The U.S. Cross Country Championships wrapped up Tuesday with two Alaska skiers making return trips to the podium — and many more making plans for trips to international championships in Europe.
Logan Hanneman and Hannah Halvorsen of Alaska Pacific University’s nordic program captured silver medals in the freestyle sprint races at Vermont’s Craftsbury Outdoor Center, where a week’s worth of racing came to an end.
It was a fitting conclusion to a race series at which Alaskans won medals in all but one of the eight senior-division races. They won three national titles — two for Caitlin Patterson, one for David Norris — and boasted 11 top-three finishes out of a possible 24.
Many of them will of them be rewarded with trips to international ski championships.
Though the U.S. team for next month’s world championships in Austria won’t be named until later this month, Alaska will be well represented on the U.S. team that competes later this month in Finland at the World Junior and U-23 world championships.
Four Alaskans were named to the world junior team and four were named to the U-23 team for the Jan. 20-27 championships in Lahti, Finland.
Headlining the team are two Alaska teenagers who perhaps made the biggest impact at the national championships in Craftsbury, Vermont.
Anchorage’s Gus Schumacher, 18, and Fairbanks’ Kendall Kramer, 16, used the race series to establish themselves as the country’s top up-and-coming skiers — although to be fair, Schumacher merely reaffirmed his status as the country’s top young male skier.
A year after turning heads at the national championships at Kincaid Park, Schumacher shined just as brightly on the ski trails in Vermont. The Alaska Winter Stars skier placed fourth in the 30K freestyle, fifth in Tuesday’s freestyle sprint, seventh in the 15K classic and 12th in the classic sprint.
It’s worth noting that Schumacher opted to race at the senior-level 30K instead of the shorter distance available for juniors, and also competed against seniors in the two sprint races, where he had his choice of advancing to the senior heats or the junior heats.
Kramer, a West Valley High student who trains with FXC in Fairbanks, was the top junior in the women’s 10K classic with an impressive 10th-place finish in a field that included much more veteran racers, including some Olympians. She won the junior classic sprint and the junior 7.5K freestyle and skipped Tuesday’s freestyle sprint.
At the world junior championships, Schumacher’s and Kramer’s teammates will include fellow Alaskans Luke Jager and Zanden McMullen, who both train with APU. Last year at the world juniors, Schumacher and Jager were part of a historic silver-medal relay team for the United States, whose boys had never before medaled at the championships.
Halvorsen leads a group of four Alaskans who earned spots on the U-23 world championship team. Also claiming spots were fellow APU skiers Hailey Swirbul, Hunter Wonders and Thomas O’Harra. O’Harra declined the invitation, according to U.S. Skiing and Snowboarding.
In Tuesday’s freestyle sprint, Hanneman and Halvorsen each collected their second medal of the championships. Both finished third in last Friday’s classic sprint, although Hanneman was awarded the silver medal because the winner was from Canada and therefore not eligible to win medals at the U.S. championships.
Schumacher finished fifth in Tuesday’s men’s finals. In the women’s finals, Patterson was fourth and Jessica Yeaton was sixth.
For Yeaton, the appearance in the finals capped a strong national championships. The South High graduate placed second in the 10K classic and third in the 20K freestyle, but she won’t come home to Anchorage with any medals — Yeaton, who has lived in Anchorage since she was 12, has dual U.S and Australia citizenship and races for the Australia national team. Skiers from foreign teams can’t win medals at the U.S championships.
Yeaton will headline Australia’s team at the world championships, where the U.S. team is expected to include several of her APU teammates.