• Americans Take Home 46 Medals from World Masters in Seefeld

    Americans Take Home 46 Medals from World Masters in Seefeld

    It’s been a bumpy few years for the Masters World Cup, the flagship race series of the World Masters Cross-Country Ski Association.

    The 2019 championships were held in Beitostølen, Norway, and were a success and a delight (source: I raced in them, and found them delightful). The 2020 championships, in Cogne, Italy, were all systems go as of February 24, 2020, then were quietly canceled four days later as northern Italy became an epidemiological war zone and the emerging scope of the pandemic became clear. The would-be 2021 championships, in Canmore, Alberta, were ultimately postponed to 2022. No Russian athletes competed in Canmore last year; the competitions are FIS races, and a ban on Russian and Belarusian nationals was already in effect.

    F5 silver medal relay team – including, in no particular order, Trina Hosmer, Suzanne Corkran, Sharon Crawford, and Carolyn Tiernan – 2023 World Masters, Seefeld, Austria. (photo: courtesy Alison Arians)

    In 2023, racing continued in Seefeld, Austria, with the 41st edition of the Masters World Cup earlier this month. Athletes could enter up to three individual races from a slate of six races total — short distance, middle distance, and long distance, one each in classic and skate — plus potentially a relay, if they qualified to represent their nation. All races were mass start. Field sizes ranged from fairly small (the youngest and oldest ends of the field typically had single-digit entrants for each five-year age range, and the women’s fields were far sparser than the men’s) to fairly large, with as many as 59 starters in the 7km skate race for men aged 60 to 64 (M7).

    Conditions in Seefeld seem to have been decidedly vernal, with daytime temperatures during race week frequently above 50° F and courses heroically rearranged at the last minute due to snow conditions and limited terrain availability.

    F2 gold medal relay team – from left, Alison Arians, Lindsey Bengtson, Shannon Brockman, and Natalie Dawson – 2023 World Masters, Seefeld, Austria. (photo: courtesy Alison Arians)

    “Gray slush and standing water made for a hard slog,” read one participant’s publicly available Strava title (this for a race where they made the podium!). “Relay on ice,” another activity was captioned, for a race held early in the morning following an overnight freeze. “A ribbon of snow/ice in Seefeld,” another participant proclaimed. Racing in the second half of March + central Europe + climate change = maybe something less than a winter wonderland.

    Warm temperatures forced a last-minute change to the event program, including shorter courses and shorter races. The shortened courses featured 24 meters of climb per kilometer for the “5km lite” course (4.16km, 98m TC), 26 meters of climb per kilometer for the 5km course (4.83km, 124m TC), and 26 meters of climb per kilometer for the 7km course (6.23km, 163m TC).

    “It was by no means taken for granted that the MWC could be held, but the Bavarian ski club [host club SC Monte Kaolino Hirschau] did everything to provide the best possible conditions for the participants from 25 nations despite the most difficult snow and weather conditions,” event organizers wrote after the fact.

    Athletes were very appreciative of these efforts. Speaking to the challenging conditions, Alison Arians noted via email, “The racers who were there were very grateful to the herculean efforts of the race volunteers to make all the races happen! Certainly not a given, with the warm conditions and minimal snow. We had a wonderful time and so appreciate the folks who worked mightily to hold the race series.”

    From left, Sandra Wagenführ (Switzerland), Alison Arians (USA), and Birgit Eischer (Austria), F5 15km skate podium, 2023 World Masters, Seefeld, Austria. (photo: courtesy Alison Arians)

    At the end of the week of racing, Germany topped the medal table, with 72 medals total, followed by Finland with 63 and Italy with 56. The U.S. was fifth, with 46 medals, 17 of them gold. Alison Arians of Alaska and Jan Guenther of Minnesota each took home four gold medals.

    Below are all 46 American medalists from the week of racing. Full results are linked in at the bottom of the article. Other strong results of note that were just off the podium include perennial contender Barry Makarewicz’s multiple fifth-place finishes in the deep M7 division (roughly 55 finishers per race), Kent Murdoch’s sixth in M7, Jan Buron’s fourth and fifth in M6 (ca. 35 finishers), and Seth Downs’s two fourth-place finishes in M5 (40 finishers).

    Shannon Brockman, left, and USST development coach Greta Anderson, 2023 World Masters, Seefeld, Austria. Anderson, whose official job title has her working with athletes at least a decade too young to compete at World Masters, was on site to watch some of the races after OPA Cup Finals wrapped up in nearby Toblach, on the theory that development happens at every age. (photo: courtesy Shannon Brockman)

    Finally, here is a gallery of all the rest of the photos that I have from last week. Disclosure, these images are very heavy on my friends from Anchorage, since, well, that’s who I had contact information for and could most easily ask for photos from.

    I previously put out a call for more World Masters photos on the Nordic Insights Instagram story, to no avail. If you’ve read this far and have photos of non-Alaskans racing last week, I would love to include them here. Please be in touch: info (at) nordicinsights (dot) news. Thanks.


    March 19, short distance

    7km skate

    F1: Lettie Stratton, third

    F3: Lindsey Bengtson, third

    F5: Alison Arians, first

    F7: Kelly Allison, first

    F8: Muffy Ritz, third

    5km skate

    F9: Peggy Wiltberger, second

    F10: Sharon Crawford, third

    5km classic

    M10: John Wood, second

    M13: Charles French, first

    F9: Carolyn Tiernan, first; Suzanne Corkran, second

    F10: Trina Hosmer, first

    March 20, middle distance classic

    15km classic

    F8: Mary Heller Osgood, second

    10km classic

    F9: Suzanne Corkran, second; Gretchen Lindgren, third

    F10: Trina Hosmer, first

    F11: Audrae Coury, second

    March 21, middle distance skate

    20km skate

    M5: Seth Downs, third

    15km skate

    F3: Lindsey Bengtson, third

    F5: Alison Arians, first

    F7: Jan Guenther, first; Kelly Allison, second

    F8: Muffy Ritz, third

    10km skate

    F9: Peggy Wiltberger, first

    F10: Sharon Crawford, second

    M11: Bob Gray, second

    March 22, relay day! (4 x 5km relay, classic–classic–skate–skate)

    Women 40–49ish (Natalie Dawson, Shannon Brockman, Lindsey Bengtson, Alison Arians): first

    Women 60–69ish (Mary Heller Osgood, Muffy Ritz, Kelly Allison, Jan Guenther): first

    Women 70+ (Trina Hosmer, Suzanne Corkran, Sharon Crawford, Carolyn Tiernan): second

    M5 (Jan Buron, Richard Feldman, Thomas Wood, Seth Downs): third

    March 23, long distance skate

    20km skate

    F3: Natalie Dawson, first; Lindsey Bengtson, second

    F5: Alison Arians, first

    M7: Barry Makarewicz, second

    15km skate

    F7: Jan Guenther, first; Kelly Allison, second

    F8: Muffy Ritz, third

    10km skate

    F9: Carolyn Tiernan, first; Peggy Wiltberger, second

    F10: Trina Hosmer, first

    M11: Bob Gray, second; Odd Osland, third

    March 24, long distance classic

    15km classic

    F7: Jan Guenther, first

    F8: Mary Heller Osgood, third

    10km classic

    F9: Suzanne Corkran, third

    M3: John Wood, third

    Results (all races) | Official event photos (will be available here soon)

    — Gavin Kentch

  • Press Release: Hailey Swirbul Announces Retirement from World Cup Cross-Country Skiing

    Press Release: Hailey Swirbul Announces Retirement from World Cup Cross-Country Skiing

    The following article was written yesterday by Leann Bentley with U.S. Ski & Snowboard. It has received de minimis editing for house style, but is otherwise unchanged. Thanks to Leann for her fine work. I do plan to catch up with Hailey later this spring for a retirement article of my own, but this piece is quite good, so you should read this now.

    Hailey Swirbul, left, and Kendall Kramer hug at the finish, 2023 U.S. Nationals, Houghton. (photo: Gavin Kentch)

    Hailey Swirbul of the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team is ready to say goodbye to World Cup ski racing. The 2022 Olympian has formally announced her retirement from the World Cup circuit hours after crossing the finish line at the 2022/2023 World Cup Finals in Lahti, Finland. 

    24-year-old Swirbul, an El Jebel, Colorado native, has been on the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team for years, represented her country at two World Championships, and was a member of Team USA in Beijing at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. She’s had a consistent presence on the World Cup throughout the last several years, starting in 64 races, finding the top-10 in four, and standing on the 2020 Davos World Cup individual 10km skate podium in third. Now, Hailey is taking a step away from the World Cup circuit and is excited to begin her next chapter. 

    Swirbul was a mountain kid growing up. Her childhood in Aspen’s Roaring Fork Valley was filled with romping around the nearby peaks, riding around on a mountain bike with her family, and skiing the resorts on alpine skis. Looking back, if you asked her when she was young if she would grow up to be a professional cross-country skier, she may have brushed it aside. “My earlier memories of cross-country skiing include me freezing and holding back tears, woefully slogging along the ski trail as my dad got in his workout,” she said. 

