Diggins Fifth, Ogden Seventh; 11 in Top 30
On the second day of racing in Canmore, Alberta, the Stifel U.S. Ski Team had another historic day in the skate sprint. Through the qualifications, where the top 30 for both men and women advance to the sprint heats, 11 qualified, marking the most Americans advancing to the heats in recorded history.
Jessie Diggins led the team with a fifth-place result, after her historic win just a day earlier in the 15k skate, followed by a slew of teammates, some of them having their first-ever World Cup starts. At the end of the day, 11 U.S. athletes graced the top 30, once again increasing the never-ending momentum felt this season by the Stifel U.S. Cross Country Ski Team.
In the women's qualifications, Diggins led the way, crossing the finish in sixth, followed by Rosie Brennan in 15th, Julia Kern in 17th, Lauren Jortberg of Stratton Mountain School in 20th and Erin Bianco of Bridger Ski Foundation making her career-first sprint heats in 25th. On the men's side, JC Schoonmaker led the team qualifying in fifth followed closely by an impressive run by Jack Young, a Colby College Nordic Ski Team athlete called up to the World Cup for the first time in his career, qualifying in 11th. Behind Young was Ben Ogden in 22nd, Logan Diekmann of Bridger Ski Foundation in 24th, Kevin Bolger of Team Birkie in 26th, and Gus Schumacher 27th.
Into the quarterfinals, the athletes would take another fast lap around the intensely challenging sprint loop that featured sharp corners, fast downhills, and long uphills - a course that challenges even the best sprinters in the world. Though many did not advance onto the semis, this day is a step in the right direction with several USA athletes punching their tickets through to the heats.
"I was expecting to make the qualifications and knew I could do it," said Young, post-race. "Going into the heats, it was a lot like the rounds of the World Cups I've been watching my whole life. It went out easy, everyone slowed down at the top of the hill, and then everyone went for it on the downhill. I unfortunately did not advance, but it was a blast."
Into the semis, Diggins, Kern and Ogden represented the red, white and blue on the start line, surrounded by fans - thousands of them - lining the entire course, creating an electric and impressionably loud atmosphere.
Diggins ultimately wad the only American moving onto the finals as Ogden and Kern were just seconds away from qualifying, ending their day just short of the final round.
In the women's final, things suddenly got interesting. "I don't think I've ever done a race like that," said Diggins, in her post-race reflections. "On the World Cup, you usually don't see that happening in the women's race in general." Diggins is referring to how the entire pack of six women nearly came to a stop at various points in the race - often a tactic used to not lead the downhill, which often allows your competitors to draft and slingshot ahead going into the finishing straightaway. "A lot of courses don't have this dramatic long straight slingshot and today, it was just fascinating. I tried to time it right, but it's a safer bet to just blast my way through, get up there, and see what happens. I sure tried and proud of myself for that and did what I had to do today!"
As the day came to a close, Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo of Norway won for the men and Kristine Stavaas Skistad of Norway won for the women. The top 30 included Diggins in fifth, Kern 12th, Jortberg 19th, Brennan 26th and Bianco 29th. For the men, six landed in the top 30, led by Ogden in seventh, Diekmann 16th, Bolger 18th, Schumacher 19th, Schoonmaker 22nd and Young 23rd.
Tomorrow, the athletes will once again turn around for another race, the 20k classic. Watch LIVE on skiandsnowboard.live.