Soldier Hollow X-C nationals: Dussault, Johnson earn U.S. freestyle titlesSOLDIER HOLLOW, Utah – For Americans Andrew Johnson and Rebecca Dussault, 2006 is starting off on the right foot after they captured the first two U.S. titles in the opening races of the 2006 U.S. Cross Country Championships at Soldier Hollow, site of the 2002 Olympic nordic races.
Johnson celebrated his 28th birthday by taking the title in the men’s mass-start 30-kilometer freestyle event, while Dussault captured her eighth U.S. title – her fifth at Soldier Hollow – with a win in the women’s 15 km freestyle race.
The U.S. championships results will be considered as part of the criteria for making the U.S. Olympic Team, to be announced Jan. 17.
‘Between the new snow and the warm weather, it was about as hard as a ski race can get’ said Johnson, who won two U.S. titles in 2005, including last year’s 30 km free. ‘Fairly early on, I knew I felt strong compared to the other people in the front of the pack. We were keeping a fairly fast pace, but I was still comfortable. At about the 20K mark, the pack broke up a bit, but I left like I had a lot more to give.’
Besides feeling strong, Johnson said he has had several good weeks of training prior to the U.S. championships. He has lived in Park City since the summer of 1999 and trains often at Soldier Hollow. ‘I do particularly well on skate courses’ he said. ‘And I’ve generally had pretty good experiences here.’
Russian Ivan Babikov (training with Canada), fresh off his fourth-place finish in the Canmore World Cup, actually took the win, while U.S. Ski Teamers Johnson and Carl Swenson were second and third. Johnson claimed the U.S. nationals title as the top U.S. finisher.
The top six of Johnson, Babikov, Swenson, David Chamberlain, Kris Freeman and James Southam had a 30-second gap by the 10 km mark. Chad Giese, Nathan Schultz and Lars Flora were in pursuit, while the rest of the field was more than 1:30 back.
On the third of six 5 km loops, Babikov pushed the pace and soon fractured the lead group. Swenson, Johnson and Freeman were 30 seconds back by the 15 km mark.
In the final 10 km, Johnson moved ahead into a solid second, while Swenson secured third.
Dussault also has had her fair share of success at Soldier Hollow: She won three U.S. titles here in 2005 and one in 2001. ‘For me, this is a special place to race’ she said. ‘I’ve won half of my U.S. titles here. I always try my best when I’m at Soldier Hollow.’
Dussault faced even slushier conditions than the men in the afternoon, but she credited ‘a great new pair of Solomon skis’ and skilled wax technicians for giving her that extra edge.
‘This was the first time all year that we’ve skied in these conditions’ said Dussault, who also won three U.S. titles in Rumsford, Maine, in 2004. ‘It’s been so cold everywhere we have been, so getting everything dialed in was a big part of today’s success.’
Dussault said she also has finally shaken her second bout with sinusitis, which knocked her out for part of last season then snuck up for a return visit in early November. But the best part of her day was finally telling her 4-year-old son Tabor the answer he’s been waiting to hear all season.
‘After every race he asks me, â€˜Momma, did you win?’ ‘ Dussault recounted. ‘Today I could finally tell him, â€˜Momma won!’ and he started to cry he was so happy. Having him involved makes such a difference.’
The races continue at Soldier Hollow Thursday with freestyle sprints.
– USSA/Cross-Country Canada
U.S Cross Country Championships results
Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2006
Men’s 30 km freestyle
1. Ivan Babikov, Russia, 1.25.89.00
2. Andrew Johnson, Greensboro, Vt., +1.45.6
3. Carl Swenson, Park City, Utah, +3.23.6
4. Kris Freeman, Andover, N.H., +4.01.4
5. David Chamberlain, Bethel, Maine+4.59.8
6. Nathan Schultz, Boulder, Colo., +5.20.0
7. Chad Giese, St. Paul, Minn., +7.40.8
8. James Southam, Anchorage, Alaska, +8.18.4
9. Erik Flora, Anchorage, Alaska, +8.36.0
10. Casey Ward, Steamboat Springs, Colo., +9.04.4
Women’s 15 km freestyle
1. Rebecca Dussault, Gunnison, Colo., 46.17.07.00
2. Morgan Arritola, Fairfield, Id., +2.4
3. Abigail Larson, Bozeman, Mont., +13.6
4. Liz, Stephen, Montpelier, Vt., +30.8
5. Johanna Turunen, Finland, +33.0
6. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, Alaska, +1.30.2
7. Kristina Strandberg, Santa Fe, N.M., +1.48.7
8. Karin Camenisch, Switzerland, +2.06.2
9. Lindsey Weier, St. Paul, Minn., +2.21.0
10. Brooke Hovey, Ketchum, Id., +2.32.8