    It wasn’t until later that cross-country skiing became a part of her life, thanks in part to her brother Keegan Swirbul. Keegan, now a professional road bike rider, decided that to stay in shape for bike season, he needed some consistent cross training; cue cross-country skiing. The tight duo took this new step together, and the rest is history.

    Hailey Swirbul, at the time a freshman for University of Alaska Anchorage, races at Birch Hill, in Fairbanks, Alaska, in the Alaska Nordic Cup in November 2016. (photo: Zachary Hall/UAA Athletics)

    Hailey started with the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club until she left for college in 2016, skiing for the University of Alaska Anchorage ski team. Finding abundant success on the college circuit, Hailey then trained and competed with the Alaska Pacific University (APU) club team. There, she had breakout results, notably in the 2017 World Junior Championships in Solider Hollow, Utah, where she, Katharine Ogden, Julia Kern, and Hannah Halvorsen won the USA’s first-ever medal at Junior Worlds, and it only went up from there. 

    Throughout the next several years, she racked up results; in 2018 she was back at the Junior World Championships and won an individual silver medal in the 5km classic and bronze in the skiathlon. Through the U.S. National Championships, SuperTours, Nor-Am Cups, and FIS events, Hailey has over 15 wins to her name. 

    Then, came the next step. In 2019, she was officially called up to the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team where she would now compete on the highest stage of the sport — the World Cup.

    “Hailey has been a force of nature since she burst on the scene as a U20 and started making history for the U.S.A. with two individual medals at the World Junior Championships,” said Chris Grover, the U.S. Cross Country Program Director. “Arriving on World Cup, she demonstrated that she is a force in every discipline and both techniques. She has an individual World Cup Podium and was key in securing a World Cup women’s relay podium this season in Toblach. She’s been a fixture of our World Championships and Olympic team over the past quad. Beyond the results, she’s been at the heart of the U.S. Team, an incredible teammate, and a caring and soulful friend to us all. We will all miss her but we also know she will be a big part of our community for life.”

    “Hailey’s positive influence goes far beyond the ski tracks. Her kindness and thoughtfulness impacts her teammates, coaches, competitors, and supporters everywhere,” said Kristen Bourne, coach with the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team. “She follows her heart and shows us all the importance of doing so. There’s no doubt in my mind that Hailey will continue to push the sport of cross-country skiing and impact the next generation and beyond.”

    Outside of skiing, Hailey is active in the community that helped shape her. As a current board member for the Women Ski Coaches Association, Hailey works day in and day out in helping create a collaborative network to encourage retention of women coaches in the industry. She also has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and this past summer, worked full time as an engineer. 

    “Hailey will be immediately missed as an athlete who brought a lot of personality to our team,” said Matt Whitcomb, Head Coach of the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team. “While she was a very successful racer, she wasn’t simply motivated by winning, and needed to work hard to find purpose and meaning in each day. This style of motivation, and Hailey’s always-open way of sharing with her coaches and teammates, taught me how to become a better coach. She helped everyone around her improve, and I will miss that, and I’m eager to watch her bring that wonderful personality to her next team. Thank you, Hailey!”

    “With the end of my World Cup career on the horizon, it is so easy to see how much I appreciate this team,” said Swirbul. “It wouldn’t be possible for me to have been on the World Cup and chase some big dreams without the support of the U.S. Ski Team, and I will forever be grateful for that.”

    Retirement doesn’t mean that Swirbul will never lace up her Madshus race boots and click in her skis again. She still plans on racing, competing at a high level within the states and training for a sport that has shaped “the core of my identity for the last 15 years.” She may be closing one chapter, but is excitedly opening the next. “I set out to find peace with skiing this season after a difficult few years between Covid and the Olympic cycle, and I can truly say that I love skiing more than I ever have now — I’m just ready to love skiing in a new way outside of World Cup racing,” said Swirbul. “After all, I’ve already been given the best gift: a lifelong love of sport.”

    Congratulations on your World Cup career, Hailey! We are so excited to see what this next chapter brings.

    — Leann Bentley, U.S. Ski & Snowboard

  • Job Posting: SMST2 Seeks a Program Director

    Job Posting: SMST2 Seeks a Program Director

    The following job posting was received from SMS earlier this month. Clubs interested in having comparable announcements published on this site should be in touch: info (at) nordicinsights.news.

    The SMST2 team is planning to expand our program by hiring a Program Director, adding several new team members and accepting 3-4 athletes into our summer program. It is our goal to make a good thing even better.

    The Program Director will work closely with the Head Coach supporting the athletes in establishing training and travel plans. The Program Director will oversee all outreach projects, fundraising events and social media posts. The Program Director will help with most workouts, but will not travel as much as the Head Coach. The Program Director must be positive, organized and knowledgeable in all aspects of cross country skiing. For more information, please e-mail Sverre Caldwell at scaldwell (at) gosms.org.


    SMST2 Nordic Program Director

    CLASSIFICATION  Year-round, Full-time

    REPORTS TO SMST2 Advisory Board


    The SMST2 Program Director will be in charge of team outreach, facilitate team fundraisers and social media initiatives and work closely with the head coach on training, race and camp logistics. The director will also help with day to day training and support the team on various trips. The Program Director will work in all aspects of development and elite competition skiing, including supporting all members of the SMST2 Team to thrive, grow and progress toward elite level Olympic, World Champs, and World Cup performance. The Cross Country Program Director will work closely with the Cross Country Head Coach and the Advisory Board to understand and evolve the SMST2 mission: International excellence, local inspiration.


    The Program Director will work closely with the head coach to develop and support each team member with a training plan as well as technique and training advice.  This position requires extensive travel, domestically and internationally. It requires excellent leadership, coaching, training and technical skills. It requires communication skills, both individually and in groups of individuals.  The Program Director must be detail and task oriented, goal driven, and always positive and professional.

    • Oversee and provide leadership to the SMST2 Team.  The Program Director will correspond frequently with the SMST2 athletes and the Head Coach as well as with the SMS coaches and the West River Sports (BKL) leaders.  
    • Oversight and execution of the day-to day operational details of the Super Tour and Nationals competitions. This includes providing support in planning and coordination of travel, flights, vehicles, cash advances, lodging, entries, meals, equipment needs, and anything necessary to properly accommodate and prepare the team.  Work with Head Coach to manage the team’s equipment/wax supplies. 
    • Help coach the SMST2 Team at U.S. Ski & Snowboard events such as SuperTour and US Championships and establishing strong relationships with coaches and athletes from around the nation. 
    • Work closely with the SMST2 Head coach and the USSS cross country coaches to plan training for the team. 
    • The Program Director will communicate directly and continuously with the Head Coach to develop training and travel plans for each athlete. 
    • The Program Director will plan, coordinate and oversee outreach events with the goal of building a strong ski community in the area.
    • The Program Director will organize and oversee our fundraising events and help the advisory board with fundraising.
    • The Program Director must continue his or her sport education at a high level by studying team training plans, systems of monitoring and peaking, staff management at camps and competitions, and attending seminars and planning meetings when available.  He or she should seek to establish a professional relationship with coaches from foreign national teams and learn from those programs.  Observation of the U.S. Ski Team coaching staff and sports science staff, and studying videos and literature is critical.
    • The Program Director will oversee and keep our team website up to date.
    • The Program Director will send out a weekly newsletter to our subscriber list.

    Financial Performance 

    The Program Director will adhere to essential business directives as set forth by the Advisory Board. This includes timely, accurate and ethical expense reporting, staying within the budget allocated for specific projects, and exercising foresight regarding changes of plans, contingencies, etc. 


    Please note this job description is not designed to cover or contain a comprehensive listing of activities, duties or responsibilities that are required of the employee for this job. Duties, responsibilities and activities will evolve over time as the needs of the team change. The Program Director will work closely with the head coach to advance the goals and mission of the team: International excellence, local inspiration..


    • This position requires extensive travel, domestically and internationally. 
    • Must be detail and task oriented, goal driven, a strategic and tactical thinker and planner, and always positive and professional.
    • Excellent communication skills. Written and verbal. Individually and in groups.
    • Excellent leadership, coaching, training and technical skills.
    • Strong database skills (Excel/Sheets). Strong software skills for video production.
    • Strong winter driving skills, including the ability to operate a manual transmission.  If necessary, additional driving education may be required if requisite level is not met.
    • Must be physically fit, capable of testing skis for a long period of time, and training with the athletes on some of their easy sessions as a method of communication and of training observation. 
    • Must be able to wax skis, and be willing to improve waxing knowledge, and will at times serve as a technician for athletes. 
    • 4-6 years of professional coaching and/or program leadership preferred. 


    Supervision of all athletes when participating in SMST2 projects. Work closely with Head Coach to coordinate training and travel plans.

    For more information, please write Sverre Caldwell at: scaldwell (at) gosms.org.

  • Andreas Kirkeng and Sydney Palmer-Leger Take Multiple Wins at Spring Series in Craftsbury

    Andreas Kirkeng and Sydney Palmer-Leger Take Multiple Wins at Spring Series in Craftsbury

    It was a weekend for endings. While the 2022/2023 World Cup season was wrapping up in Lahti, Finland, the American Continental Cup race season was also ending, in Craftsbury, Vermont.

