Diggins, Saxton Win At Snow Farm
Jessie Diggins (Stratton, Vt.) and Ben Saxton (Stratton, Vt.) won the final 10k and 15k classic races of the Winter Games NZ in hard-fought battles with a small but strong field Thursday at the Snow Farm.
"The groomer was finished with course preparations by 11 p.m., so the tracks set up like steel rails and made for some fantastic klister skiing this morning," stated U.S. Ski & Snowboard Head Women's Coach Matt Whitcomb.
In the women's race, Diggins outlasted Caitlin Patterson (Craftsbury, Vt.) in the end, but the race was exciting with Patterson challenging Diggins on every downhill, and Diggins regaining the lead through the striding sections. Ida Sargent (Craftsbury, Vt.) took third.
"It's been so awesome getting the chance to sharpen up our race skills here in New Zealand," Diggins said after the race. "It feels so good to be back on snow and hammering again. As always, a warm thank you to the volunteers and race organizers for putting on a great series and making us some challenging courses."
In the men's race, Saxton kept his cool within a six-strong pack and pounced at the end with a strong double pole sprint to beat Adam Martin (Craftsbury Common, Vt.) to the line. Ben Lustgarten (Burlington, Vt.) in third.
"The international field pushed the pace relentlessly, which made for an exciting race," Saxton said. "I felt truly lucky to have so many little breaks go my way throughout the race, and I was thankful my legs didn't feel like cement when we sprinted for the line."
After two weeks on snow, Matt Whitcomb summed up the New Zealand camp so far with encouragement for more athletes to experience the outstanding Southern Hemisphere conditions.
"From the outside, this camp seems a bit impractical given the amount of travel skiers from North America endure to get here,” Whitcomb said. “But once you participate in this three-week camp, it quickly starts to make sense why the U.S. Ski Team has been coming here for over 20 years. Next year I'd like to see more Americans take advantage of the Merino Muster and the New Zealand Winter Games. This mid-winter skiing is just too good."
"It has been really fun to be able to put a bib on down here and go hard,” added Sargent. “We've had an awesome camp with amazing conditions and this is a great way to end it.”
The U.S. Cross Country Ski Team camp continues at the Snow Farm through September 10. The U.S. Cross Country Ski Team sends a special thanks to the Snow Farm and all the volunteers that have made this camp so successful.