Swenson wins ninth U.S. title as nationals open in Maine

Swenson wins ninth U.S. title as nationals open in Maine{mosimage}USSA — Two-time Olympian Carl Swenson braved a light but relentless chilling rain Saturday to collect his ninth national title — and his first in classic technique — winning the 30km classic race as the Chevrolet U.S. Cross-Country Championships opened with record-breaking numbers of competitors.

Rebecca Dussault, returning to racing this season and making a determined run at the SuperTour title, earned her second gold medal in winning the women’s 15km CL.

“I’ve skied here a lot,” said Swenson, who grew up about 90 minutes away in North Conway, New Hampshire, “and I know this course. I know these hills.”

A year ago, Swenson won all three freestyle technique races at Black Mountain. Saturday, his winning time was 1:16.49.1 with Lars Flora the silver medalist (1:17.49.50). The bronze went to Chad Giese, who finished in 1:18.52.0.

Swenson, the former Dartmouth ski captain, said starting 30 seconds behind Flora was an advantage “because I got splits off him and I felt good all day. I had great skis, fast Fischers.”

The weather, despite the discomfort, hardly bothered him, Swenson said: “It was straight raining when I started and the skis were grabby at first, but I was able to ski it off. I had moments I was tired, but I felt pretty good all day.”

A weary Flora said, “I’m glad this one’s behind us. I’m tired … really tired.”

Dussault, 23, who raced at Black as a junior in 1999 before getting married and having a baby, was the women’s champion with a time of 46:22.1. It was her second title; she also won the 5km freestyle crown in 2000 at Soldier Hollow, Utah.

Wendy Wagner was the second U.S. finisher in 47:42.1 with the bronze medal going to Aubrey Smith in 48:53.6. Czech Martina Stursova, a student at the University of New Mexico, had the fastest women’s time and won the Guest Class in 46:17.8; only U.S. skiers are considered for medals.

“The first couple of Ks on the second lap, I had a hard time,” Dussault said. “I haven’t done a 15K classic for years.”

She also noted this was her third race in the last week, having won two SuperTour races in Presque Isle, so perhaps she was more tired than she realized. “I charged those hills as hard as I could,” she said.

Wagner, who won both classic titles a year ago in Rumford, said she had a similar experience. “I was looking at those hills and thinking, ‘This is where I’m gonna put some time on those other girls…and the first I got had me 20 seconds back, and I kept losing time. I don’t know what it was.”

U.S. nordic director Luke Bodensteiner was pleased with the racing but, in light of the weather and the record turnout of about 570 registrants, was happy to have the first day of racing complete.

“Chisholm Ski Club did its usual great job. We’ve seen tough condition before and they just keep making it happen. Roger [Arsenault, head of the organizers] and Chummy [Broomhall, chief of competition] and all the rest of them,” Bodensteiner said, “know how to deal with tough situations. It’s incredible what they do.”

The next races are Monday with the men’s 10km classic and the women’s 5km classic, followed Tuesday by freestyle races at the same distances.

U.S. Cross-Country Championships
Rumford, Maine; January 3, 2004
Note: U.S. finishers only

Men’s 30km Classic
1. Carl Swenson, Boulder, Colo., 1:16.49.1
2. Lars Flora, Anchorage, Alaska, 1:17.49.5
3. Chad Giese, St. Paul, Minn., 1:18.52.0
4. Dave Chamberlain, Bethel, Maine, 1:19.01.0
5. Chris Cook, Rhinelander, Wis., 1:19.23.4
6. Justin Freeman, Andover, N.H., 1:19.30.3
7. Andrew Johnson, Greensboro, Vt., 1:19.51.6
8. Torin Koos, Leavenworth, Wash., 1:20.52.4
9. Erik Flora, Anchorage, Alaska, 1:21.59.0
10. Lowell Bailey, Lake Placid, N.Y., 1:22.10.1

Women’s 15km Classic
1. Rebecca Dussault, Gunnison, Colo., 46:22.1
2. Wendy Wagner, Park City, Utah, 47:42.1
3. Aubrey Smith, Seward, Alaska, 48:53.6
4. Nicole Deyong, Anchorage, Alaska, 49:08.4
5. Alison Crocker, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., 49:12.1
6. Tara Sheahan Boulder, Colo., 49:20.5
7. Lindsey Weier, Mahtomedi, Minn., 49:37.1
8. Hilary Patzer, Sun Valley, Idaho, 49:40.6
9. Kelly Milligan, Park City, Utah, 49:41.7
10. Rachel Daw, Duluth, Minn., 49:57.8

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