PRESS RELEASE -
SOLDIER HOLLOW, UTAH - Two Bozeman skiers skied onto the podium on Wednesday at the 2018 Cross Country Junior National Championships in Soldier Hollow, Utah. Fifteen-year-old Kai Mittelsteadt and Dartmouth College freshman Sofia Shomento both won silver medals in the freestyle sprint.
The Bridger Ski Foundation has eleven athletes and two alumni competing in the championships; and they proved their sprint strength on Wednesday with seven of the current athletes and both alumni making the top 30.
Sprint races in cross country involve an individual qualification race, with the top 30 skiers moving on to quarterfinals, then semis, and finals. Skiers that progress to the finals will have skied the course a total of four times by the end of the day, bringing an element of endurance to a race that often lasts less than three minutes.
Kai Mittelsteadt – 2nd U16 Boys
Aidan Van Eerden – 25th U16 Boys
Cale Woods – 29th U16 Boys
Stirling Marshall Pryde – 33rd U16 Boys
Georgiana Fischer – 23rd U16 Girls
Sabine Love – 26th U16 Girls
Page Coleta – 43rd U16 Girls
Andrew Meyer – 15th U20 Boys
Hans Pessl – 32nd U18 Boys
Seth Wyatt – 48th U18 Boys
Sofia Shomento (BSF alum) – 2nd U20 Girls
Marin Coletta (BSF alum) – 12th U20 Girls
Ariana Woods – 16th U20 Girls
For Kai Mittelsteadt, the podium at nationals has been a goal all season, and he was a race favorite coming into the championships, having won every single of one his Intermountain Division junior national qualifier races this season—a total of 6 races over three weekends.
The first day of racing in Utah on Tuesday was looking promising. Mittelsteadt was sitting in second place in the 5 km classic, but when his binding broke on an uphill he was unable to finish. “He was just devastated,” said Lina Hultin, BSF’s U16 Nordic coach.
But the young skier proved his resilience and came into the sprint competition the following day with a positive attitude, ready to turn it around. Mittelsteadt says, “I arrived at the stadium with tons of energy. I felt good throughout all the heats and felt progressively better and better, picking up my speed and tempo.”
In the finals, Mittelsteadt and Will Koch of the Stratton Mountain School in Vermont quickly separated themselves from the field and battled it out over the final meters, with Koch winning in 2:34.95, with Mittelsteadt just 0.29 seconds back. The rest of the finals field finished more than 7 seconds later. “It was as hard as I could push myself,” says Mittelsteadt, but he’s already taking stock. “Looking back, I know where I made my mistakes, but I’m ready for the next races and so thankful to all the coaches, friends, family, teammates and wax techs that have helped me achieve this."
“Kai proved that he is one of the best skiers in his age group,” said Dragan Danevski, Nordic Program Director and Head Coach for the Bridger Ski Foundation. He complimented his racing maturity and said, “He skied tactically and technically very well.”
Hultin has been working with Mittelsteadt for the past two seasons and calls him a determined athlete. “He has been working hard this past year and given skiing and BSF's program 100 percent. He has improved in many areas this year and his dedicated work has really paid off,” said Hultin.
Hultin notes that Mittelsteadt “has also helped motivate and inspire his teammates. Seven U16 BSF athletes qualified for junior nationals.”
Sofia Shomento had the look of a seasoned, confident racer, taking the lead early to win the qualification round and all of her heats in the U20 age group. “I learned to put space on that last uphill and have enough of a lead so they wouldn’t catch me on the downhills,” she said. It was a tactic that worked until the finals. “In the finals, I got a big gap on the last steep uphill, but Jordi [Floyd] caught up to me at the bottom of the last downhill and it was a battle to the finish.”
Floyd, a Steamboat Springs skier, finished in 3:08.74, with Shomento 1.41 seconds back. “She just had more in the end,” said Shomento. Marin Coletta, a BSF alum now skiing for Colby College (and the 2017 Junior National Champion in the classic sprint) was 12th, and BSF’s Ariana Woods 16th.
Shomento has had a banner year, full of transitions. This is her first year skiing for Dartmouth College, with one of the best ski teams in the country, and she says it’s definitely “her place” and loves both her team and her coach. But after a solid showing at the Senior Nationals in Alaska in January, Shomento was named to the U.S. team for the World Junior Cross Country Championships in Switzerland, where she raced the skiathlon and skate sprint. “It was just an incredible experience being there with the best in the world,” she says. And she proved her sprinting abilities on the world stage, where she advanced as far as the quarterfinals in the sprint.
This week however, while Shomento has Dartmouth listed as her club, she’s chosen to suit up with her hometown division and ski in the red-and-blue uniform of the Intermountain Division (made up of skiers from Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Utah).
This is Shomento’s second individual silver medal at a Junior Nationals. In 2017, she was second in the U18 Freestyle 5K. On Friday, she’ll return to that event with some high hopes. “Each day here, I keep feeling better. Hopefully Friday I’ll feel great.”
Catch up: Classic Distance Results and BSF Report