SOLDIER HOLLOW, UT (Jan. 4) – Erik Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA) and Becca Rorabaugh (Fairbanks, AK) took U.S. titles in the 15k and 10k classic races, leading a three-medal effort by APU Nordic at the 2014 U.S. Cross Country Championships at the 2002 Olympic venue at Soldier Hollow on Saturday. It was Bjornsen’s second straight U.S. title after last year’s 15k freestyle event, while it was Rorabaugh’s career first title. Athletes switch gears to compete in skate sprints on Sunday.
Erik Bjornsen (pictured here) and Becca Rorabaugh took U.S. titles in the 15k and 10k classic races, leading a three-medal effort by APU Nordic at the 2014 U.S. Cross Country Championships at the 2002 Olympic venue at Soldier Hollow on Saturday. (Sarah Brunson/U.S. Ski Team)
I love skiing races here at Soldier Hollow. I've been racing here since I was quite young, trying to qualify for Junior Olympics. I had good memories from the 15k last year at U.S. Championships and I tried to go out feeling a little confident, but also I was trying to ski smooth and strong and not be too confident. I knew there were a lot of fast guys. I didn't actually expect to win but I'm really happy that it worked out that way.
It's a super-challenging course. My skis were running really fast and I didn't want to put too much kick on them which was hard because I had to herringbone on some of the hills, but I think I made the right call and the techs did an awesome job preparing the skis. This is my favorite race, but I also feel like I can do well in some other races this week. I'm looking forward to the sprint tomorrow and also the 30k mass start.â€¨
This is probably one of the harder courses in the country. I just tried to pace it and I'm really happy with how I was able to pace, so I think it paid off and I was able to go fast on the last lap. It's always deceptive at altitude. I felt terrible in the race, but obviously that doesn't really matter. You just have to put it out of your mind how bad you feel and just keep going for it.
I was racing well for the first 10k and I just couldn't hold it the last lap. The young guys came through strong.
I was having trouble believing splits halfway through that I was in second. I felt really strong, but mostly I felt like I was racing really hard at altitude, trying to hold it together so I'm pretty amazed. It was an awesome day.â€¨
It can be a difficult course, but because the grooming was so nice and the tracks were so firm you could really just stride out and glide a lot. The hills become a lot less intimidating when you can really ride up into the bottom of them and work all the transitions and not worry about how huge every hill is.â€¨â€¨
I knew I wanted to ski into the race. I've been training a lot at altitude so I knew I'd feel good on the hills, but I definitely wanted to stay within myself and not get too excited. I think that was a good tactic because it allowed me to move up the second lap. Once I finished I felt like I could have kept on going and get faster and faster so that felt really good for the first race of this series. â€¨â€¨
The course was certainly very hard. There are a lot of hills up here, but I'm happy that we were able to use the Olympic 5k course. This was the first time I've been able to race on that course so it was important to pace conservatively and stay in control, and I was able to move up a lot on the second lap. I was really happy with that and with the third place. I'm looking forward to the skate sprint tomorrow and the skate distance race later in the week.
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