For the second year in a row, the USA cross country racing community descended upon the city of Midway, Utah and the SoHo 2002 Olympic trails for the US Championships. These four races were the last races to count for the selection of Team USA for the 2014 Sochi, the keenness and performance of the competitors was plenty high. Fortunately, it was a very big banner week for the athletes of In The Arena. Brian Gregg picked up (I believe) his first US Nationals podium. Sylvan Ellefson broke apart the 30km field and held on for his first US National title, Caitlin Gregg absolutely crushed the women's field (winning by 3:36) in the skate distance (in addition to two other podium finishes), and I picked up my eighth national title in the sprint discipline in winning the skate sprint.
I'm sure there are plenty of stories from each of these performances, and I can't wait to read about what they all have to say about experiences.
Fortunately, in the skate sprint I was able to stay out of trouble, even with the tightly contested races on a very fast course. Here, I lead going into the final corner as Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess tries a risky slingshot from third position and trips himself up on the tails of my skis. My day started out with its own bit of misfortune, breaking a pole strap in the qualification round. I held on tight, and made sure I qualified. I knew after this that the rest of the day would go better.
The classic sprint day brought the convergence of two tropical storms to the west side of the Wasatch mountains. With fresh snow glazing throughout the day, I had a hard time making my skis work in the conditions and missed the A-final in a national classic sprint for the first time ever. It's a little dissapointing to end my racing days on the trails of Soldier Hollow this way -- though I know I put everything I had out on the race course, and the crew at Bridger Ski Foundation were working hard and pulling for Jennie Bender and myself to earn a trip to Sochi. I honestly think I have more kilometers racing on these trails than anyone, starting way back in 1999 with the University of Utah Utes, to the 2001 Pre-Olympics, the 2002 Olympics, a NCAA National Championship, and my four US National Championships here this week. As a skier, SoHo feels like the closest thing to my own Hayward Field of Fenway Park.
Now, I guess the Olympic waiting game begins. The USA cross-country contingent won't be named until January 22, 2014. If you want to read about how the team will be selected, you can find the official selection procedure here. It seems pretty complicated, so I won't even take a try at trying to explain it!
I am really looking forward to tomorrow, when I finally get to get back into the classroom with Mr. Haberberger's 5th graders on Monday. I'm interested to see what they have been up. I think I should have a few stories to tell them as well. I've been away from Washington for so long (almost four months) that getting back to the Evergreen state feels like, well, home.