In medal contention until the final few hundred meters, David Norris of Anchorage posted a massive career-best finish Sunday in the men’s 50-kilometer race at the Nordic World Ski Championships in Seefeld, Austria.
Norris, the Mount Marathon record-holder, skied near the front for nearly the entire race and wound up placing a personal-best 20th. Scott Patterson of Anchorage turned in a strong 23rd-place finish for the Americans.
“It’s fun when coaches in the feed zones are saying hey, the Americans are having a good day today,” U.S. Ski Team coach Matt Whitcomb said in a press release from U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “We are proud and leaving Seefeld with our heads high.”
Norway’s Hans Christer Holund won the race in 1 hour, 49 minutes, 59.3 seconds. Alexander Bolshunov of Russia was 27.8 seconds back in second place.
Norris, who grew up skiing in Fairbanks and moved to Anchorage to train with the Alaska Pacific University ski team, trailed by 1:22;6. Patterson trailed by 2:05.5.
“I felt good and my skis were working really well,” Norris said in the press release. “It almost seemed easier to position myself in the top 15 as best as possible and just try to stay out of trouble. Then I came into 700 meters in medal contention but at that point I had no more juice left and just tried to survive.”
Norris, 28 and a World Championship rookie, has had a handful of top-40 finishes in World Cup races, but Sunday’s was his best by far. He had the 27th-fastest time in a pursuit race in Quebec in 2017, placed 33rd in a 15K earlier this season in Italy and was 38th in a 50K last season in Norway.
“David was in the mix from the beginning,” Whitcomb said. “On the last climb at 49.5k he was still charging with the (bronze medal) within reach, and for him to be in that pack is just next level.
“He led a very strong performance for the team today with Scotty … in the mix all the way for 98-percent of the race, super proud of all the guys today.”
Patterson, a 27-year-old APU skier, turned in an impressive 11th-place finish in the 50K at last season’s Winter Olympics. Like Norris, he’s a Mount Marathon champion (2017) and owns multiple Crow Pass Crossing titles.
“I was in for the hunt, but I felt like I wasn’t skiing the downhills well and I missed the move on that last lap,” Patterson said in the press release. “I was thinking I need to go, need to go, but it was too late. I felt like if I had made that split, I could have fought with guys.”
The race was the final competition in the 10-day World Championships.
Jessie Diggins of Minnesota turned in the best result for the Americans with her fourth-place showing in the women’s 30K on Saturday. Anchorage skiers Sadie Bjornsen and Rosie Brennan placed 15th and 16th in that race, respectively, and all three women skied solid legs to help the United States place fifth in the relay. Brennan also enjoyed a 10th-place finish in the 15K skiathlon.
Erik Bjornsen of Anchorage had a number of solid performances in Seefeld. He teamed up with Colorado’s Simi Hamilton for an eighth-place finish in the team sprint and skied the fourth-fastest scramble leg in the men’s relay, combining with Norris, Patterson and Kyle Bratrud of Minnesota for a ninth-place finish.