    The season-ending series of races has alternately been referred to over the years as “Spring Series,” “Distance Nationals,” or “SuperTour Finals.” In the most precisely correct sense of the term, Wednesday’s 10km classic was the last SuperTour contest of the 2022/2023 domestic race season, while the three races held on Friday through Sunday were all national championships, rather than SuperTour races. So let’s call this part two of 2023 U.S. National Cross-Country Championships, but happening in the spring. Or, well, “Spring Series,” for short.

    Skate sprint

    Athletes had a day off from competition on Thursday following Wednesday’s 10-kilometer interval-start classic race. On Friday morning, they returned to the trails at Craftsbury Outdoor Center for the 1.6-kilometer skate sprint.

    On the women’s side, Alayna Sonnesyn (SMS), recently returned from World Cup competition, destroyed the field to win the qualifier going away, clocking 3:29.99 to set the morning’s fastest time by over five seconds ahead of SMS teammate Lauren Jortberg. Erin Bianco of Team Birkie was third in the qual, followed by Karianne Dengerud (Utah), Ava Thurston (Dartmouth), and Alex Lawson (Craftsbury).

    Times were tighter on the men’s side, with the top six athletes separated by just over five seconds. Noel Keeffe (Utah) led the way here, nearly three seconds ahead of Utah teammate Brian Bushey and Sasha Masson of CNEPH (the French acronym for the Québec-based Pierre Harvey National Training Center).

    Chalk prevailed in the women’s field (i.e., higher-seeded athletes advanced), with the six-athlete final featuring five of the six fastest women from qualifying. Alex Lawson was the only one missing; she finished fourth in the slower semifinal, and did not advance. Margie Freed (Craftsbury), who had ranked eighth in qualifying, advanced out of a fast second semifinal that sent four women to the final.

    You can find the women’s final starting at the 5:16 mark (that’s 5 hours, 16 minutes; sprint days are long) of this livestream.

    The stadium announcer, whose audio features on this stream, does a heroic job of narrating the start and finish of a sprint final that he, largely, cannot see. I am really impressed by his efforts, and appreciate Craftsbury providing this service — heck, the stream appears to have had 1,200 views, which is a massive number given the size of the nordic skiing fan base in this country — but I will watch anything I can find about nordic skiing, and even I have to say that this stream does not provide a great deal of value for much of this heat. But no snark to Craftsbury here; I appreciate it, and commend dude’s efforts.

    At the 5:19:29 mark of the stream, the racers suddenly return into view coming down the home stretch, and the announcer is revivified with alacrity. Sonnesyn leads Dengerud into the finish; the Utah skier threatens, but Sonnesyn keeps her lead to the line to claim the national title. Behind her, Bianco comes in a ski length ahead of Freed for third and fourth overall, and second and third on the domestic podium.

    Jortberg finished in fifth. “Some fat tactical errors in the final to kill the vibe for sure,” she later mused on her publicly available Strava page. “V proud of my teammie for the natty c thooo.”

    Saturday marked the first national title of Sonnesyn’s career.

    There were somewhat more shakeups in the men’s field on the way to the final. Keeffe, who had set the pace in qualifying, advanced out of his quarterfinal, but was then last in his semifinal. Bushey didn’t make it out of the first round. Masson made it all the way to the final, where he was joined by athletes with bibs no. 6, 8, 11, 15, and 22.

    The men’s final starts at slightly before 5:07 on the livestream. The athletes come into view at the 5:09:38 mark as they close out their race. Andreas Kirkeng (Denver) enters the finishing stretch with a healthy lead, with Masson (CNEPH) and Jake Brown (Craftsbury) well back of him for second and third. Braden Becker (Craftsbury) follows in fourth, then a slightly desultory Finn O’Connell (BSF) in fifth. Kristoffer Karsrud (Northern Michigan) rounded out the field.

    Kirkeng is Norwegian and Masson Canadian, giving a perhaps somewhat unexpected national championship in cross-country skiing (in sprinting, no less) to Jake Brown of Craftsbury Green Racing Project. Brown is a professional biathlete who turns 31 tomorrow. Prior to this week his last ski race results in the FIS database came from 2016 Spring Series, also at Craftsbury. Brown was 40th in qualifying for the classic sprint then; he’s made some progress on his sprinting in the last seven years. (He would also finish twelfth in this year’s 44km classic race on Sunday, ahead of multiple pro skiers, belying the trope that biathletes can’t classic ski.)

    Becker and O’Connell rounded out the men’s domestic podium in Friday’s sprint.

    Results: women’s qual | men’s qual | heats (both genders)

    Relay day

    Athletes were back on course the next day for the mixed club relay, a club-level national championship. This year’s format was four skate legs, each 5km long, with athletes racing in the order of male–female–male–female.

    Racing was consistently tight on the fast course, with lap times in the mid-10 minutes for the fastest men, and low-12 minutes for the fastest women. 11 to 12 minutes of racing is approaching sprint prologue effort, or like the world’s longest L4 interval, conditions in which you go very close to sprint pace for three times as long as a normal sprint. It is, and I’m going to use a technical term here so bear with me, really darn hard, at least in my training and experience.

    Bridger Ski Foundation was leading Saturday’s race, until it wasn’t. Reid Goble skied the scramble leg for the Andy Newell–coached team out of Bozeman, coming into the first exchange in 10:37.1. The top five teams — BSF, Craftsbury I, Craftsbury II, University of Utah, and University of Vermont, in that order — were at this point all within ten seconds of the lead.

    Reid Goble handed off to his big sister, Sarah Goble, at this exchange, which is deeply wholesome. The pride of Petoskey made good.

    Reid Goble had logged the day’s fastest time for leg one. Sarah Goble notched the second-fastest time for leg two, but only by 0.3 seconds off the mark set by Karianne Dengerud of Utah. At the second exchange, midway through the race, BSF was in the lead, but not by much: Craftsbury I was 3.3 seconds back in second, and Utah 7.2 seconds back in third. Craftsbury II had faded slightly, and was at this point 29.4 seconds out.

    Finn O’Connell headed out on course for Bridger for leg three. He would log the day’s fastest leg-three time to stretch their lead, coming into the final exchange 14.7 seconds up on Utah and 20.1 seconds up on Craftsbury I.

    But the race wasn’t over. BSF anchor leg Mariah Bredal skied fine, logging the day’s third-fastest time for this leg. But Sydney Palmer-Leger closed things out for Utah, and she was on a mission. Palmer-Leger made up the gap to Bredal, then passed her near the end. It was the first time that Utah had led all day, but it was enough.

    The University of Utah (athletes: Sam Hendry, Karianne Dengerud, Brian Bushey, Sydney Palmer-Leger) took the club relay national championship title, with a cumulative time of 45:49.9. Bridger Ski Foundation (athletes: Reid Goble, Sarah Goble, Finn O’Connell, Mariah Bredal) was second, only 1.5 seconds back. A fast-closing Craftsbury I (athletes: Jake Brown, Alex Lawson, Braden Becker, Margie Freed) was another 2.1 seconds back of Bridger in third.

    Several domestic clubs did not enter a team in this event, including Stratton Mountain School, Alaska Pacific University, Team Birkie, and Sun Valley. (Disclosure: I train and race domestically with APU Masters. On the one hand, I wear an APU suit in races; on the other hand, on a day-to-day basis I have nothing to do with the APU Elite Team, except for when I report on them in a professional capacity.)

    I mention this fact in no way to detract from or second-guess the accomplishments of those athletes who did race on Saturday; they are all really good skiers, and I am not trying to craft alternate histories of what this race would or could have looked like with a deeper domestic field. The athletes discussed above beat everyone who was on the start line that day; that’s all you can ever do. My point is rather to attempt to briefly contrast the depth and priorities of high-end American skiing when the club relay concept originated versus now.

    Take a look at the top few teams in the inaugural mixed club relay, held in Anchorage nine years ago Saturday at Spring Series 2014 (full results here if you’d like to go down memory lane for a moment — Chelsea Holmes and Miles Havlick and Jessica Yeaton racing for Sun Valley, Scott Patterson for UVM, Eric Packer for SMS, Marine Dusser for UAA, Rosie Frankowski for NMU, etc.):

    Speak, memory

    Jessie Diggins was a very good skier at this time, but she wasn’t yet contest-overall-World-Cup-title good. Sadie Bjornsen was a very good skier in 2014, but she wasn’t yet individual-World-Cup-podium good. I truly do not have an opinion on whether it is “good” or “bad” that the highest-end American skiers are now tending to finish up a World Cup season and head home for a well-deserved rest rather than travel for one more set of races at Spring Series on dead legs. But it is objectively true that the Spring Series field increasingly has fewer American World Cup skiers in it than it previously did.


    Classic distance

    Sunday brought 44-kilometer mass start classic races to finish out the season, first the women and then the men. It was snowing. Hard.

    The somewhat untraditional distance reflected the fact that organizers had set a single 11-kilometer loop at Craftsbury Outdoor Center for this race. Juniors contested a 22km race covering two laps of this course. Senior athletes did four laps, hence a 44km. It was the second-longest race of the high-level domestic race season, behind the 50km skate American Birkebeiner. The women raced the same distance as the men at a season-ending national championship, for perhaps the first time at a distance over 30km. If anyone’s uterus fell out from the exertion, it went unreported.

