SOLDIER HOLLOW, UT (Jan. 8) - Caitlin Gregg (Minneapolis; Loppet Nordic Racing) scored a dominating victory, winning the 20k mass start by nearly four minutes at the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships on the Olympic venue of Soldier Hollow. It was the fourth career national title for Gregg. Sylvan Ellefson (Vail, CO; Ski and Snowboard Club Vail) won his first national gold winning the men's 30k. The Championships wrap-up Friday with classic sprints.
It's been 10 years in the making to win this one race. The only thing I've ever wanted to do is to win a National Championship and I'm glad it happened finally. I can't tell you what it means to have all the support out here from my family, friends and the people who have believed in me since I started this journey.
My race went exactly how I wanted it to go. My plan was to see how the race was going to unfold through the first 15k and through 15k I still felt really good and like the race hadn't quite began yet. Coming into that last lap I felt totally rejuvenated and ready to go. I knew the guys behind me knew that I was going for it and they'd be trying to close down. My skis were amazingly fast and on a day like today with variable conditions that's what makes the day. I'm just glad I had a good body to compliment it today.
I think during my first U.S. Championships years ago, I was probably second or third from last, so it's good now to be on the top.
I wanted to ski defensively until about 5k to go and we had some gaps with 5k to go and I wasn't quite in those gaps. I had to bridge up. Sylvan [Ellefson] is a good friend and it's really cool to see him throw down and have a great race. It made it really exciting cause I was trying to go hard to break away from Kris Freeman and Sylvan was right there and made his move with about 3k to go. He was coming back to me but he already had that big gap. So that was exciting. It was a good way to mentally be able to push a little harder.
You couldn't ask for a better day. I can't express anything better than being able to share this with my husband and my family who is in and all of the great people who have supported us along the way. I got to watch my husband first – which makes me so nervous and stressed out. All the anxiety and nerves kind of leave me by the time of my race. It was a phenomenal end to our Nationals week.
My game plan was to go and see what kind of a gap I could create but I've raced so many of these mass start skate races where you never know and it's so hard to predict your skis. I've learned to chill that first kilometer and it only took the first 2 downhills before I was like, 'oh, my skis are awesome'. At the top of the second big climb I took the lead and finally got to get in my groove. I couldn't stop smiling. I'm really psyched to be going on the World Cup now and get in with the rest of that group that is just killing it on the World Cup scene. It's so inspiring. It's an awesome thing to go be a part of.
It's my first National's podium, so I'm psyched. My strategy was always to stay with Caitlin Gregg, but she slayed it so then it was a sufferfest. All of a sudden she wasn't there and then you just have to try to hold on. Rosie [Brennan] caught me going into my third lap and I skied with her and we took turns leading and pushing the pace because there were a couple girls behind us and we both didn't want to be caught. Then somewhere along the 4th lap I decided I needed to make a little gap and then it was stars. My head was in the clouds for the last 3k. Head down and push.
After watching the guys race and seeing so many guys go out hard and die I thought patience is probably a good virtue for today. So I started trying to ski really relaxed and let some people in front of me so that I could get behind and relax and then I looked up and Caitlin was gone. So then I thought ok, game changed. Now it's time to get mentally strong and focus on skiing 20k alone because that's what's going to have to happen to have a good day. I was happy to catch Chelsea to get a few moments to relax. We were getting chased hard from behind, so we couldn't relax that much.