Kern Sixth in Drammen City Sprints
The Drammen City Sprints are unlike anything on the World Cup circuit and today Julia Kern crossed the finish line in sixth place, adding another top-10 result to her hefty resume.
Shutting down main street, trucking in snow, setting the 1.2k course with four lanes of classic track, the Drammen City Sprints bring some of the most exciting ski racing to the center stage. With fans lining the entire course, flags hanging from apartment buildings balcony's to the start and finish on the steps of a famous church, the atmosphere is just electric. With only two more weeks of World Cup racing left, the best athletes in the world are giving it their all until the very end.
For the U.S., Kern led the day for the women and Ben Ogden led for the men. Kern initially qualified in 17th, right behind teammate Rosie Brennan (16th) and Jessie Diggins (14th). Today, Kern was focused on one thing: her double pole.
"Where do I begin!" Kern said in her post-race voice memo. "Drammen is one of the coolest city sprints I saw growing up and I always dreamed about racing here, so to be here and to qualify - something that a few years ago felt out of reach - it was really cool. Huge props to the team, the snow was tricky and we were testing everything from hard wax, to klister to zero's today. Just huge props to our tech team!"
In the semis, Kern won after being in the back of the pack at the beginning of the downhill to finishing in first, best in part to her strong double pole and wickedly fast skis. Next, the final. With a packed heat, Kern stayed with the pack until a small gap began to form on the second to last final climb. Tactically, she knew she wanted to be in the mix to out-sprint her competitors on the downhill into the finish but ski racing is ski racing! Kern crossed the line in sixth place and will now rest and reset before Falun.
"For my races, I was happy to see my double pole finish was my strength of the day. Going into the semis, I knew it would be a stacked heat but I was able to ski the downhill really well and push around the corners and then slingshot, going from sixth to first in that downhill! In the final, anything was possible. I am really proud of how I skied and the skis I was on - thanks to my tech Eli Brown!"
For Ogden, it was a similar story to Kern's - fast tempo, strong double pole. Qualifying in 11th place, Ogden was in the mix from the start. In his quarterfinal heat, Ogden was out of the gate fast. With his signature "Benny Shuffle", he out-sprinted his competitors from the gun and made a large gap for nearly the entire 1.2k race. Yet, on the final climb into the stadium, his competitors caught up and he finished second, enough to move onto the semis. In the semis, the story read the same. He set the pace and everyone had to give it their all to keep up. At the end, he did not advance, but his skiing was inspiring today.
Zak Ketterson also advanced to the heats, after taking a few weeks off of the World Cup circuit and heading back home to Minnesota. Ketterson, in front of his family and fiancé, advanced to the heats. "It was my first classic sprint in a decent amount of time," said Ketterson. "Drammen is one of those events that you get really excited about and I was really stoked to qualify and do it here on a course that I struggled with in the past. It was an awesome day, make the heats, and a great amount of confidence going into the next races!" At the end of the day, Ketterson finished 23rd.
Another highlight of the day was the first-ever World Cup start for Sammy Smith, the youngest athlete on the team. A multi-talented athlete, Smith plays soccer, was named to the U-17 World Cup soccer team, is an avid runner and freestyle skier. Smith did not advance today in Drammen but finished 36th on the biggest stage.
For the rest of the women's team, Brennan was in the fastest quarter-final heat of the day, but did not advance to the semis and finished the day in 14th. For Diggins, coming off the 50k just a few days earlier, did not advance from the heats and ended the day in 21st. Hailey Swirbul was just off the brink of qualifying, crossing the line in 31st. For the men, JC Schoonmaker did not advance to the heats and finished qualifiers in 37th place and Logan Diekmann was 42nd.
Falun is next with a 10k classic, skate sprint, and 4.x5k mixed team relay!