    Both races followed a relatively similar pattern, a predictable one for a mass start long-distance race: A larger pack was consistently whittled down to a smaller one, until eventually a small handful of athletes sprinted it in for the win.

    In the women’s race there were still eight athletes within six seconds of the lead at the 27km mark, spanning from Erin Bianco (Team Birkie) to a now-retired Caitlin Patterson (Craftsbury, possibly Craftsbury Alumna at this point). By 33km into the race, that pack was down to three, or maybe two, as Hanna Abrahamsson (Colorado) and Sydney Palmer-Leger (Utah/USST) headed out on the final lap together, Margie Freed (Craftsbury) six seconds back in third.

    Palmer-Leger and Abrahamsson skied together throughout the final lap. Palmer-Leger eventually outdistanced her RMISA competitor, taking the win by 1.8 seconds after slightly over two-and-a-half hours of racing. Freed was dropped soundly, but also may well have shut things down to preserve her third-place finish after falling off the leaders, ultimately finishing two minutes back in a solid third. Patterson was fourth, another minute back, slightly ahead of Ava Thurston in fifth. 28 athletes started the race, and 25 finished at the end of a long season.

    Hanna Abrahamsson is a Swedish national, rendering the domestic podium as Sydney Palmer-Leger, Margie Freed, and Caitlin Patterson. As a skier of a certain age (I described myself on this site yesterday as “a geriatric millennial”), congrats to the 33-year-old Patterson, who achieved 13 national championships during her professional career, on yet another national championship podium now that she is in retirement.

    There were similar themes in the men’s race, from the way things played out to the age and racing status of the athletes on the podium. Things started to fracture relatively early in the day’s, and season’s, final race; by the halfway mark, 22km in, there were four men within ten seconds of the lead: in order, Andreas Kirkeng of Denver, Zanden McMullen of APU, David Norris of Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Center, and John Steel Hagenbuch of Dartmouth. McMullen and Steel Hagenbuch are also both on the U.S. Ski Team.

    With one lap to go, at the 33km mark, the first three athletes listed above were all skiing within a second of each other. McMullen was skiing in an awkward no man’s land, 20 seconds off the podium and 17 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor.

    Much as in Friday’s sprint, Kirkeng surged near the end to take an overall win that also did not count as a national championship for the Norwegian skier. Kirkeng’s time was 2:14:04.6 for 44km. Steel Hagenbuch was 2.3 seconds back in second; Norris was 8.9 seconds back in third; McMullen was 1:05 back for a hard-fought fourth. Sam Hendry of Utah closed strong over the final lap to move up from seventh to fifth, but was also over a minute back of McMullen at the finish.

    The domestic podium was therefore John Steel Hagenbuch, David Norris, and Zanden McMullen. It was Hagenbuch’s second career national championship, after finishing second to, well, Andreas Kirkeng in the 10km skate in Houghton in January. It was Norris’s 11th career national championship podium, all in distance races, numbers nine and ten having come in Houghton this year. And it was McMullen’s third career national championship podium, after also reaching the domestic podium in the classic sprint and the 20km classic in Houghton in January.

    Steel Hagenbuch is 21. McMullen is 21. Norris is 32, is now semi-retired, and likely prepped for the race by supporting his junior athletes with Steamboat Springs for his day job as a coach.

    Behind them, but not that far behind, another retired athlete, Kris Freeman, age 42, finished in 2:18:46.9 to win the citizens race by nearly 40 minutes. His time placed him 13th in the open race (also 40 seconds out of sixth, in a more optimistic spin on things), ahead of multiple current pro athletes.

    The open men’s race had 54 starters and 48 finishers.

    Results: women’s 44km | men’s 44km | citizens race

    Overall titles and NNF Cup

    Here are the overall SuperTour standings for the 2022/2023 season. Hailey Swirbul is the top-ranked athlete on this list, but has announced her retirement from World Cup racing, and so second-ranked Sydney Palmer-Leger will presumptively be in line for Period 1 World Cup starts next season if she would like them. Alex Lawson and Margie Freed trail her on that list.

    For the men, Andreas Kirkeng is the highest-ranked athlete on the men’s list, but is also a foreign national. Zanden McMullen is narrowly ahead of John Steel Hagenbuch as the American skier with the most points from the 2022/2023 domestic season, with Peter Wolter third.

    The University of Utah takes home the NNF Cup, and with it a $3,000 grant to help it “provid[e] US skiers with structured programs for their continued development,” per an NNF press release. You can find the final NNF Cup standings here (Bridger was second, APU third, and Craftsbury fourth), and an article about the NNF Cup here.

    John Lazenby was on site all week; you can view and purchase photos from his site here, and/or click on the podium photo embedded above from his SmugMug site. It looks like galleries are now up for all races.

    — Gavin Kentch

  • Diggins and Brennan Again Place 2nd and 4th in World Cup Overall as Kalvå Wins

    Diggins and Brennan Again Place 2nd and 4th in World Cup Overall as Kalvå Wins

    It’s difficult to discuss the last race of the season without trafficking in clichés. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end, as we learned from Semisonic in, oh god, 1998. I hope you had the time of your life, Green Day intoned over mournful guitar chords a year earlier, in that one song whose official title is not actually “Time of Your Life,” but should be, and which is at the same time both the band’s most widely played track and also largely out of keeping with the stylings of the rest of their decades-long discography. (Yes I am a geriatric millennial; how could you tell.)

    All of which is to say that Sunday’s races, first a women’s and then a men’s 20-kilometer mass start classic, were the final races of the season. The day’s results were, frankly, on the underwhelming side for some American athletes. But they existed alongside, and should not obscure, several truly impressive season-long accomplishments for Team U.S.A.

    Finally, today also marked the final World Cup race for Hailey Swirbul. For what it’s worth, Hailey, it was worth all the while.

    The points standings

    Today’s women’s race played out against the backdrop of the season-long quest for the distance globe, and possibly for the order of the final two podium spots in the overall World Cup standings if someone had an epically good or epically bad day. 

    Coming into Sunday’s race, Tiril Udnes Weng of Norway had the overall globe sewn up, 154 points ahead of Jessie Diggins in second with only 130 points still available (100 points for the overall win plus 15 bonus points at each of two intermediate primes). Kerttu Niskanen of Finland was 99 points back of Diggins in third, a sizeable margin with only 130 points up for grabs, but still in contention, at least mathematically speaking. Things were far closer in the chase for the distance globe, where Niskanen led Diggins by only 22 points.

    Rosie Brennan, by the way, was fourth in both standings, overall and distance, a fact that would have been headline news for American skiing well into the first decade of Brennan’s career as a pro skier. The bar just keeps getting raised higher.

    The actual racing

    Kerttu Niskanen skied today as if she were trying not only to win the race, but to make up that entire 99-point gap in the process. She won the first sprint prime, at 7.5km into the race, picking up 15 World Cup points when she did so. She did the same at the second and final prime, at 12.5km, adding another 15 World Cup points to her total. Closing the entire gap would be a tall order — and note that it’s not Niskanen’s point total that matters here so much as the differential between her and Diggins, right, like even if Niskanen took the full 130 points on the day, Diggins just had to finish 25th or higher to garner 32 points to keep the margin from this race to less than 99 — but Niskanen was skiing as if she hoped to pull it off.

    Behind her, Diggins was skiing like a supremely talented athlete who will also be the first to tell you that classic striding in sloppy conditions has long been her bête noire. That is what the course featured today, and Diggins’s skis were perhaps not what they could have been, and that was that.

    At the 7.5km sprint prime, Diggins was in 14th, 12.8 seconds off the lead. At 10km, she was down to 18th, though just 7.3 seconds back. At the next prime, at 12.5km, she was in 19th, 17.2 seconds back. By 15km, she was skiing in a three-women pack in 20th, 29.4 seconds back. Everyone is allowed to be human.

    Diggins would ultimately finish 22nd, 1:15.2 back of Anne Kjersti Kalvå, who took her first career World Cup victory. Niskanen finished fifth, 3.3 seconds off the win, good for 80 points, plus both sprint primes to give her 110 points on the day. Diggins garnered 38 points. Niskanen had drawn to within 27 points, but no closer, and Diggins had secured second in both the overall and distance World Cup standings. Brennan’s (relative!) off day, combined with strong showings from athletes around her, saw her fall to sixth in this year’s distance standings, leapfrogged on the season’s final day by Heidi Weng and Anne Kjersti Kalvå.

    It’s been a heady few years for American women’s skiing, led by Diggins and perennial bridesmaid Rosie Brennan. Two seasons ago, in the 2020/2021 World Cup season, Diggins won both the overall and distance globes, with Brennan fourth in both rankings. Last year, in the 2021/2022 World Cup season, Diggins was second in the overall. This year once more sees Diggins second and Brennan fourth in the overall, with Diggins second in distance as well.

    Put another way, it is the second time in three years that Diggins and Brennan have gone 2–4 in the overall World Cup standings. It is Diggins’s third top-two overall finish in the last three years (and fourth in her career; she was a narrow second in the 2017/2018 season). Diggins is the only woman to make the overall standings podium in each of the last three years. America (!) is the only nation to have two athletes in the top four in any season in that time, and has done it twice. It’s been a strong few years for American women’s World Cup skiing.

