Etienne Richard of UAA competes in the men's 50K at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Davis Dunlap of UAA competes in the men's 50K at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Sadie Bjornsen of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center leads Liz Stephen of Burke Mountain Academy down a hill in the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park. The two U.S. Ski Team members finished first and second, respectively, in the event.
Erik Hill
Mats Resaland of the University of New Mexico, right, ekes out 12th place ahead of Adam Martin of Northern Michigan University in the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Ann Spencer of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center cruises to a win in the junior 20k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Finnish skier Aku Nikander of the University of New Mexico leads Noah Hoffman of the U.S. Ski Team around a corner on the Spencer Loop during the final lap of the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Sadie Bjornsen exults as she nears the finish line of the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park. The Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center and U.S. Ski Team member claimed first by 29 seconds over Liz Stephen.
Erik Hill
Sadie Bjornsen of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center celebrates her win in the 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Jessie Diggins of Stratton Mountain School and the U.S. Ski Team cruises down a hill in the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
U.S. Ski Team members Jessie Diggins, left, and Kikkan Randall battle for third place on the course in the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Kikkan Randall of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center claimed third place in the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park. She won three events earlier in the week for a successful meet.
Erik Hill
Sarah Cresap of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center leads several skiers to the finish line in the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Liz Stephen of Burke Mountain Academy and the U.S. Ski Team skis to second place in the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Erik Bjornsen of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center leads the pack early in the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Christian Otto gulps down liquid during the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Stacey Moon of the Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage climbs a hill on the Spencer Loop during the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Lukas Ebner of the University of Alaska Anchorage skis the Spencer Loop during the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Skiers tackle a hill in the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Junior men skiers tackle a hill in their 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Noah Hoffman of the U. S. Ski Team, right, leads Finnish skier Aku Nikander of the University of New Mexico up a hill on the Spencer Loop during the men's 50k race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park. Nikander pulled away in the final stretch to claim the win by nine seconds, and Hoffman finished as top American.
Erik Hill
Skiers tackle a hill on the Spencer Loop in the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Andy Newell leads fellow U.S. Ski Team member Simeon Hamilton up a hill on the Spencer Loop during the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Seiji Takagi of Alaska Winter Stars skis to a 12-second win over Thomas O'Harra of APU in the junior 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Aku Nikander of the University of New Mexico wins the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Winner Aku Nikander of the University of New Mexico, left, and runner-up and first American Noah Hoffman of the U.S. Ski Team congratulate each other after finishing the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Etienne Richard of UAA competes in the men's 50K at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Davis Dunlap of UAA competes in the men's 50K at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Sadie Bjornsen of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center leads Liz Stephen of Burke Mountain Academy down a hill in the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park. The two U.S. Ski Team members finished first and second, respectively, in the event.
Erik Hill
Mats Resaland of the University of New Mexico, right, ekes out 12th place ahead of Adam Martin of Northern Michigan University in the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Ann Spencer of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center cruises to a win in the junior 20k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Finnish skier Aku Nikander of the University of New Mexico leads Noah Hoffman of the U.S. Ski Team around a corner on the Spencer Loop during the final lap of the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Sadie Bjornsen exults as she nears the finish line of the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park. The Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center and U.S. Ski Team member claimed first by 29 seconds over Liz Stephen.
Erik Hill
Sadie Bjornsen of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center celebrates her win in the 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Jessie Diggins of Stratton Mountain School and the U.S. Ski Team cruises down a hill in the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
U.S. Ski Team members Jessie Diggins, left, and Kikkan Randall battle for third place on the course in the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Kikkan Randall of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center claimed third place in the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park. She won three events earlier in the week for a successful meet.
Erik Hill
Sarah Cresap of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center leads several skiers to the finish line in the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Liz Stephen of Burke Mountain Academy and the U.S. Ski Team skis to second place in the women's 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Erik Bjornsen of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center leads the pack early in the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Christian Otto gulps down liquid during the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Stacey Moon of the Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage climbs a hill on the Spencer Loop during the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Lukas Ebner of the University of Alaska Anchorage skis the Spencer Loop during the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Skiers tackle a hill in the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Junior men skiers tackle a hill in their 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Noah Hoffman of the U. S. Ski Team, right, leads Finnish skier Aku Nikander of the University of New Mexico up a hill on the Spencer Loop during the men's 50k race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park. Nikander pulled away in the final stretch to claim the win by nine seconds, and Hoffman finished as top American.
Erik Hill
Skiers tackle a hill on the Spencer Loop in the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Andy Newell leads fellow U.S. Ski Team member Simeon Hamilton up a hill on the Spencer Loop during the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Seiji Takagi of Alaska Winter Stars skis to a 12-second win over Thomas O'Harra of APU in the junior 30k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Aku Nikander of the University of New Mexico wins the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill
Winner Aku Nikander of the University of New Mexico, left, and runner-up and first American Noah Hoffman of the U.S. Ski Team congratulate each other after finishing the men's 50k classic race at the U.S. National Championships and Supertour Finals on Friday, March 28, 2014, at Hillside Park.
Erik Hill

