Caitlin Gregg powers her way up the trail at Soldier Hollow to win the women's 10k freestyle to open the L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships. (USSA - Tom Kelly)
SOLDIER HOLLOW, UT (Jan. 7, 2017) - CXC's Kyle Bratrud (Eden Prairie, MN) and Caitlin Gregg (Minneapolis) of Team Gregg each won gold as the L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships opened on the Olympic trails at the Soldier Hollow Nordic Center near Midway. Nearly 600 athletes started in the first of three U.S. Championship events at Soldier Hollow.
Bratrud, who won the 15k freestyle in 2015 at Houghton, MI, scored a strong 21 second win over Tad Elliott (Durango, CO) of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail for his second career title. Patrick Caldwell (Lyme Center, NH) of Stratton Mountain School was third.
Gregg took a slim two second win over Alaska Pacific University's Chelsea Holmes (Girdwood, AK) with Craftsbury Nordic's Caitlin Patterson (Craftsbury Common, VT) third. It was Gregg's eighth career U.S. title and came in the same event in which she won bronze at World Championships two years ago.
"I am incredibly happy that I was able to execute my race plan and repeat as 15k U.S. champion," said Bratrud. "None of this would have been possible without the amazing support staff behind me including my CXC and NMU training partners."
Kyle Bratrud of CXC skates to his second career gold medal. (USSA - Tom Kelly)
As always, the Soldier Hollow Olympic venue once again proved its value as one of the great racing tracks in the world.
"Soldier Hollow is a unique venue in that it's not too high in altitude but it skis and feels like it's even higher," said Gregg. "One of my key focuses was to pace the race today. I've been training at lower elevation and working on speed and power. So I knew it was there so it was a matter of being patient and turning it on at the right time."
Gregg drew inspiration leading into Saturday's opener by look back at the 2002 Olympics.
"A few days ago my husband Brian and I watched the men's relay from 2002," she said. "We just relished watching John Bower ski exactly how I did today - taking it easy in the beginning then turning it on to se the men up for a fifth place finish.
"I remember how that Olympics inspireed and motivated me - we love this place."
The Championships this week serve multiple roles. Beyond the gold medals, results will be used for a variety of team selections including the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland in late February, as well as for the USANA FIS Nordic Junior World Championships and U23 Cross Country World Championships to be held on the same Soldier Hollow tracks Jan. 30-Feb. 5. Over 500 atheltes from arund 37 nations are expected.
Caitlin Gregg celebrates gold along with Chelsea Holmes and Caitlin Patterson. (USSA - Tom Kelly)
U.S. CHAMPIONSHIP MEDALISTS Men Gold - Kyle Bratrud, Eden Prairie, MN - Central Cross Country Silver - Tad Elliott, Durango, CO - Ski and Snowboard Club Vail Bronze - Patrick Caldwell, Lyme Center, NH - Stratton Mountain School
Women Gold - Caitlin Gregg, Minneapolis - Team Gregg Silver - Chelsea Holmes, Girdwood, AK - Alaka Pacific University Bronze - Caitlin Patterson, Craftsbury Common, VT - Craftsbury Nordic