    Diggins led four Americans in relative proximity to the finish in today’s race. Rosie Brennan was 23rd (+1:25.9), Novie McCabe was 25th (+1:45.8), and Hailey Swirbul was 26th (+1:46.6). Julia Kern was 38th (+3:17.6). Sammy Smith, who was born in 2005, eight years after Green Day released “Good Riddance,” was 48th in her second-ever World Cup distance race (+5:08.7).

    Some thoughts from the athletes

    “I’m really, really proud of” her strong finish in the overall World Cup standings, Diggins said in post-race audio provided by USSS.

    “This is my third year in a row that I’m top three, and it I think speaks to really incredible support from the team. A lot of hard work and consistent training, but also just amazing hard work, and consistent work, from all of our volunteer staff, our coaches, our wax techs who are working so, so hard every single day, so that’s really, really, really cool. I’m really proud of the year.”

    Diggins was also asked about her takeaways from the season. Here’s Diggins:

    “I think one of the biggest lessons is not to give up just because something is hard, and also to trust in myself. You know, it was a tough Tour de Ski, that was no secret, but I think if I listened to all the people saying that I should give up and go home, instead of trusting in my body and myself and the team, then I would not have stayed in the top three overall. And instead I fought for it, because I knew I was in a healthy place and a good place with my body, and I knew it was worth fighting for.

    “So I think if there’s anything I want little kids to take away from this it’s: don’t give up just because something is hard. It’s okay to move on to something else if you’re not healthy or if something happens, but if you are healthy and you’re in a good place, it’s okay to keep fighting for your goals.”

    Up next for Diggins: vacation time and beach time with her husband, Wade Poplawski, possibly also surfing time. “Fun fact,” Diggins observed, “every single one of my World Cup podiums has come after I started dating him. So there you go. It’s all because of Wade.”

    Rosie Brennan, who wrote in her Instagram post that today’s race marked “far from a fairytale ending” for her, found herself once more gamely discussing a wooden medal.

    “It’s of course bittersweet to be fourth place,” said Brennan in audio from USSS. “I’ve been there before. So I was really hoping to notch it up once, but was unable to. It’s incredible to be fourth, but it’s also that bittersweet position. So hopefully I can do some reflection and figure out what to do better, and come back stronger.”

    Speaking to her season more broadly, Brennan observed, “It’s been really cool to find a lot of good consistency this year. And hopefully I can just build off that and find some stronger single results as well. And I think that’ll help.”

    Finally, Brennan spoke to some overall highlights from the team this year: 

    “I’m super psyched about Ben winning the green bib [for top U23 skier this year], that’s been amazing. And we definitely have a strong group of now men and women coming up, which is just so cool to see. And that’s been a big motivator for me to continue my career as long as I have, is to make sure that we can make these good results stick and make it a thing that the U.S. is always competitive in any given race.

    “And I think we’re getting there. It’s amazing to have — the girls were third in the Nation’s Cup [this season], and the whole U.S. was fourth overall. And gosh, we haven’t had a result like that in a long time, or at least in my career. So it’s really cool to see, and I’m excited to — hopefully these young kids keep me young, keep us all going strong and moving up. So I’m looking forward to that.”

    Fare well, Hailey Swirbul

    I cannot even feign objectivity when it comes to Hailey Swirbul. I first interviewed her in fall 2016, for this piece for FasterSkier about threatened cuts to the UAA ski team, and have been a massive fan ever since. I have done bounding intervals behind Hailey. I have won ski races on hand-me-down skis from Hailey. I have traded frank messages about the importance of mental health in skiing with Hailey. I think it’s clear from the tone of coverage on this site that I like all the athletes on the U.S. Ski Team, but I really like Hailey.

    Jessie Diggins really likes Hailey, too. She’s an easy person to like.

    All of which is to say that, per Jessie Diggins’s post, embedded above, today was Hailey Swirbul’s final World Cup race. I absolutely intend to catch up with her next month for a proper retirement piece; watch this space. Until then, Hailey, thank you.

    Results: today’s 20km | overall World Cup standings | distance standings

  • Margie Freed and John Steel Hagenbuch Win 10km Classic as SuperTour Finals Kick Off in Craftsbury

    Margie Freed and John Steel Hagenbuch Win 10km Classic as SuperTour Finals Kick Off in Craftsbury

    The home team had a strong day in the women’s field, while the men’s race showed more geographic diversity, in a pair of 10-kilometer interval-start classic races that kicked off SuperTour Finals in Craftsbury on Wednesday.

    Margie Freed, of Craftsbury Green Racing Project, started in the middle of the seeded women’s field in bib no. 30. She posted the day’s fastest intermediate split through the first of two 5km laps. She also logged the day’s fastest lap-two time. If you do both those things, you tend to win the race, and Freed did, finishing in 30:04.9. It was her first career SuperTour victory.

    Hanna Abrahamsson (Colorado) started two minutes later in bib no. 34, but was closer to Freed than that all day. Abrahamsson came through her first lap just 1.9 seconds back of Freed. Her second-lap time was all of 2.1 seconds slower. Freed ultimately took the win, by 4.0 seconds. Craftsbury teammate Alex Lawson was third, 28.9 seconds back.

    There were three additional clubs represented within the six-deep SuperTour podium: Mariah Bredal of BSF was fourth (+34.1); Alayna Sonnesyn of SMS was fifth (+45.9); and Sydney Palmer-Leger of Utah (also the USST) was sixth (+47.9).

    In the men’s race, John Steel Hagenbuch (USST/Dartmouth) used a strong second lap to take the win. The day’s second starter, bib no. 102 in a field of 58, Hagenbuch initially headed out on course without the benefit of splits from earlier starters. He came through the lap in 13:29.0, which at the time was the day’s fastest split, but was soon bested by Andreas Kirkeng of Denver by four seconds. But Hagenbuch skied his second lap in 13:58.7, while Kirkeng slowed to 14:11.6, giving Hagenbuch the victory.

    “great day, great skis,” wrote a deeply chill Hagenbuch on his public Strava account. “good fight with Andreas. just imagining Rémi [Drolet of Harvard] in front of me last 2 km. classic skiing not so bad. nice vibes.”

    Hagenbuch’s winning time was 27:27.7. Kirkeng was 8.9 seconds back for second. David Norris (Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club), who is seeing results from a new quasi-retired training program of largely doing what he wants and not logging his hours, was third, 22.4 seconds back.

    There were six distinct programs represented within the top six of the men’s race, with Zanden McMullen of APU in fourth (+28.3), Braden Becker of Craftsbury in fifth (+58.1), and Peter Wolter of Sun Valley in sixth (+1:09).

    Wednesday’s race was the first of four races that make up 2022/2023 SuperTour Finals over a five-day period. Precisely speaking, Wednesday was the year’s final SuperTour competition. The skate sprint, on Friday; the mixed-gender 4 x 5km skate club relay, on Saturday; and the 44km mass start classic, on Sunday, are all national championship races. Find full details, including start times, results links, and (maybe) streaming info, in the final weekend viewing guide.

    10km classic results: women | men

    — Gavin Kentch

  • Viewing Guide for March 24–26: World Cup Finals and SuperTour Finals

    Viewing Guide for March 24–26: World Cup Finals and SuperTour Finals

    It’s been a long season, but it’s about to come to an end. World Cup racing opened in the farthest north reaches of Finland, four full months ago, with the Ruka Triple. Klæbo won every race for the men with seeming ease bordering on nonchalance, presaging much of the season to come. Emma Ribom of Sweden won her first World Cup, but not her last, and I used the phrase “Sweden Puts Two on Podium” in a headline for also not the last time, ushering in a season where the Swedish women were often unstoppable.

    This was a long time ago: Klæbo wins the Ruka classic sprint going away.

    Four months and 29 (scored World Cup) races later, there’s not much drama remaining in the standings on the men’s side. Klæbo has led the overall standings since the close of the Tour de Ski in early January, and has already wrapped up his fourth overall crystal globe in the last six years, including his second in a row. He has also secured his sprint fifth globe. The distance globe is, mathematically speaking, still within reach for him with one distance race yet to come (Klæbo is 112 points back with 125 points remaining), but so long as Pål Golberg shows up on the start line on Sunday and skis to a fraction of his potential, Golberg will take a well-earned distance globe.

    Golberg will be second in the overall World Cup standings, no matter what happens this weekend, and Federico Pellegrino third. The podium in the overall World Cup standings marks the emergence of the longtime Italian sprinter as a skilled generalist, mirroring the late-career distance chops of athletes such as Marit Bjørgen and Kikkan Randall. Pellegrino’s best finish in the World Cup distance standings coming into this season was 28th, last year. He is currently ranked a healthy 11th there, ahead of athletes like Harald Østberg Amundsen of Norway and a resurgent Calle Halfvarsson of Sweden.

    Oh and by the way, Ben Ogden is currently eighth in the overall standings, and a resounding first in the green jersey/U23 standings, all of which collectively deserves more attention than I am giving it here.