Noah Hoffman and Aku Nikander skied just about stride for stride for the last 20 kilometers of Friday's U.S. National Championship 50-K classic race. The men's winner would be decided by a sprint to the finish.

Hoffman knew his chances were slim, as he's not known for having a strong sprint. He was right.

The University of New Mexico's Nikander pulled away and finished nine seconds ahead of Hoffman in 2 hours, 23 minutes, 8.3 seconds.

"He had been better than me double-polling all day," Hoffman said. "He was just too good for me today."

The Finnish-born Nikander said his equipment gave him an edge.

"I had so good skis," he said.

Nikander's nationality excludes him from winning an American title, which went to Hoffman. A member of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, Hoffman now has two national titles and two wins this week in Anchorage. His first came in last Saturday's 15-K freestyle at the SuperTour Finals at Kincaid Park.

Nikander said Friday's victory helped him salvage a tough season.

"This was a race I wanted to show I was in shape," he said.

Nikander and Hoffman displayed their strength and endurance on a Hillside Trails course full of steep climbs. At the 20-kilometer mark, Nikander, Hoffman and Reese Hanneman -- who placed third in 2:24:09.9 -- were 17 seconds ahead of four pursuers.

Thirty kilometers into the race, three lead groups formed. Nikander and Hoffman remained in front side-by-side. Alaska Pacific University's Hanneman fell about 26 seconds behind the front men but increased his lead to a minute over the foursome behind him.

Both gaps widened with 10 kilometers to go. Nikander and Hoffman were neck-and-neck in the final one and a half kilometers to set up a sprint to the finish line.

Hoffman, a member of the U.S. Ski Team, praised Nikander for a remarkable race.

"He was impressive," Hoffman said. "I'm excited to watch his career develop."

South High senior Seiji Takagi won the 30-K junior race in 1:34:22.2. Takagi separated from the other junior skiers on the first lap up the Spencer Loop.

"I started climbing pretty hard," he said.

On the final lap, Takagi's coach told him East senior Thomas O'Harra was closing in.

"That gave me the motivation to keep going," Takagi said.

He held off O'Harra, who took second in 1:34:34.5. The bronze went to Vermont's Ian Moore, of Green Mountain Valley School, who finished in 1:36:09.9.

Watching the 50-K skiers zoom past was "super impressive," said Takagi, especially since they had to cover an additional 20 kilometers.

Though tiring, Hoffman said, it was an enjoyable 50 kilometers.

"It was a really challenging course," he said. "Really fun to ski."

Reach Mike Nesper at mnesper@adn.com or 257-4335.

For full results, visit http://summittiming.com/races/race_results.php

2014 ConocoPhillips U.S. National Championships

Men's 50-kilometer classic mass start

Hillside Trails

Friday

Top 10

1) Aku Nikander 2:23:08.3; 2. Noah Hoffman 2:23:17.3; 3) Reese Hanneman 2:24:09.9; 4) Brian Gregg 2:27:46.6; 5) Lex Treinen 2:27:58.3; 6) Andrew Newell 2:28:01.4 7) Simeon Hamilton 2:28:12.3; 8) David Norris 2:28:25.7; 9) Scott Patterson 2:28:39.6; 10) Michael Fehrenbach 2:29:06.7.

 


By MIKE NESPER
mnesper@adn.com