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Five into the Heats; Diggins Quest to the Overall Globe

By Leann Bentley
March, 18 2023
jessie diggins
Sammy Smith races in her first-ever World Cup quarterfinal heats. (NordicFocus)

On another day of racing in Falun, Sweden, five Americans advanced to the quarterfinal heats in the skate sprint. Jessie Diggins, Rosie Brennan, Julia Kern and Sammy Smith advanced for the women and Ben Ogden for the men. 

It was another partly cloudy day at the racing complex, with thousands of fans packed in around the sprint course - showcasing the fan base of Swedish skiing. In the qualification round, seven women and five U.S. men were on the start list, among the other 52 other women and 68 men. Diggins, Brennan, Kern, Smith, Novie McCabe, Lauren Jortberg and Hailey Swirbul started for the women, while Zak Ketterson, Luke Jager, JC Schoonmaker, Kevin Bolger and Ogden started for the men. 

A highlight of the day included Sammy Smith, the youngest competitor in the field by nearly three years, qualifying for the heats in her second-ever skate sprint start. Smith is an all-around athlete and when she is not skiing, Smith is an avid soccer player, runner and freestyle skier. 

Overall, Diggins finished 13th, Kern 14th, Smith 27th, Brennan 29th and Ogden 12th.

In the last several weeks, the race schedule has been stacked with the 50k Holmenkollen and a long World Championships program. Fatigue is a real threat to all athletes on the circuit but with only two more locations left to race, athletes are finding what is left in the tank and giving it their all. 

"With all of this racing, my body has just been unpredictable. Today, my body just had nothing and it was tough to find much sprinter power in my legs," said Brennan. "It's time to rest up and a few more races to give some fight for!"

At the end of the day, the team focused on the fast skis and the amount of Americans in the heats - showcasing the depth that this team is building on the international stage. Now, rest is a priority before tomorrow's second-annual 4.5k mixed team relay, which the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team won just one year ago.

Quest for the Overall

Diggins' quest to the FIS overall crystal globe is closer than ever. Before this race, Diggins was 123 points out from the FIS overall crystal globe and is second in the standings for the overall distance globe. After today's sprint, she has narrowed the gap even more, with the next couple of races key in clinching the season. 

"It is an honor to be in the fight at all and sitting second in the overall and distance, but it is not something that I try and focus on or think about a lot because so many things need to line up and go right over the course of the whole season," said Diggins. "It is of course something that is really cool and exciting and fun and especially knowing all the fans that are following it! Me personally, I am trying to focus on every day and racing the best that I can. Each day, I go out there and have some concrete process goals that I am working towards and that is my main focus right now."

Brennan is currently sitting in fourth place in the overall World Cup globe standings while Kern is sitting in fifth and Ogden in 10th for the sprint World Cup overall sprint standings.