    (If you’ll permit one final note on Klæbo, the all-time record for overall World Cup titles is held by Bjørn Dæhlie, who retired with six. Gunde Svan and Yelena Välbe have five. Dario Cologna, Justyna Kowalczyk, Bente Skari, and Marit Bjørgen all have four. Klæbo is already amidst some august company here with his four titles. He is still only 26 years old.)

    Things are closer, at least somewhat, on the women’s side. Tiril Udnes Weng of Norway has worn the yellow leader’s bib, denoting the World Cup overall leader, since the 10km skate in Lillehammer on December 2. Jessie Diggins was threatening that position through Period 1, then was less of a threat after some rough races in the Tour de Ski, then suddenly started hitting the podium every other race in Period 3 to move back into contention.

    Coming into the final weekend of races, Udnes Weng is 110 points ahead of Diggins in the overall standings, with 240 points still up for grabs. Here is a helpful table showing where things currently stand:

    As a matter of simple math, Diggins is very much in the hunt, since 240 > 110. (I mean, as a strict matter of math, Kerttu Niskanen is also in contention for the overall title, because 240 > 218, but I don’t see Udnes Weng scoring zero points this weekend while Niskanen wins everything, so I really feel like it comes down to Udnes Weng vs. Diggins by this point.) As a matter of what will actually happen in the races… Diggins has been roughly 100 points back of Udnes Weng throughout most of Period 4. And Jessie Diggins is an amazing skier, but the math requires her not only to do well in these races, but to score that much better than Udnes Weng.

    Some commentators have been all but willing Diggins toward the top: “While Weng’s results have fallen off as the season has progressed,” Peggy Shinn wrote earlier this month following World Championships, “Diggins is soaring. Should she surpass Weng, and hold off Finland’s Kerttu Niskanan, who lurks just 18 points behind Diggins in the overall rankings, Diggins would shush the naysayers who claim that she won the 2021 title because the Norwegians sat out much of the world cup tour that year because of COVID-19.”

    Shinn again referred to Diggins’s potential to “shush the naysayers” following the historic inaugural women’s 50km at Holmenkollen, where Diggins adroitly won five of six intermediate primes to pick up a staggering 177 World Cup points on the day and close the gap to, at the time, 87 points back from Udnes Weng.

    Anyway, there appear to be 240 points on offer from two remaining races, including 115 for Saturday’s classic sprint (15 for the winner of the sprint qual plus 100 for the overall winner) and 125 for Sunday’s classic mass start (100 for the winner, plus I thought each distance prime had a max of 15 bonus points, so I’ll admit that I don’t see how you get to 125 off of that).

    Neither Diggins nor Tiril Udnes Weng is racing in tomorrow’s team sprint. I would assume that Kerttu Niskanen is racing Sunday’s classic race, which is where the distance globe will be decided as between her and Diggins.

    Racing for the Americans tomorrow are Sammy Smith and Hailey Swirbul, for the women, and Gus Schumacher and Kevin Bolger (USA I) and Zak Ketterson and JC Schoonmaker (USA II) for the men.

    Here is when the races will be:

    World Cup Finals, Lahti, Finland (local time at venue: you’re gonna want to look this one up, since it switches to daylight savings time at 3 a.m. on Sunday and things are gonna get messy. It will be in the nine- to ten-hours ahead of Alaska Time range. Also take these start times with a grain of salt, since I don’t know if my FIS app is adjusting for that time change yet.)

    dateracetime (AK)time (EST)results
    Friday, March 24W team sprint qual5:20 a.m.9:20 a.m.here
    M team sprint qual5:40 a.m.9:40 a.m.here
    W team sprint finals6:50 a.m.10:40 a.m.here
    M team sprint finals7:19 a.m.11:19 a.m.here
    Saturday, March 25classic sprint qual1:30 a.m.5:30 a.m.here
    classic sprint finals4 a.m.9 a.m.here
    Sunday, March 26W 20km cl mass start1 a.m.5 a.m.here
    M 20km cl mass start2:45 a.m.6:45 a.m.here

    Need help viewing the races from the U.S.? Here’s our full article on how to watch.

    *   *   *

    SuperTour racing also wraps up this weekend, at Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Vermont. The first day of racing there, full disclosure, was yesterday; I’ll blurb results from that race, which was the year’s final SuperTour competition, later today. (You can find the 10km classic article here.)

    The final three races, held on Friday through Sunday, are all national championships. Friday and Sunday are individual championships; Saturday is a club championship. Here’s when those races will be:

    SuperTour Finals, Craftsbury, Vermont (local time at venue: Eastern Time)

    dateracetime (AK)time (EST)results
    Friday, March 24skate sprint qual10 a.m.2 p.m.here
    sk sprint junior heats12 p.m.4 p.m.here
    sk sprint open heats1 p.m.5 p.m.here
    sk sprint M’s final2:10 p.m.6:10 p.m.here
    sk sprint W’s final2:20 p.m.6:20 p.m.here
    Saturday, March 254 x 5km skate mixed relay7 a.m.11 a.m.here
    Sunday, March 26women’s 44km classic5 a.m.9 a.m.here
    junior girls 22km classic5 a.m.9 a.m.here
    men’s 44km classic8 a.m.12 p.m.here
    junior boys 22km classic8 a.m.12 p.m.here

    Notably, there will also be a livestream, after a fashion, or at least there was for Wednesday’s interval-start classic. You can find yesterday’s stream here. If there are streams for the weekend’s races, you could find them through here.

    *   *   *

    Thanks for reading Nordic Insights this season. It has, I can’t lie, been a long season for me as well, but I’ve had a lot of fun and like to think that I have done a small bit to help both American skiing and American ski fans. I’m going to be pretty quiet on the site the next two days; I’m traveling Friday and Saturday for a season-ending 50km of my own.

    I’ll be back online on Sunday to cover the last day of World Cup racing, then after that next week for at least some level of SuperTour Finals wrapping up. Things will then be pretty fallow on the site through most of April, since I am going to pretend that I am a pro skier and take off much of the month (read, clean out the piles of undone tasks that have accumulated since the World Cup season started; also, go ski a lot), before getting back up to speed come May 1, skier’s new year. Thanks for reading.

    — Gavin Kentch

  • Tallinn City Sprints: Notes and Quotes From the American Skiers

    Tallinn City Sprints: Notes and Quotes From the American Skiers

    You have by this point likely digested the result highlights from yesterday evening’s city sprint up and down an amphitheater in Estonia’s capital city. Klæbo won for the men, which is completely unsurprising, while Skistad prevailed over Sundling for the women, which would have been totally surprising at the start of this World Cup season, but is suddenly unsurprising as we approach its close. (Okay, if you are Swedish also Skistad unfairly knocked into Sundling and robbed her of her momentum coming into the finish in the women’s final; if you are Norwegian, rubbing is racing. The race jury seemed unconcerned.)

    So those are the results. What did (some of) the Americans think about their night under the lights? Read on for more.

    Jessie Diggins (fourth in her quarterfinal, 18th overall on the day)

    “Wow. I gotta say that was super, super cool,” said Diggins in transcribed audio provided by USSS. “They had a full-on rock concert in between the qualifier and the heats. There were tons of fans, there were people in a hot tub on the side of the course. The whole thing — having it be a night sprint in a city, on a weekday — the course was lined with fans, it was an incredible atmosphere. So well done to them. That was really amazing and pretty awesome, so it was very fun to be a part of.

    “We didn’t have our best day, I don’t think, as a team. But there were a lot of highlights, including Sammy Smith getting in there in 30th, making the heats. It was really fun to do a heat with her. Personally, I was hoping my heat number one would end up being super fast to try to get pulled to a lucky loser time. I didn’t get that time, so I didn’t move on.

    “But I am actually really pleased with how my energy has come back. It was quite a lot doing a 50km, two sprints, and a 10km, all in the span of seven days. So I had been pretty tired yesterday, and I was really pleased to see that my energy bounced back. And you know, I’m missing power right now; I don’t feel incredibly strong. But I do feel like my energy came back, so that was really nice.”

    Rosie Brennan (sixth in her quarterfinal, 29th overall on the day)

    “I can’t wait to get my classic skis back on,” as Brennan summed up her Instagram post on last night’s race, while also taking pride in the fact that she is skate skiing in soft conditions far better than she would have just a few years ago.

    Expanding on some of these themes in post-race audio comments from USSS, Brennan observed, “Today was a challenging city sprint. These types of events have never really been my forte, but today the conditions were quite challenging with temperatures very much above freezing, and some very deep but also icy conditions with a lot of tricky corners. So it was kind of a battle just to stay on your feet and to be comfortable on your skis. And I did my best to keep myself in there and fight for every point that I could get out there.

    “Definitely it wasn’t my dream day, but also in the big picture, honestly, I would never even have qualified for a sprint like this a few years back. So there are some bigger-picture, perspective things to take away and certainly things that I’ll continue to work on moving forward. But in the meantime, I’m pretty excited to get back to some classic skiing and one last weekend.”

    Hailey Swirbul (34th in qualifying, four places and 3.43 seconds out of the heats)

    “It can sure be frustrating to be on the emotional roller coaster that is ski racing,” Swirbul wrote to Nordic Insights. “It’s impossible not to get frustrated eventually when races aren’t going the way I’d like them to! I am still finding lots of reasons to appreciate being here that go far beyond the racing aspects, but it is definitely nice to race for more than 3 minutes if you dedicate a whole day to a race. I’ve enjoyed being in Tallinn, and they did a wonderful job with the event! 

