Team Alaska’s Gus Schumacher and Kendall Kramer set the gold standard once again and Zanden McMullen enjoyed a podium upgrade Friday at the U.S. Junior National cross-country ski championships at Kincaid Park.
Schumacher and Kramer conquered big fields in the mass-start classic races to complete gold-medal sweeps at the week-long championships. Each went 3-for-3 in individual races at the championships, which wrap up Saturday with relay races.
They were among six national champions crowned Friday.
Among the others were McMullen and New England’s Trey Jones, who both climbed the top of the podium after taking silver in their first two races. Also earning golds were Sophia Laukli of New England and Logan Smith of the Intermountain division.
Two days after taking gold in the classic sprint despite getting beat to the finish line, Schumacher left no doubt about his victory Friday.
The Alaska Winter Stars skier won the U20 men’s 15-kilometer classic by more than minute over UAA freshman JC Schoonmaker. Urged on by a sizable crowd of spectators, Schumacher increased his lead in each of the three laps around a 5-kilometer loop.
“I’m confident in my classic skills, but you never know until you’re out there,” Schumacher said in a press release from the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage. “And the crowds kept me going hard for the rest of the race.
“… This was such a fun week and so many people came out to cheer for me. “That made every race really exciting.”
Schumacher won in the U20 men’s 15-kilometer race in 36 minutes, 54.9 seconds. Schoonmaker — who lunged past Schumacher at the finish line in Wednesday’s sprint race but was relegated to sixth place after officials ruled he used the skating technique — clocked 38:04.7.
Kramer, who skis for FXC in Fairbanks, achieved her sweep of the U18 girls gold medals by winning the 10K race by 22 seconds.
She double-poled to the front of the pack at the very start of the race and no one ever caught up. She finished in 27:34.5, well ahead of Intermountain’s Sophia Mazzoni.
“Sophia is amazing and I didn’t want it to come down to a sprint,” Kramer said.
McMullen outdueled Intermountain’s Johnny Hagenbuch to win the U18 boys 10K. McMullen, a member of the Alaska Pacific University ski program, beat Hagenbuch by 4.5 seconds.
“I’ve had a good week. I’m absolutely stoked,” said McMullen, who placed second to Hagenbuch in Monday’s freestyle race and second to Team Alaska’s Michael Earnhart in Wednesday’s sprint. “It’s really cool.”
Also improving from silver to gold was Jones, who won the U16 boys 5K by 2.8 seconds over Caden Albrecht of the Midwest division.
“… I just wanted to take that extra step up the podium, and I did it,” Jones said. Logan Smith of the Intermountain division won her second gold of the week by taking the U16 girls 5K title. She edged New England’s Ava Thurston by 2.1 seconds.
Laukli earned her first gold of the week in the U20 women’s 10K. She beat Midwest skier Hannah Bettendrof by 6.3 seconds, and after them came three Alaskans — Aubrey Leclair, Anja Maijala and Jenna Difalco.
Leclair’s bronze medal was the only other piece of hardware collected by Team Alaska.
The championships end Saturday with relay races beginning at 10 a.m. at Kincaid Park. At stake are medals in those races as well as points in the Alaska Cup standings.
The Alaska Cup is awarded to the division with the most cumulative points from the championships. Heading into the relays, New England owns a big lead with 1,097 points to second-place Alaska’s 862. The Midwest division is next with 713.
Mass-start classic races
U20 men’s 15K — 1) Gus Schumacher, Alaska, 36:54.9; 2) JC Schoonmaker, Far West, 38:04.7; 3) Cameron Wolfe, Rocky Mountain, 38:34.0; 4) Adam Witkowski, Intermountain, 38:39.0; 5) Reid Goble, Great Lakes, 38:39.9.Mast
U20 women’s 10K — 1) Sophia Laukli, New England, 29:20.5; 2) Hannah Bettendorf, Midwest, 29:26.8; 3) Aubrey Leclair, Alaska, 29:30.8; 4) Anja Maijala, Alaska, 29:41.5; 5) Jenna Difalco, Alaska, 29:42.0.
U18 boys 10K — 1) Zanden McMullen, Alaska, 25:43.4; 2) Johnny Hagenbuch, Intermountain, 25:47.9; 3) Griffin Wright, New England, 25:55.3; 4) Will Koch, New England, 25:56.0; 5) Maxime Germain, Alaska, 25:56.2.
U18 girls 10K — 1) Kendall Kramer, Alaska, 27:34.5; 2) Sophia Mazzoni, Intermountain, 27:56.5; 3) Charlotte Ogden, New England, 28:22.7; 4) Nina Seemann, New England, 29:17.7; 5) Emma Albrecht, Midwest, 29:18.2.
U16 boys 5K — 1) Trey Jones, New England, 13:10.8; 2) Caden Albrecht, Midwest, 13:13.5; 3) Jasper Johnston, Midwest, 13:14.0; 4) Bjorn Halvorsen, Intermountain, 13:16.6; 5) Isak Nightingale, Midwest, 13:17.6.
U16 girls 5K — 1) Logan Smith, Intermountain, 14:42.0; 2) Ava Thurston, New England, 14:44.1; 3) Elsa Perkins, Rocky Mountain, 14:48.2; 4) Molly Moening, Midwest, 15:01.6; 5) Grace Mattern, Mid-Atlantic. 15:02.4.
U16 girls 5K classic — 1) Logan Smith, Intermountain, 14:42.0; 2) Ava Thurston, New England, 14:44.1; 3) Elsa Perkins, Rocky Mountain, 14:48.2; 4) Molly Moening, Midwest, 15:01.6; 5) Grace Mattern, Mid-Atlantic. 15:02.4.