Kevin Bolger celebrates his first U.S. title taking the classic sprint crown. (USSA - Tom Kelly)
SOLDIER HOLLOW, UT (Jan. 8, 2017) - The University of Utah’s Kevin Bolger and Bridger Ski Foundation’s Jennie Bender (Bozeman, MT) both survived challenging weather and tight battles to win national classic sprint titles at the L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships at Soldier Hollow. It was Bolger’s first U.S. title and the fourth time Bender has taken a national sprint title.
Bolger was the second lucky loser from semifinals, coming out of a fast first semi heat. He was also the lone American in the final sprint, battling University of Denver’s Moritz Madlener to the finish to pickup the win. John Hegman (Huntington, VT) and Cole Morgan (Bozeman, MT), both Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, took silver and bronze.
Jennie Bender celebrates a fourth national sprint title. (USSA - Tom Kelly)
Bender held off had charges by silver medalist Becca Rorabaugh (Fairbanks, AK) of APU Nordic and Kaitlynn Miller (Elmore, VT) of Craftsbury Nordic to record her fourth career title - all in sprints. Bender won each of her three heats. Miller won her quarterfinal and semifinal, while Rorabaugh advanced as a lucky loser in each heat.
“Today was pandemonium, and pretty much one of the hardest conditions a classic sprint can be in terms of waxing,” said Bender. “Our tech team busted ass to get the boards riding hard, and it was my job to keep the head down and fight it out. It came together for me today and I am elated to have another national title under the belt!”
Waxing was, indeed, a monumental challenge with temperatures hovering just above and below freezing with a mix of heavy, wet snow and rain falling during most of the day.