    “One more weekend to go, and I’m holding out hope that it will be a rewarding celebration to finish out the year.”

    JC Schoonmaker (also 34th in qualifying, four places and 0.36 seconds out of the heats)

    I wrote to JC, in part, “It feels silly to say, ‘were you looking for more time out there’ when you missed the heats by literally 0.36 seconds over 1.4km… that said, is there anything you wish you’d done differently, or was that just how your day went today?”

    Here’s Schoonmaker in response to these questions, in writing to Nordic Insights:

    “Yea I was definitely looking to go faster than I did out there. When I look back at the qualifier I don’t see any big mistake or anything where I certainly lost time, I think it was more of a slowly bleeding out situation. My body just didn’t quite want to go the speed that I needed and it showed in the splits that I was behind from the start of the race. Just not my day today but all things considered when I had to make the call on whether or not to race on the morning of, I’ll take it.

    “This has been a long season and at the end of a winter like this one you can only get what your body will give you. Definitely hoping I can end the season on a better note in Lahti but we’ll just have to see. Either way it’ll be a good time.”

    *   *   *

    The 2022/2023 World Cup season wraps up in Lahti this weekend with three more races: a skate team sprint on Friday, a classic sprint on Saturday, and a 20km mass start classic race on Sunday to close things out.

    More details on this tomorrow in a viewing guide preview post, but Diggins is mathematically still in contention for the overall crystal globe, albeit also 110 points out with scant points still on the table and Tiril Udnes Weng skiing well ahead of her. Diggins trails Kerttu Niskanen by just 22 points for the distance globe with a single distance race remaining; on paper the classic race likely favors Niskanen, but a lot can happen over a 20km mass start race, and Jessie Diggins is, to put it mildly, skilled at digging deep in competition.

    Results: women | men

    — Gavin Kentch

  • JNs Redux: Final Photos Roundup

    JNs Redux: Final Photos Roundup

    Junior Nationals wrapped up in Fairbanks last week with mass start skate races on Thursday. Junior girls raced 15 kilometers for, I assume, the first time in JNs history; they proved themselves more than capable of skiing that far.

    New England won the Alaska Cup (header photo), for top region, again, with Intermountain close behind in second and Midwest somewhere farther back in third. Athletes from Loppet Nordic Racing scored the most points of any single club, with Alaska Winter Stars second. The top two high school teams in the country were, again, both from Anchorage, this year West first and Service second. My sincere congratulations to all athletes who simply qualified to compete.

    The races are a few days gone now, but I was off ski racing all weekend, so here is a better late than never roundup of some photos to close out our Junior Nationals coverage. Notably, there are links here to galleries from three different photographers, not only Eric Engman, whose shots I have previously featured, but also Mark Lindberg and Tobias Albrigtsen. Most of these galleries have very reasonable prices for prints and downloads; consider paying these men for their time spent standing around in cold temperatures last week by purchasing a photo of you or your favorite skier.

    — Gavin Kentch

    Eric Engman

    2023 Junior Nationals
    2023 Junior Nationals
    2023 Junior Nationals
    2023 Junior Nationals
    2023 Junior Nationals
    2023 Junior Nationals
    2023 Junior Nationals
    2023 Junior Nationals
    2023 Junior Nationals
    2023 Junior Nationals

    Mark Lindberg

    Tobias Albrigtsen

  • JNs Day Three: Mass Start Skate Races Live Blog

    JNs Day Three: Mass Start Skate Races Live Blog

    Welcome back to the final day of racing, and the final day of the Nordic Insights live blog. More people than I was expecting, frankly, viewed the live blog for classic distance day, so let’s try this again. Races start at noon today.

    • Here is the livestream:

    Here are the start lists.

    Here are live results.

    • Here are the (notably condensed) start times for all six races:

    racetime (AK)time (EST)
    U16 boys 5km mass start skate12 p.m.4 p.m.
    U16 girls 5km mass start skate12:10 p.m.4:10 p.m.
    U18 girls 10km mass start skate12:25 p.m.4:25 p.m.
    U18 boys 10km mass start skate12:45 p.m.4:45 p.m.
    U20 girls 15km mass start skate1:55 p.m.5:55 p.m.
    U20 boys 15km mass start skate2:40 p.m.6:40 p.m.

    Okay, let’s see how this goes. Send questions or feedback to info (at) nordicinsights dot news, or DMs are open on Instagram @nordicinsights. Live blog by Gavin Kentch. Livestream commentary by Andrew Kastning. Stadium P.A. announcing by Kent Karns.


    Unofficial podium results from today:

    U16 boys: Wells Wappett, William Bentley, Campbell McLaren

    U16 girls: Lena Poduska, Annelies Hanna, Mary Harrington

    U18 boys: Tabor Greenberg, Benjamin Barbier, Lucas Wilmot

    U18 girls: Rose Horning, Neve Gerard, Sydney Drevlow

    U20 men: Trey Jones, Luka Riley, Philipp Moosmayer,* Matt Seline (*Moosmayer is a foreign national who skis locally for UAF, and is classed as a guest skier in the results. Seline is third on the domestic podium.)


    12:02 p.m., Race is underway. Roughly 70 U16 boys have just left the stadium and headed up the Ramp.

    12:03 p.m., No audio commentary, currently, on the live stream, a fact that is bringing great sadness to many people in the chat function of the YouTube stream.

    12:05 p.m., U16 girls field streams out en masse to the, well, mass start. The previous race started 5 minutes ago. The next race starts in 5 minutes. Chief of Competition John Estle has overseen a staggering ca. 400 race days in his long and illustrious career; today is the last one. If he can pull this off — and I have no doubt that he can — then he is going out with a bang.

    12:07 p.m., Looking in on the U16 boys live timing, it was Waters Callahan in the lead 3:30 into the race, with another 10 athletes within 10 seconds of him. Race should take ca. 13 to 14 minutes total.

    12:09 p.m., Lead U16 boys streaming past the edge of the stadium. U16 girls about to start. This is glorious chaos. So impressed with NSCF right now.

    12:10 p.m., Lead pack of six boys when the U16 race came past the stadium recently. Finishers should be in within five minutes.

    12:11 p.m., U16 girls on course. Audio is back on. Much rejoicing in the YouTube chat.

    U16 girls start

    12:12 p.m., One broken pole leaving the start. 🙁 Rough start for a 5km.

    12:13 p.m., Wells Wappett leading out the group sprint

    12:13 p.m., Local kid Wells Wappett wins at home!

    William Bentley second.

    Campbell McLaren third, based on my reading of bib numbers.

    Quinten Koch fourth.

    Nate Streubel fifth.

    This is all based off of my looking at bib numbers on the livestream.

    12:16 p.m., More finishers coming in, relative stragglers by this point. These kids are all among the best 50 athletes in the country.

    12:17 p.m., NSCF finish crew working heroically to get collapsed athletes up and off the ground and out of the finish area. 82 girls will be finishing within like seven minutes.

    12:20 p.m., U18 boys on their way out to the start.

    12:21 p.m., Lena Poduska, Intermountain, DESTROYING the field right now.

    12:22 p.m., New England x2 trailing Poduska. Lena Poduska has crushed. “Girls racing is always more ruthless than the boys,” Kastning observes on the livestream. “They just want to stab each other.”

    12:23 p.m., Back to the boys: Wells Wappett, William Bentley, Campbell McLaren, Quinten Koch, Nate Streubel were top five for U16 boys. Logan Drevlow, Silas D’Atre, Callahan Waters, Oskar Flora, Vebjorn Flagstad fill in places six through ten. Top five all within five seconds there.

    12:23 p.m., U18 boys getting ready for their start. Again, this is madness on the part of NSCF (to have all six races start within less than three hours, on the same 5km course), but also they are pulling it off, because of course they are. Impressed but not surprised.

    12:24 p.m., I feel comfortable predicting that Lena Poduska is going to win this.

    12:25 p.m., U18 boys start is underway.

    12:26 p.m., Lena Poduska for the win. Annelies Hanna and Mary Harrington follow in second and third.

    12:27 p.m., Taylor Nalder and Britta Johnson follow, I think in that order.

    12:27 p.m., Lena Poduska led this race effectively wire to wire, and looked smooth and relaxed while doing so. “Gun to tape annihilate,” as one Devon Kershaw would intone.

    Mass start athletes coming in in droves.

    12:29 p.m., Results not up yet on Zone4 for U16 girls, but give it another minute or so.

    12:30 p.m., I said this on Monday, but this final 100ish meters in the Birch Hill stadium is the longest 100 meters of any athlete’s life. Everyone in this field is a better skier than I am, and they just look destroyed by this point. Skiing is hard.

    12:32 p.m., Zone4 now has times up for the top three athletes. Lena Poduska, 14:33.5; Annelies Hanna, 15:05.3; Mary Harrington, 15:14.9. The athletes ski for Intermountain, New England, and New England, respectively. Their home clubs are Jackson Hole, Ford Sayre, and Green Mountain.

