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Anchorage Daily News Thursday Jan. 4 , 2018
USNATS -- Day 1 recap: Patterson siblings sizzle with dominant wins

ANCHORAGE, Jan. 4, 2018 – The opening day of racing at the 2018 L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships at Kincaid Park was welcomed with a blizzard of snow and variable visibility, but one thing was crystal clear: the dominance of the Patterson family.

  The brother-sister combo of Scott Patterson (APU Nordic Ski Team) and Caitlin Patterson (Craftsbury GRP) swept their respective races and did so impressively. Scott won the men’s 15K freestyle by more than 55 seconds and Caitlin won the women’s 10K freestyle by more than 19 seconds. Both are South Anchorage High School grads, former members of the local Alaska Winter Stars ski program and now three-time National champions.

 “This isn’t the first time for us, actually,” said Scott Patterson, noting the siblings’ respective first place finishes in the classic races at 2016 U.S. Nationals in Houghton, Mich. “But to do it at this stage in Anchorage, it’s pretty cool.”

 Due to a lack of new snow in the Anchorage area in recent weeks, a 2.5K manmade snow loop was used for today’s racing. That meant four laps for the women and six for the men. While course conditions deteriorated through the day – firm at the start and mushier as more snow and skiers hit the trails – the looped course and interval starting format made for spectator- and timing-friendly as skiers had to travel through the stadium area on each lap.

 Scott Patterson spent the early part of this winter representing the U.S. overseas on the World Cup racing circuit and will likely return after Nationals. He came to Anchorage making no secret about his desire to land his first Olympic team roster spot. Wednesday’s performance made his intentions loud and clear to everyone in the U.S. Nordic community.

 Patterson’s sizzling 36:33.7 bested second-place Noah Hoffman (Ski & Snowboard Vail), a 2014 Olympian and three-time National champion, by 55.2 seconds (37:29.0). Matthew Liebsch (Pioneer Midwest) was third at 37:50.3.

 “Scott was world-class today,” Hoffman said. “I hope he can bring that back to Europe and I hope to be there with him.”

 Patterson is already something of an Alaska legend, having won the grueling Mount Marathon race this past summer. But he’s trying to cement his legacy in national Nordic conversations and knew that his performances this week at Nationals could determine his Olympics future.

 “There definitely was some pressure on me coming into these races, but I was also coming in with confidence,” he said. “I’ve really got to show them exactly what I can do and I did that today. And I need to have another good performance Sunday (in the 30K mass start classic event).”

 Caitlin Patterson used a steady start and a strong finish to clock her 27:09.1, nearly 20 seconds faster than second place finisher Caitlin (Compton) Gregg (27:28.8 – CXC/LNR/Team Gregg). Chelsea Holmes (APUNSC) placed third at 27:33.5 among the 147 women finishers. This was Patterson’s third National championship – she placed first in the 10K classic and 20K skate at 2016 Nationals and had a pair of third place finishes in 2017.

 “It was really great to be back here – I heard some familiar voices out there, cheering me on,” said Patterson, who skied for the University of Vermont after leaving Anchorage. “In this (interval start format), you just go out and race the best you know how. It’s really about pushing your own limits and believing in yourself.”

 Patterson was the fourth skier to hit the course, which meant she couldn’t closely track how the bulk of the field was performing despite the short loops. She heard occasional updates from the stadium announcers, but remained focused on her own race until she pulled within eyesight of the Bib 1 starter, Becca Rorabaugh (APU, on the fourth and final lap. Then she found another gear.

 “I finished the race really hard – that fourth lap was a great one for me,” she said. “I saw Bib 1 and started chasing. I didn’t want to leave anything in the tank.”

 Patterson said it’s been awhile since she raced in Alaska. She said her current high-altitude racing and training in Vermont gave her an advantage when she returned to sea level racing in Anchorage.

 By the time Gregg hit the course in Bib 17, the snow was already accumulating and the trail softening into a mashed potato consistency. And she loved it.

 “These conditions are awesome!” said a smiling Gregg, a 2010 Olympian who is also coaching many young skiers at this week’s events. “I don’t know where the time slipped (between me and Patterson), but I still feel positive. I love being in Anchorage. This is where I won my first Nationals race and the vibe here is so great. So I’m happy with my race.”

 But arguably the happiest folks at Kincaid on Wednesday shared the last name of Patterson. Even the Patterson patriarch played a big role in today’s races. Steve Patterson is Race Secretary for the 2018 L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships and very proud father.

 “This was the goal and they knew they had a good shot at it,” Steve said. “We’ll mark this day on the calendar.”

 On the Juniors side, a trio of teenagers cracked the Top 10 overall in their respective events. In the men’s 15K, 17-year-old Gus Schumacher (Alaska Winter Stars) skied to an impressive sixth place overall (38:01.4), less than 90 seconds behind Patterson, while Ben Ogden (Stratton Mountain School) placed ninth (38:15.9). In the women’s 10K, Hailey Swirbul (University of Alaska Anchorage) placed eighth overall at 28:39.4. APU’s Hannah Halvorsen placed 14th (29:03.2) and Methow Valley Nordic’s Novie Mccabe took 15th(29:06.9).

 Schumacher’s sixth was a surprise for many, including the skier himself.

 “My goal was to get a Top 10 in one of these races,” he said, “and my best Nationals performance before today was 44th. I’m super-stoked.”

 This week’s races will crown National champions and also be used as part of the selection process for Olympic berths and to determine roster spots on the FIS Junior World Championship, U23 Championship and U18 Scandinavian Cup teams. While primary selection for the 2018 Olympic Cross Country Team will come from World Cup races, some final spots can be determined from Nationals results. Olympic team nominations will be announced the week of January 23.

Faster Skier January 4, 2018 Scott Patterson Wins Home U>S> Nationals 15k by Nearly a MInute
Faster Skier January 4, 2018 Caitlin Patterson Captures Third national Title in Anchorage 10 k skate
Weather a Factor on First Official Training Day

Anchorage, Alaska (USNATS18) — Skiers embraced high winds and warm temperatures today during official training at Kincaid Park for the L.L.Bean US National Cross Country Ski Championships. With over 400 skiers registered to race, the training course was filled with skiers early Tuesday morning as most teams prefer to train as close to actual race day time as possible. 

By late afternoon, the stadium was almost empty but the wax technicians were bracing for a long night or an early morning, or both.  The forecast is for temperatures to drop again and wind to subside. That’s good news for skiers, but makes life difficult for those preparing hundreds of pairs of skis.

“There’s no point in testing today if conditions are expected to change so much overnight,” according to Jan Buron, Alaska Winter Stars coach.

“I hope it’s not super crazy tomorrow,” said Buron who was scraping down skis in the cement wax bunker along with a dozen other teams, “but the snow stays hard on the course right now and wind actually helped keep it dry today despite warm temperatures.”

Buron credits the snowmaking over the last two months for building up conditions on the race loops that he is confident won’t deteriorate. 

An even bigger factor on the first race day could be wind, he added. In an interval start, racers ski against the clock, and there could be a big difference between early and late starters if the wind keeps changing. 

“But that’s ski racing!” said Buron as he reached for another pair of skis.