Swirbul Wins Third U.S. Title at L.L. Bean U.S. Championships
On a gusty day in Houghton, Mich., Hailey Swirbul (Alaska Pacific University/U.S. Ski Team) put her nose into the wind and skied away with another victory—her third title at the 2020 L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championship—in Tuesday’s classic sprint, the final event of the championships.
Utilizing the same tactics she used to win the freestyle title last week, Hailey qualified No.1 and skied at the front of both her quarterfinal and semifinal heats, despite gusty winds blowing throughout the day, and continued snow squalls that constantly changed the course conditions. That same strategy served her well in the finals too.
“It’s easier for me to be in the front because I can stride how I want and ski corners how I like too, and sometimes that saves more energy than maybe drafting,” she said after edging fellow Davis U.S. Cross Country Team teammate Caitlin Patterson (Craftsbury/U.S. Ski Team) at the line for the title. “It’s a give and take, and I guess I kind of waited to see what happened out there on the course and try to respond.”
Hailey, who also won the 20k classic on Sunday, made the most of her trip back to the U.S. after opening the season on the World Cup circuit, where she scored her first career World Cup points in Davos, Switzerland, last month, finishing 30th in a freestyle sprint and 21st in a freestyle 10k. “I’m really glad I came back and had the opportunity to race on home soil,” added Hailey, who now heads to Alaska for a training block before returning to Europe and the World Cup in February.
Caitlin also wrapped up a successful trip back home with four podium performances at the U.S. Championships after opening the season on the World Cup tour. She finished third in the freestyle sprint, second in the 10k freestyle, and as the top American, was awarded the national title - her ninth career U.S. title. In the 20k classic Sunday, she was second, and again second in the classic sprint Tuesday.
“It’s been a really good week,” she said. “In Anchorage a few years ago at Nationals, I won every (race), so maybe I had a high standard. But podiuming in every race is great too.”
In the men’s classic sprint, Hunter Wonders (Alaska Pacific University) created opportunities throughout the day after qualifying 29th and came away on the final day of competition with a surprise classic sprint title.
“It was a roller coaster out there,” Hunter said. “I qualified 29th, and somehow just kept going through (each heat). I was hoping to do better than I did in the 30k earlier this week...so I’m glad I could come back and represent here.”
Smart skiing and luck were on his side! In the finals, Luke Jager (University of Utah/U.S. Ski Team) was meters away from grabbing his first national title when his left ski slipped, causing him to fall, which handed the national title to Hunter, who finished second to Canada’s Julien Locke. Luke was able to get up and he crossed the line for third.
In the men’s 30k classic on Sunday, Erik Bjornsen (Alaska Pacific University/U.S. Ski Team) won his sixth U.S. title. Kyle Bratrud (Stratton Mountain School T2) was second and Ian Torchia (Stratton Mountain School) was third.