Julia Kern and Ben Ogden Lead SMS Sweep in Schützenski Sprints


There were two new winners, but four of six repeat podium finishers, in Sunday’s skate sprints, the last day of rollerski racing at this year’s Schützenski Festival in Soldier Hollow. Julia Kern and Ben Ogden ascended to the top step of the podium this time, as SMS swept the day’s victories. They were joined by Jessie Diggins and Tilde Bångman, in the women’s race, and Logan Diekmann and Gus Schumacher, in the men’s. Here’s what happened out there yesterday.

Julia Kern leads the way in women’s sprint final as SMS flexes its sprint depth

There was a theme at the top of the results sheet after 44 women had contested the qualifying round of the skate sprint, and that theme was: Stratton Mountain School. Jessie Diggins (USST/SMS) had the day’s fastest time, 2:52.37. Julia Kern (USST/SMS) was second, 1.07 seconds back. Lauren Jortberg (SMS) was third, 6.92 seconds back.

Renae Anderson in fourth in qualifying (APU, +7.90) and Margie Freed in fifth (Craftsbury, +9.70) marked the first disruptions to the supremacy of what Diggins has called “the little club that could.”

Three of five quarterfinals were then won by SMS athletes, with Diggins taking the first heat, Kern the fourth, and Alayna Sonnesyn the fifth. Anderson won heat no. 2, and Sarah Goble (BSF) heat no. 3.

The semifinals saw Diggins advance with ease out of the first semi, leading Goble by well over five seconds. Anderson of APU, and Tilde Bångman of Montana State, followed close behind in what was the day’s faster semifinal heat by far.

In the second semi, Kern came to the line nearly four seconds ahead of Jortberg, who was in turn roughly six seconds up on Sonnesyn. Strong heat for SMS.

Final photo here shows Julia Kern destroying Sunday’s sprint final. First photo is Sydney Palmer-Leger in Saturday’s distance race.

In the final, Julia Kern turned on the afterburners. She covered the course in 2:38.10, the day’s only distaff clocking under 2:40, to take the win by a substantial margin. Diggins was second, 1.95 back, with Bångman third, 8.59 seconds in arrears. It was the second podium of the weekend for both Diggins and Kern, who were second and third, respectively, in yesterday’s 10km classic. Bångman moved up from the wooden medal position in Saturday’s distance race to reach Sunday’s podium.

Lauren Jortberg, Renae Anderson, and Sarah Goble, in that order, finished out the women’s final.

Ben Ogden explores tactics while winning everything all day

There was a theme at the top of the results sheet for the 78 men who raced on Sunday, and that theme was: Ben Ogden.

Ogden (USST/SMS) won the qual, by over five seconds. He then purposefully slowed things down in all three heats that followed, consistently clocking lap times that were a full 10 to 12 seconds slower than his qualifying mark in each of the quarterfinal, semifinal, and final (all of which he won).

This much is apparent from the bare math of the results sheet alone, but let’s hear from Ogden directly on why he adopted this approach.

“In the sprint I really wanted to try and work on my weaknesses and let the heats come down to a final 100m sprint as they so often do on the World Cup,” Ogden wrote to Nordic Insights. “I did just that in all three heats and was psyched to feel some good snap in the final seconds and come away with the win! Fun stuff and I hope everyone else got as much out of the effort as I did.”

Ogden added, “It was great to be back racing this weekend at Soldier Hollow. The 10k was hard and fast, and the sprint was tactical and fun, what more could you ask for out of an October weekend of training? It felt good to put on a bib again and get in the race mindset both days.”

There was not much separation in the final results, reflecting Ogden’s tactical approach to the day. Ogden’s winning time in the final heat was 2:31.40. Logan Diekmann (BSF) was only 0.37 seconds back in second, with Gus Schumacher (USST/APU) 0.82 seconds back to round out the podium. They were followed by Joel Power (Montana State, +1.58), John Schwinghamer (Craftsbury, +2.61), and Max Kluck (USST/Utah, +2.72), all fairly close together.

Notably, Kluck, who turned 19 just last month, exhibited some raw speed to start the day when he recorded the second-fastest time overall in the qualifier.

Ogden moved up from second on Saturday to take his second podium of the weekend when he won the men’s final. Schumacher’s third in the sprint final was also his second podium finish in as many days, after taking the win on Sunday.

(photo: @jessiediggins Instagram story)

Sunday’s race concluded this year’s fall camp in Park City for most athletes. Jessie Diggins shared the above image of a limp corgi as a humorous depiction of her energy levels following two weeks of training camp at altitude. I reserve the right to repost this image for my own needs at the end of race week in January after writing two race stories a day on deadline at this year’s U.S. Nationals, which would mark truly the only commonality between this reporter and Diggins.

Results: qual | all heats | finals

— Gavin Kentch

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