MIDWAY — Adaptive skiers continued to inspire spectators on Day 5 of the U.S. Cross Country Championships Monday afternoon. Twenty sitskiers ranging in age from 17 to 52 participated at Soldier Hollow.
For some, this is their first national competition.
Participants made a challenging 1-kilometer course look easy. While their lives have been changed by disease, accident, or war, but their spirits remain strong. Aside from the fact that they “sit down” while they ski, they are as rambunctious and competitive as any other skier.
Sitskiers use an apparatus quite different from any other consisting of a custom made seat attached to a typical pair of cross country skis. With unbelievable upper body strength and balance these skiers make their way around the course using cross country ski poles.
Adaptive racers were initially classified for this race based on their disabilities. Typically, athletes with the highest level disabilities start first and this was the case for Monday’s race. Following a qualifying round all athletes were given a start time taking into consideration their disability ranking and their qualifying time.
The men’s winners were Daniel Cnossen (NSCD), Andrew Soule (Army) and Sean Halstead (Air Force).
The top women’s finishers were Tatyana McFadden (University of Illinois), Beth Requist (NSCD) and Kristy Vaughn (U.S. Paralympic Devo Team).
Action in the U.S. championships continue today and wednesday.
Today’s races are the free sprint for seniors and adaptive skiers.
Sunday, Torin Koos of the Bridger Ski Foundation and APU Nordic’s Sadie Bjornsen were winners on day three of the U.S. championships.
Koos won the men’s 30k classic with a final sprint to breakaway from the field in the last kilometer. APU Nordic’s Erik Bjornsen was second and David Norris of Montana State University took bronze.
Bjornsen won her first gold after a pair of silvers this week, taking the win over APU Nordic’s Kate Fitzgerald and Sophie Caldwell of Stratton Mountain.
APU Nordic had a strong day at the championships Friday with Bjornsen and Rosie Brennan (Park City) taking their first U.S. titles.
Bjornsen won the men’s 15k freestyle individual start in 37:02.7, a six second margin over U.S. Ski Team teammate Tad Elliott. Matt Gelso took bronze.
APU Nordic swept the women’s podium with Brennan winning the 10k in 29:12.3 - an 11 second margin over Bjornsen, with Fitzgerald third.
On the opening day, Torin Koos and Jennie Bender of CXC Elite took classic sprint titles on the Olympic trails at Soldier Hollow.
For Bender, it was her first U.S. title, winning an intense sprint to the finish over Bjornsen. For Koos, it was a much anticipated seventh U.S. title.
More than 400 athletes, including a good number of Utah residents, competed during the week at th 2002 Olympi venue.
It’s the second major nordic event held at Soldier Hollow in two weeks, following the FIS Nordic Combined Continental Cup. One of the most noted cross country venues in the nation, Soldier Hollow last held the U.S. championships in 2006.
NOTE: Soldier Hollow will host a free Winter Trails Day from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday. for information, visit www.soldierhollow.com.