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Four in Top 11 in Ruka Sprint

By Leann Bentley - Stifel U.S. Ski Team
November, 24 2023
julia kern
Stifel U.S. Freestyle Ski Team moguls athletes cheer on Julia Kern in the finishing stretch. (NordicFocus)

The FIS Cross Country World Cup kicked off in Ruka, Finland with the classic sprint and four Americans found the top 11. Jessie Diggins led the women in seventh place and Ben Ogden the men in 11th.

It was a cold, blustery day for the first World Cup of the 2023-24 season and the excitement of a new season was palpable. Thousands of fans crowded the course, including the familiar faces of the Stifel U.S. Freestyle Ski Team moguls athletes who lined the finishing stretch to cheer. 

The start of the season was no easy feat, as this season marks the start of the complete fluro-ban by FIS, in which all nations must ensure that all skis are fluro-free at top-tier events, including the FIS World Cup. The new fluro-free rules brought a few more steps that athletes and staff must abide by before lining up on the start line, but at the end of the day, the race went on. 

For the women, Rosie Brennan, Julia Kern and Diggins advanced to the heats by landing in the top 30 of the field. Ogden and JC Schoonmaker advanced to the heats for the men. The qualifications results painted the picture of just how fast the field was skiing, with only a few seconds separating 30th and first place.

In the heats, Diggins and Kern won their quarterfinal heats easily and Brennan crossed the line in second. Ogden won his quarterfinal heat, putting him in a solid position for the semis; Schoonmaker was fifth and did not advance. In the semis, no American athletes advanced but today still marks the best results from the American team in history, with four in the final top 11: the women going seventh, eighth and ninth, and Ogden just outside the top 10 in 11th. 

"I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season," said Brennan in a post-race interview. "Honestly, this was quite a good day for the whole team and very cool to see." 

"It's really nice to be back. This is the best Ruka result for the team," said Diggins. "But just being here is a victory and actually racing was a cherry on top. I'm really lucky to have such an amazing team and proud to be here, it took a lot of work. It took me 12 years to make the semi-finals in Ruka, and that's why we don't give up, we just keep trying!" 

Now, the team will make a quick turnaround to the next race - the 10k classic tomorrow, Nov. 24. 

Women's sprint
Men's sprint

Saturday, Nov. 24

- 6:15 a.m. ET / Men's 10k classic / live and on-demand:
- 4:00 a.m. ET / Women's 10k classic / live and on-demand: