The U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships wrapped an exciting opening day of competition at Solider Hollow, Utah. Torin Koos and Jennie Bender each battled through some intensely tight competition to take the classic sprint titles for the male and female disciplines respectively. Koos was followed by Michael Sinnott in second and Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess in third. Bender was followed by Sadie Bjornsen and Rosie Brennan.
Bender pulled off a stellar performance, and gave the audience quite a show when she narrowly beat out Sadie Bjornsen to finish ahead in the final sprint.
“I had no idea how today would go”, exclaimed Bender. “I came into these last races thinking that I had to stay neutral and not beat myself up too much. I had a rough fall and summer being sick, so this is pretty mind blowing. Classic sprinting is really my strength so I was really happy to qualify sixth. I was right behind a really good group of ladies that I've always been battling with and who are really strong. To be able to be with them and racing with them and to stay in there felt really good. I've never been great with altitude, but I really like this course so that helped. I'm hoping that there's more like this to come. I wanted to be on the podium today and once I was neck and neck with Sadie I was thinking I wanted to dig deep here to get that extra inch.”
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Torin Koos, who is no stranger to the podium, managed to capture his seventh U.S. title. This was highly anticipated event for Koos. The skier had a great deal to make up for after being disqualified from last year's classic sprint event.
After his win, Koos talked about the event so far, saying, “I think the level of racing is getting better in the U.S. I felt good today even though I'm really low on racing. I've only done two sprints this season and my health was not good. Today is just a classic amazing day at Soldier Hollow. I have been skiing here since 1999. I have a lot of fond memories here – I've had my first World Cup here, my first Olympics here, my first U.S. Championship here, so I always looks forward to coming back. I kind of feel like I'm coming full circle. The organizers here do an awesome job. The course is always in very fair shape.”
The 2013 U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships has brought out over 430 athletes hailing from across the United States. Cross country fans can expect the action to continue with events through January 8th. Friday with a men's 15k and women's 10k freestyle individual start distance race at the former Olympic venue.