ANCHORAGE, Alaska – U.S. Cross Country Ski Team athletes Noah Hoffman and Sadie Bjornsen both capped their respective seasons Friday (March 28) with U.S. distance titles to wrap up the 2014 U.S. Cross Country Championships. Hoffman battled with Finnish skier Aku Nikander, of the University of New Mexico, throughout the men’s 50k classic.
“I didn’t really know anything about Aku, I didn’t even know his name. He’s a good skier. I didn’t like my chances coming into the final stretch, but part of me was just glad to be with him. I did try a little bit over the final hills, but I just didn’t have a chance getting away from him,” said Hoffman. “He was better than me double poling all day. I was struggling and it’s been a long season and he was impressive and I’m glad to be done.”
Nikander took the race win but the title still went to Hoffman, the top U.S. athlete. It was the second title for Hoffman at 2014 U.S. Championships after his win in the 15k freestyle race last Saturday. Reese Hanneman took the third spot on the podium while Andy Newell skied into sixth and Simi Hamilton seventh.
In the women’s race, Bjornsen teamed up with Liz Stephen to lead the 30k and emerged with the victory and distance title. It was Bjornsen’s third career title after winning the skate sprint and 20k classic at U.S. Nationals in Midway, Utah in 2013.
“This is probably one that I’m going to remember most for the season, this and Holmenkollen, because I feel like it’s the hardest race. Since joining APU I’ve realized I may be more of a distance skier than a sprinter and, you know, I prefer that. I always want to sprint, but distance skiing is so fun for me,” said Bjornsen. “We were just pushing so hard out there, making sure nobody was catching us. You always go into this race, the last race of the season like, ‘Oh, I hope we don’t go as hard as we can the whole time because I’m so tired,’ but when it comes down to it, it’s always more fun to do that anyway.”
Stephen finished second, Kikkan Randall third, Jessie Diggins fourth and Ida Sargent fifth. Rookie Sophie Caldwell finished sixth to cap an incredible first season with the U.S. Ski Team.
“I certainly felt like today the caliber is the highest it’s ever been for one of these races,” said Randall. “I know these guys can ski really well on the Word Cup so it’s like, you know you’ve got to bring you’re A-game on a day like this.”
Friday’s event took place on the APU Nordic training site, which meant a hometown advantage for Bjornsen, Randall, Hanneman and other APU athletes. The 2014 U.S. Cross Country Championships mark the end of the competitive season for the athletes, who return home for a break before beginning the training cycle again this summer.
Release courtesy of USSA