U.S. names largest cross-country team since 1998


U.S. names largest cross-country team since 1998{mosimage}Sprinters Andy Newell of Vermont, who produced the first U.S. World Cup podium in over two decades last winter, and Alaska’s Kikkan Randall, who produced the all-time best U.S. women’s Olympic cross-country finish, are among 14 athletes named to the 2007 U.S. cross-country ski team.

U.S. Nordic Director Luke Bodensteiner said the ski team — the largest since 11 athletes were named for the 1998 Olympic season — also includes seven other 2006 Olympians. There are seven men and seven women on the squad.

Newell posted the best U.S. men’s Olympic sprint result in Italy, finishing 14th, and went on to finish third in the first World Cup cross-country race in China in March. It was the first top-three finish by a U.S. skier since March 1983 when Vermonters Tim Caldwell and Bill Koch finished 2-3 in a World Cup race in Anchorage, Alaska.

During the Olympics, Randall — whose uncle, Chris Haines, was a 1976 Olympic skier and aunt, Betsy Haines, was on the 1980 Olympic team in Lake Placid — finished ninth in the sprint. It became the finest U.S. women’s cross-country result in any Olympic race. After the Torino Games, she went on to post the best U.S. women’s finish in the 25-year history of the cross-country World Cup, finishing fifth in a night sprint in Borlange, Sweden.

“I’m very excited about this team. We had our first podium in two decades last year from Andy, and Kikkan was close to a podium, and we had two guys in the Red Group [i.e., top 30 in sprint or distance]. We had some real highlights, and that gives us good momentum heading into this season,” Bodensteiner said.

“It’s refreshing for the veterans to have some young skiers around them. This is the largest team we’ve had for quite a few seasons, and we have good, diverse personalities. The Continental Cup team is going to be spending much of the season in Europe, along with the World Cup group, because we want them exposed to not only the rigors of travel but also to racing regularly against their peers, to have friends on other teams and do what the World Cup group does. We want them to get ahead of the development curve.

“We feel we’re on target in nailing down how to deal with travel and training,” he said, “and we’ve got a great group of new coaches [headed by former World Cup racer and coach Pete Vordenberg], and there are tons of energy and focus helping to make this team hum.”

The cross-country World Cup season opens Oct. 28-29 in Dusseldorf, Germany, with sprints alongside the Rhine River. The FIS Nordic World Ski Championships will be held Feb. 22-March 4 in Sapporo, Japan.

The 2007 U.S. cross-country team [age, hometown, * if Olympian]

World Cup team — Men: Chris Cook (26; Rhinelander, Wisconsin*), Kris Freeman (25; Andover, New Hampshire*), Andrew Johnson (28; Greensboro, Vermont*), Torin Koos (26; Leavenworth, Washington*) and Andy Newell (22; Shaftsbury, Vermont*); Women: Kikkan Randall (23; Anchorage, Alaska*).

Continental Cup team — Men: Matt Gelso (18; Truckee, California) and Leif Zimmermann (22; Bozeman, Montana*); Women: Morgan Arritola (20; Sun Valley, Idaho), Taz Mannix (20; Anchorage, Alaska), Morgan Smyth (20; Vernon, Vermont), Liz Stephen (19; Montpelier, Vermont), Lindsey Weier (22; Mahtomedi, Minnesota*) and Lindsay Williams (22; Hastings, Minnesota*).

- USSA

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