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Day One of Cross Country World Cup Finals: Schoonmaker Ninth

By Leann Bentley - Stifel U.S. Ski Team
March, 15 2024
jc schoonmaker
JC Schoonmaker making a move in the quarterfinal heat in the classic sprint in Falun, Sweden. (NordicFocus)

On the first day of competition in Falun, Sweden for the 2024 World Cup Finals, JC Schoonmaker led the way for the Americans, finishing in ninth place, not made easier by the pouring rain and heavy fog that enveloped the course from the start of the day to the end. 

The weather was not in anyone's favor today. With warm temperatures, snow was not in the forecast, rain was. With the threat lingering in the morning, the humid air and grey clouds, rain was inevitable. With the race only minutes away, rain jackets were shed, thrown into trash bags and ran to the finish to put right back after atheltes took a lap around the challenging sprint course. Featuring a long-striding incline out of the start gate, straight to a long climb, it was not easy. Then, it got harder. Straight into a horseshoe, banked turn, the athletes were not met with nice conditions, making this course more challenging than it already was. As athletes took another screaming left-hand turn, they were met with one more final climb, over a bridge into the stadium, with a double poll finish.

In the qualifications. six Americans advanced, including Jessie Diggins, Julia Kern, Rosie Brennan, Schoonmaker, Gus Schumacher and Zanden McMullen based on their top 30 results. With waxing conditions already challenging from the get-go, it was the skis that were going to make the biggest difference today, which left wax techs from around the world scrambling to find the best kick and glide. 

Into the quarterfinals, the Americans only sent one through to the semifinals - Schoonmaker. Though five of the U.S. athletes did not advance, it was a day filled with great racing, where our athletes not only showed up but showed some grit. 

For Diggins, the pressure of leading the Overall World Cup Globe and the Distance Globe standings have been a main storyline for all in Falun, and with today's result, Diggins continues to maintain her positive outlook.

"Overall, I feel like my energy is good after today," said Diggins. "To be totally honest, it's been a very long season, a long time from home, but my goals and priorities are different than what others may have for me, and out of everything I can control, I feel like I am very proud of how I skied. For me, the most important thing is that I don't let other people's priorities take away my joy in ski racing and sometimes that's hard to do but that is what I'm focused on."

For Alaska's McMullen, who just capped his career-best result on Tuesday in Drammen, today was another step in the right direction for the young skier. "This is awesome. I am definitely feeling the fatigue of the whole season and this last week, but it's so nice to slowly climb up," said McMullen. "I am so happy for this whole season, it's been so fun and i'm just excited to see what I can do for the last two!"

Into the semis, Schoonmaker skied another tactful race, pushing on the uphills, taking the inside corner into a draft into the descent and charing the final climbs. Though it was not enough this time, Schoonmaker still nabbed a top-ten result, his second in a row.

"I feel pretty good about today," said Schoonmaker. "This season has been pretty consistent with qualifying, which is really nice and constantly gaining experience. "I would have liked to finish off the season better but I am already excited for next year." 

Johannes Høsflot Klæbo of Norway dominated the field, claiming the top spot on the podium and taking home the Sprint Crystal Globe. For the women, Norway's Kristine Staavas Skistad took home her second sprint victory of the week, with Sweden's Linn Svahn taking home his Sprint Crystal Globe for the women. For the U.S., Diggins led the way for the women, finishing in 18th, with Rosie Brennan fresh off a classic sprint podium three days ago in Drammen, in 20th and Julia Kern in 24th. For the men, Gus Schumacher was back in the top 30 in 19th and McMullen in 20th. 

With the season continuing tomorrow with a 10k classic, the competition in the World Cup standings is expected to intensify further. With Diggins leading the charge and Svahn closely following, it will be an exciting end to an already historic season for the Stifel U.S. Cross Country Ski Team.