Diggins Fourth, Brennan Sixth; Four in Top-15
The theme today was to give it all you had and that was what the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team did in the 10k classic in Falun, Sweden.
With the snow falling harder as the hours passed by, making the wax conditions tougher by the minute, the U.S. posted solid results in the third to last World Cup of the season, with four in the top-15.
The women started the day and found four in the top-30. Jessie Diggins led the team and finished in fourth place, Rosie Brennan was close behind in sixth, Novie McCabe in 14th and Hailey Swirbul in 30th. This is Diggins' best-ever individual classic distance race.
Diggins had a strong race, staying consistent within the top-10 in the individual start. In the early splits, Diggins was running between third and sixth place, chasing the times of her competitors, mainly Kerttu Kiskanen of Finland, the ultimate winner of the day, Katharina Hennig of Germany and Anne Kjersti Kalvaa of Norway. Diggins put on a strong performance and with today's results, is less than 150 points away from Tiril Udnes Weng for the overall FIS World Cup crystal globe and sits in second place for the overall distance trophy - making the last races of the season key in clinching the season.
"First of all, so stoked for my teammates out there today. That was so cool to see. On the women's side, to have three in the top-15 was awesome," said Diggins. "For me, I was really happy with my race. This was my best-ever individual career result classic distance race and i'm looking forward to the next!"
Brennan had another top-10 result, showing her consistency on the circuit. Brennan, who has raced nearly every race this season, showcased how strong she is by her sixth place result. Through the splits, she was always in the mix, having the fastest time in the early splits and only falling a few spots towards the end. Brennan crossed the line in sixth, only 44.5 seconds back from Niskanen, adding more World Cup points to her resume and closing the gap even more for the FIS overall World Cup crystal globe, where she sits in fourth.
"Today's race was great!" said Brennan. "I really like the courses here and felt really good throughout the race and now trying to focus on each day and get the most out of the few races we have left. Really looking forward to some sprint action tomorrow!"
Rounding out the women was McCabe. McCabe is back in Europe just days after she won both NCAA National Championships races in Lake Placid, NY. McCabe, who is having a strong season, crossed the line in 14th, one of her best races on the World Cup circuit.
Hailey Swirbul was 30th, adding more crucial World Cup points to her list and 17-year-old Sammy Smith was 41st in her second World Cup start (first distance start!) of her career.
For the men, the day was highlighted by Ben Ogden. Ogden went out in classic Ben fashion - fast. Marking himself as the guy the beat, Ogden held some of the fastest times at the 1.5k, 2.5k, 3.3k and 4.3k time checks for the majority of the race, even beating out Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo on crucial parts of the course. At the end of the day, Ogden ended the day in 13th place - not his best career result - but one of the fastest and most consistent races we have seen from Ogden.
"Ben is only 22 years old and is showing consistency in his results," said Kikkan Randall in the live commentary during the race. "He put himself out there and held it for over 6k and pretty soon, he will become more consistent longer into the races, it's fun to watch."
Next to Ogden was teammate Scott Patterson, who crossed the line in 17th, only one minute and eight seconds back. Patterson led a strong race, charging on the steep uphills, skiing around the fast turn clean and tactically skiing the downhills. Patterson, a strong distance skier, has been consistent all year, which showed in another top-20 result on the biggest stage.
Rounding out the men's team was Zak Ketterson and Luke Jager. Jager, returning to the World Cup circuit after heading back to the USA for the NCAA National Championships, finished the day in 35th and Ketterson, back on the circuit after spending time at home, was 41st. The men's podium showcased the strength of Norway, with Klaebo in first, Martin Loewstroem Nyenget in second and Harald Oestberg Amundsen in third.
Now, the team will reset for tomorrow's skate sprint in Falun.