    12:34 p.m., Lead U18 boys on the edge of the stadium. This is most of the way through lap number one of two for them, so the pace is a little more moderate here than the single-lap push of the U16 5km races.

    12:35 p.m., Still 10 more minutes till the next race starts!

    12:36 p.m., Current temps in the Birch Hill stadium are –14 C, or +7° F. Light or no wind, so looks like the most humane conditions of the whole week to date.

    12:37 p.m., It’s been 12 minutes for the U18 boys, and they’re really fast, so top racers should be lapping through soon. Again, they are racing a 10km, so two laps of the 5km South Tower course.

    12:37 p.m., Lead pack laps through the stadium, emphasis on pack. There are at least 15 folks all together here, maybe more. Tabor Greenberg and Finegan Bailey, both of New England, both at the front, which is not a surprise.

    This is a big pack.

    12:40 p.m., Lead athletes were all skiing far, far faster than I ever could, but also relatively relaxed, as they came through the stadium. Look for more fireworks to emerge on lap two, perhaps as soon as the climb up South Tower.

    12:42 p.m., Three minutes till the U18 girls start. Look for the fastest U18 girls to potentially overtake the U18 stragglers from the previous race during their first lap/boys’ second lap. Male athlete just shown on screen going up the Ramp is going to have to watch his back soon.

    12:44 p.m., Yet another race about to go out precisely on schedule, the fourth within 45 minutes. This is a John Estle fan account now.

    12:45 p.m., U18 boys visible at the edge of the screen, going up East Ramp. Charging hard now. Still a dozen or more athletes all together in the lead pack there.

    12:46 p.m., U18 girls starting. No broken poles visible on screen yet? Hope it stays that way.

    12:47 p.m., Nope, Andrew Kastning and I both had the same hope, and both spoke too soon. One broken pole in this start, too.

    12:48 p.m., There were 15 boys within 10 seconds of the lead at the second lap South Tower checkpoint, 17 minutes into the race, so look for a potentially contested finish coming soon for the U18 boys, unless someone is able to get away. Tabor Greenberg and Finegan Bailey have to be counted among the favorites for this race, both coming in and through the first 1.5 laps, but I really don’t want to handicap the field more than that, given that we are talking about high school kids here.

    12:51 p.m., Called it. Tabor Greenberg leads it out.

    Ben Barbier second, Lucas Wilmot third.

    Tabor Greenberg takes the win
    Tabor Greenberg rests on the ground after taking the win.

    1:04 p.m., Sorry, kid crisis, had to step away there.

    1:06 p.m., Andrew Kastning just described the U18 girls lead pack as Sydney Drevlow, Rose Horning, and Rose Gerard, which is… not exactly reflected in current Zone4 live timing, but is also very plausible for the leaders of this race, so I have no doubt that is correct.

    1:08 p.m., Live timing now shows those three athletes in the lead with a split at lap-two South Tower. Horning first, by less than a second over Drevlow, then Gerard 4.5 seconds back in third. At that point in the race.

    1:10 p.m., I don’t have a photo of Rose Horning that I can share here — my photos provided by Steve Fuller during World Juniors were, very appropriately, for use only during World Juniors — but here is a nice profile of Horning from friend of the site Ryan Sederquist in the Vail Daily News from earlier this winter.

    1:12 p.m., This is Horning’s race to lose at this point. Stay tuned for the finish within the next few minutes.

    1:16 p.m., Lead racers should be coming in fairly soon.

    1:17 p.m., Rose Horning coming to the line. Neve Gerard within sight, but will take second.

    1:18 p.m., Sydney Drevlow takes third.

    1:19 p.m., Hanna Koch in fourth. Lydia Kraker in fifth.

    1:20 p.m., Racers streaming in. Finish-line crew crushing it here.

    1:23 p.m., Okay, lunch time for this reporter. Next race is U20 men, at 1:55 p.m., then finally the U20 women, at 2:40 p.m. I will be back online soon for those two 15km races, unless my kids need attention. Congrats to all the racers today, and massive shoutout to Andrew Kastning for his work on commentating the livestream. Plus, of course, all volunteers.

    1:55 p.m., I’m back. U20 men lining up, about to start.

    Here is the course for the mass start races. The athletes will cover this three times for the 15km.

    1:56 p.m., No broken poles here in this start, but one inoperable or broken ski. Poor kid.

    1:58 p.m., Top-seeded athletes for this race were, in order: Trey Jones, Wes Campbell, Matthew Seline, Victor Sparks, Luka Riley, Philipp Moosmayer, Derek Richardson, Jonathan Clarke, Andrew DeFor, and Corbin Carpenter. That’s three athletes from Rocky Mountain, three from Midwest, and one each from Intermountain, Far West, and Alaska. Plus one guest skier, in this case a foreign national who does not count toward team scores.

    2:01 p.m., Temps at Birch Hill up to a balmy +10° F at this time, by a substantial margin the most moderate conditions of this race week. Something funny and original to do is to call the venue “Brr Chill” instead of “Birch Hill.” Hilarious. I think I first read that on Cory Smith’s ur-skier blog, xcskiracer.com, some time last century, though I’m sure he didn’t coin it. Cory would later go on to found an obscure website called FasterSkier. He currently lives in Anchorage, where he beats me in classic races.

    2:03 p.m., Okay, back to the race. Trey Jones and Victor Sparks leading the race, joined by Matt Seline and Philipp Moosmayer. Another dozen athletes still within reach, at roughly the 3.5km mark of a 15km.

    2:06 p.m., Andrew Kastning, who is really doing a great job with this, free-associating on St. Patrick’s Day and the importance of salmon to the Alaskan diet on the livestream while waiting for athletes to come back through the stadium. Just to commentate on the commentator, Kastning has previously worked, and maybe still does, as a fisheries biologist for the State of Alaska. He was previously head nordic coach for University of Alaska Anchorage. The man who now holds that coaching job, Trond Flagstad, has been cheering for his son, Vebjorn Flagstad, in this week’s races. Alaska is just one small town.

    2:08 p.m., Lead pack laps through the stadium, Trey Jones at the head of the field. Dozens of athletes are still together right now. They are skiing very well. They also look like they are essentially out for a comfort cruise.

    2:10 p.m., If you are reading this blog and you are as good a skier as, say, this reporter, the notion of being able to keep up with the lead pack for an entire 5km while chilling like that may be essentially foreign to you. I’m not trying to belabor the point; these kids are good skiers, I am not, and I have the bottom-third finishes in local JNQs to show for it. But it’s worth keeping in mind why mass start races at this level look the way they do: The separation at the top of the field is relatively thin, and it is not worth anyone’s time and effort to try to make a move so early.

    2:13 p.m., Just checked my current points on myUSSA. They are 353.01 for NRL distance points (lol) (they were as low as 319.92 earlier this season, more lolz). I am ranked a heady 700th in the country on the most recent distance list. I have also won local citizens races, which is not an empty statement in Anchorage. These kids are really fast.

    2:14 p.m., At roughly the halfway point of the race, Luka Riley in the lead, but still anyone’s race out there.

    Luka Riley (photo: Gavin Kentch)

    Here is a not very good file photo that I took of Luka Riley skiing the second classic leg for the Americans in the men’s relay at World Juniors in Whistler last month.

    2:21 p.m., Here’s the lead pack of four lapping through at 10km: Trey Jones, Matt Seline, Luka Riley, and Philipp Moosmayer. Corbin Carpenter dangling just off the back in no man’s land. Moosmayer is a foreign national (from Germany, skis for UAF), and is not eligible for the U20 national title or podium. All these athletes look almost impossibly, enviously smooth in this false flat V2 stretch, even after 10km at the front of the race. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast, as they say.

    2:25 p.m., Figure about another 10 minutes total until the winner finishes this race, less than that before we get shots of the leaders once more.

    2:28 p.m., No lead athletes visible yet. Entertaining myself by watching just how far past the V boards some of the coaches go as they go stand out on course. Pretty far, in some cases. Less egregious at this point in the race, on this wide of a course (going up the Ramp just off the start), than in some places, but still quite violative of the letter of the law.

    2:30 p.m., Action at the front! Trey Jones and Luka Riley in the lead as they come along the edge of the stadium, at the 13.5km mark of the race. Matt Seline 20m back in third, with Philipp Moosmayer behind him. Sizeable gap back to fifth, which is probably Corbin Carpenter.

    2:34 p.m., Lead finishers coming in!

    Trey Jones wins

    2:35 p.m., Trey Jones takes the win. Luka Riley second. Philipp Moosmayer third, on the course, Matt Seline just behind him, will be third in the domestic results.

    2:36 p.m., Corbin Carpenter in in fifth, after gamely skiing by himself all race. Ben Dohlby and Miguel Fresco Hanlon ski way above their bibs/seeding in very strong races.

    2:40 p.m., U20 women on course, in the sixth and final race of the day. As I said above, today is the final work day of John Estle’s long and illustrious career. He is going out with a bang with this compressed race schedule.

    2:41 p.m., The de rigeur one athlete with broken poles off the start of the U20 women’s race.

    2:43 p.m., This concludes today’s live blog, since I need to go play with my patient children now. Congrats to all athletes. Tune in tomorrow for a final photos post from JNs.

    — Gavin Kentch