Pattersons Sweep Gold in Anchorage
It was a day for the Patterson family as the L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships opened in Anchorage. Golds went to the brother-sister duo with Scott Patterson (Anchorage/APU Nordic) and Caitlin Patterson (Craftsbury Common/Craftsbury Nordic). Nearly 400 athletes are participating.
SuperTour leader Caitlin Patterson Championships Wednesday with an important victory in her quest for a spot on the Olympic team. Patterson won the women’s 10k freestyle in near blizzard conditions in Anchorage’s Kincaid Park. Patterson took gold with a 19.7-second margin over Caitlin Gregg (Minneapolis/Team Gregg). Chelsea Holmes (Anchorage/APU Nordic) was third.
In the men’s 15k, Scott Patterson took a 55-second win over Noah Hoffman (Aspen, Colo./Ski & Snowboard Club Vail) with Matt Liebsch (Orono, Minn.) third.
“I was a little nervous going into today having not raced domestically yet this season and also with a lot on the line today,” said Scott Patterson. “I had to keep reminding myself that although I wasn't racing as I wanted to be on the World Cup, I was still in good shape and nationals in Anchorage gave me quite an advantage with it being my home course.”
Scott also admitted there was some extra family incentive after his sister, Caitlin, won the women’s 10k an hour earlier.
“My race strategy was to make it through those tricky conditions with energy and build time throughout the rest of the flatter rolling terrain,” he said. “This paid off from the beginning as I was able to build an early lead and keep increasing it throughout the race.”
The win was important to him for Olympic selection, which is based on SuperTour events with U.S. Championships being weighted more heavily. “Today was quite important,” he said. “After today, I think Noah Hoffman and I are in the driver’s seats. Although we were not racing as we wanted to be on the World Cup, today showed that we are still in good form. A lot is going to come down to Sunday's distance race.”
The women’s race was more tightly contested. Caitlin Patterson, Gregg and Holmes were all within seconds of each other for nearly the entire race before Patterson surged on the last lap.
“This is definitely a good mark in my book,” said Caitlin Patterson. “I don’t know how many women they will take from these races but I’m hoping one or two will be selected. This along with my win in Silver Star will be good for me but we still have another distance race.”
Patterson came in as SuperTour leader with three podiums including the Silver Star victory. She was second to Gregg by less than a second after the first lap of the individual start race before moving out in front.
“It was a really interesting weather day with the new snow on top of the manmade,” said Patterson. “The hills were really choppy but I tried to keep working through them. I had a really strong finish and happy with the win today.”
“I felt great out there and had an awesome race,” said Gregg. “I felt solid. Caitlin Patterson just had that extra oomph at the finish. But overall I’m very happy.”
Gregg, too, found the conditions fascinating. “Conditions were crazy,” she said. “Part of it was not really knowing. I saw the forecast and thought it might get colder but the track stayed stable just below freezing - a lot like when I won my medal in Falun (in 2015).”
For Holmes, it was a homecoming after spending the first period of the World Cup in Europe. “Today it was fun out there, to be at home and make some laps,” she said. “One hill got really soft but the course held up really well with the manmade snow. It was great conditions. Coming back from Europe back home has been fun.”
In the men’s race, juniors had some impressive finishes including Gus Schumacher (Anchorage/Alaska Stars) in sixth and Ben Ogden (Landgrove, Vt./Stratton Mountain School) in ninth. Hailey Swirbul (Carbondale, Colo./Univ. Alaska Anchorage) led the junior women in eighth. They are vying for spots on the Junior Worlds team that will compete later this month in Goms, Switzerland.
Action continues with freestyle sprints on Friday with classic distance racing set on Sunday. All events are being streamed live by U.S. Ski & Snowboard on its Facebook channel.