Alaska women captured gold and silver and grabbed six spots in the top 11 Thursday on the opening day of the U.S. National Championships in Craftsbury, Vermont.
Caitlin Patterson, a South High graduate who trains with the Craftsbury Green Racing Program, used her home-trail advantage to win the women’s 10-kilometer classic race with a comfortable margin over fellow South High alum Jessica Yeaton.
Patterson, 28, and Yeaton, 27, both made their Olympic debuts last year in Pyeongchang, South Korea, although on different teams — Patterson was a member of the U.S. team and Yeaton, who has dual citizenship, was a member of Australia’s team.
Patterson is now a six-time national champion and a 13-time medal-winner at the national championships. Four of her U.S. titles have come in the last two seasons — at last year’s national championships at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, she won three races and was second in another.
It’s the first national-championships medal for Yeaton, who made big news over the summer by winning the famous Mount Marathon race in Seward. Before this, her best result at the U.S. championships was fourth, a result that came in last year’s 20K classic.
“Everything came together and I really surprised myself today,” Yeaton said in a press release from Alaska Pacific University, where she is a member of the nordic ski program. “After today, I’m focusing on the distance skate race this week, so haven’t decided on racing tomorrow’s sprint yet.”
Patterson put a gap of more than 20 seconds on Yeaton to triumph in 30 minutes, 44.7 seconds. Yeaton’s time of 31:05.5 put her nearly 17 seconds ahead of third-place Kaitlyn Miller, a teammate of Patterson’s on the Craftsbury training team.
Four other Alaska women claimed spots in the top 11:
• Rosie Frankowski of APU, another 2018 Olympian, was fifth in 31:47.5. Frankowski shared headlines with Yeaton last summer at Mount Marathon, where she was the first to the top of the mountain and wound up placing seventh.
• Hannah Halvorsen of APU was eighth in 32:01.1.
• Kendall Kramer, a West Valley High School skier from Fairbanks, was 10th in 32:20.1. Kramer, representing FXC of Fairbanks, was the first Under-18 finisher in the race.
• Hailey Swirbul of APU was 11th in 32:26.9.
Another notable result came from Anchorage’s Molly Gellert, who was the top U-20 skier (22nd in 33:22.5).
In the men’s 20K classic, Alaskans finished out of the medals but landed three in the top seven. David Norris, Scott Patterson — Caitlin’s younger brother — and Gus Schumacher finished within an 11.1-second span of one another to claim fifth, sixth and seventh places.
A pair of former Northern Michigan University skiers took gold and silver. Kyle Braturd, 25, clocked 41:41.8 for a victory of nearly 30 seconds over second-place Adam Martin (42:12.8).
Third place went to 38-year-old Kris Freeman of New Hampshire, a four-time Olympian who retired from ski racing at the end of last season but who hasn’t abandoned the sport. He finished in 42:27.6.
APU’s Norris took fifth place in 42:37.0, followed by fellow APU skier Patterson (42:41.2) and the Alaska Winter Stars' Schumacher (42:47.1). The only other Alaska man in the top 25 was Forrest Mahlen (24th in 43:46.1).
Nearly 550 skiers finished the two races. Placing last among the 246 women’s finishers was one-armed Palmer teenager Grace Miller, who was born without a left forearm. Miller, a 19-year-old who competed in last year’s Paralympics, skied the classic race with a single pole and finished in 53:42.9.
Racing continues Friday in Craftsbury.
Correction: Rosie Frankowski placed seventh at Mount Marathon, not second.