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Soldier Hollow X-C nationals: Randall, Cook claim sprint crowns

Soldier Hollow X-C nationals: Randall, Cook claim sprint crowns{mosimage}SOLDIER HOLLOW, Utah — Olympian Kikkan Randall and aspiring Olympian Chris Cook led from start to finish Thursday as they cruised to gold medals in the freestyle sprints on the second day of the U.S. Cross Country Championships on the 2002 Olympic trails.

It was the third U.S. sprint title for Randall, a 2002 Olympian and the niece of two Olympic cross-country skiers, while Cook, rebounding from a disappointing 2005 season, took his first national championship in 30-degree sunshine.

“Kikkan and Chris both dominated all day,” said U.S. coach Pete Vordenberg. “At the end, they left no question as to who was fastest … no question at all.”

In the sprints, the entire races over the 1.3-kilometer course in a time trial before the field is cut to the top 30 racers; the finals heats are broken into five six-skier heats with the top two skiers advancing from quarterfinals; the semifinals are two five-skier heats, leading to the finals of one four-skier championship loop. Results from the championships will be used in calculating the final spots on the U.S. Olympic team.

Cook, a Northern Michigan University grad who was 14th last month in a World Cup freestyle sprint at Sovereign Lake outside Vernon, B.C., led the men’s prologue (prelim) by four seconds and skied to the front in each heat. Randall qualified second and never was seriously challenged in her three final heats.

“I felt I had something to prove and that was in coming in here this was what I was focused on, and I gained a lot of confidence in the prelim,” Cook said. “I figured I’m just gonna lay it all on the line.

“I felt strong the whole day. I felt I had good speed and I had good skis, Atomic rockets, with Chris Grover and the sun Valley Ski Team, and [U.S. ski Team waxing tech] Chris Hall helping out. They put together some good boards,” Cook said, “and I just rode ‘em.”

A short time later, Randall took charge in the women’s heats. “My motto today was ‘No guts, no glory.’ I saw the [Steve] Prefontaine movie last night and knew I had to do my race. My strength is in speed and I wanted to see what I could do … but the important race is coming up in about six weeks,” she said, referring to the Olympic sprint Feb. 14 in Pragelato, the cross-country venue outside Torino, Italy.

Born in Salt Lake City, she moved with her family to Alaska at 3 and started racing in high school. But she has raced at Soldier Hollow so often — at nationals in 2000, World Cups in 2001, the 2002 Olympics and the U.S. championships last year and again in 2006 — that she feels extra comfortable here. “I love this course. Besides Anchorage, it’s pretty much my second home,” she said.

Races resume on the weekend with competitions Saturday (men’s 15 km and women’s 10 km classic) and Sunday (men’s 10 km and women’s 5 km free) before concluding Tuesday with the pursuits. The Olympic Team is expected to be named Jan. 17.

– Courtesy USSA News Bureau

U.S. Cross Country Championships
Soldier Hollow
Midway, Utah – Jan. 5, 2006
1.3 km freestyle sprints
(8 make semifinals; only U.S. skiers eligible for medals)

1. Chris Cook, Rhinelander, Wis./Team Atomic/Sun Valley SEF
2. Eric Strabel, Palmer, Alaska/University of Alaska Anchorage
3. Colin Mahood, Bend, Ore./Team Rossignol
4. Kevin Hochtl, Vail, Colo./Team Rossignol
5. Leif Zimmerman, Bozeman, Mont./Alpina Racing
6. Anders Haugen, Anchorage, Alaska/Team Rossignol
7. Colin Rodgers, Limestone, Maine/Maine Winter Sports Center
8. Alex Churikov, Russia

1. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, Alaska/APU Nordic Ski Club
2. Karen Camenisch, Switzerland
3. Natasha Naryshkina, Russia
4. Wendy Wagner, Park City, Utah/Team Atomic
5. Laura Valaas, Wenatchee, Wash./Whitman College
6. Brooke Hovey, Bozeman, Mont./Team Rossignol
7. Kate Pearson, Anchorage, Alaska/Team Rossignol
8. Rebecca Dussault, Gunnison, Colo./Subaru Factory Team

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