Braaten on top again

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— For the second straight day, it was Norwegian Kenneth Braaten setting himself apart from the Nordic combined World Cup B field at Howelsen Hill.

"They came real fast from behind in the last lap, but I still had a little more power to use in the uphills, and I managed to keep the gap. I knew I would keep it the whole way," Braaten said after winning Saturday's one-jump, 7.5-kilometer sprint event. "I had to work a little harder in the last lap than I had wanted to, but I was first at the finish, so I was satisfied."

Braaten finished 11th in Saturday morning's jumping portion, which was won by Austria's David Zauner.

But by the second lap of the 7.5-kilometer cross country race, there was little doubt who was in control.

At the finish, Braaten had recorded the seventh-fastest cross country time of the day and the combined finish earned him the top step on the podium at the Romick Rodeo Arena in the afternoon.

It was the Norwegian's second straight win in the Showdown at Steamboat Nordic Combined World Cup B after winning the opening sprint event Friday.

German Christian Beetz finished five seconds behind the Norwegian in second place.

"Kenneth is the fastest runner in the World Cup B, so when he went to the leading position, I just tried to go with him as long as I could," Beetz said. "I didn't really think I was going to be able to keep up with him."

Still, the attempt to keep up with the fast runner helped the German hold off Slovenian Andrej Jezersek, who finished third after moving up 26 spots in the cross country race with the second fastest time of the day.

"I am a little bit better prepared for cross country," Jezersek said. "I am not so good at jumping now. I don't know why, but I expect to do better (today)."

Despite not winning, Saturday's event proved to be a good one for the Germans, who took four of the top-10 places in the final results.

German Marc Frey posted the fastest country time of the day by completing the course in 18 minutes, 2 seconds 25 seconds better than Braaten.

The top American was Carl VanLoan, who tied for 19th with four other athletes in the jumping, and then picked up nine spots in the cross country to finish in 10th place overall.

VanLoan's time of 18:35 was also the 10th fastest cross country time in the field of 66 competitors.

"It was hard today," VanLoan said. "I skied by myself for a full lap. When you are out there by yourself you really have no one to draft off or pace off of, so you are on your own. But it was a better race for me (than Friday) and I'm satisfied."

Teammate Morgan Goodwin also had a strong showing on the cross country race en route to his 24th place finish. American Brett Camerota, who was eighth in Friday's event, placed 25th and Steamboat Springs native Nathan Gerhart, who started the cross country race tied with VanLoan, fell to 31st.

"I kind of died at the end," Gerhart said. "I just was not having one cross country wise. Yesterday I had a terrible race and just felt so bad : I felt better today, which is good, but not good for all 7Ks."

Gerhart said he still hasn't adjusted to Steamboat's higher elevation after competing in the World Cup A in Norway, which is at sea level.

"It's kind of a surprise every time I come home," Gerhart said. "I guess I forget how high it is here."

Coach Dave Jarrett said he was happy with his team's showing, but said the American skiers still need to jump better if they want to move up in the results.

"The bottom line is that we need to jump better," Jarrett said. "We know the level because we have Johnny (Spillane) and Todd (Lodwick). Our guys know they can do better on the jump hill."

The American team will get another chance today when the final World Cup B in Steamboat takes center stage. Competitors will compete in the Gundersen event, which includes two jumps off the K114 starting at 10 a.m. It will be followed by a 15-kilometer cross country race at 2 p.m.

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