Ingalls wins at cross-country Junior Olympics

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— Nothing but first place will do for Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club cross-country skier Katherine Ingalls.

So after finishing fifth on Wednesday and third on Thursday at the 2007 cross-country Junior Olympics, Ingalls, 15, knew what her goal would be for the 5-kilometer classic race on Friday in Soldier Hollow, Utah.

"I started the week with a fifth. I was happy, but I wanted to do a little better. Then I got my third and it still wasn't enough," Ingalls said. "I wanted to get to the top of the podium."

So that's what Ingalls did Friday, claiming a national championship in the J2 division with a time of 14 minutes, 10.22 seconds, more than six seconds better than second-place finisher Elizabeth Guiney of Park City, Utah.

"It feels really good," said Ingalls, who became the first Winter Sports Club member to win a cross-country national championship since 1989. "It hasn't really hit me yet, but it feels good."

Ingalls said the 5-kilometer course set up well for her with a big hill to start the race before a good portion of downhill to conclude it. Steamboat cross-country ability coach Brain Tate said Ingalls was outside the top five halfway through the race before she put on a "Herculean performance the last half."

"Anytime you get the opportunity to be part of a national championship effort, you feel pretty good and proud of the athlete of our club and of our town," Tate said.

Despite warm conditions, Ingalls said the course held up and was actually fast and icy.

Since the race was an interval start, Ingalls had to wait until all the other racers finished to know she had secured the win.

"It was just incredible standing, watching the scoreboard and waiting for the last girl to come in," Ingalls said. "It was so nerve-racking waiting and hoping my time was fast enough. I thought about cooling down, but it was too intense. I had to just stand there and watch the scoreboard the whole time."

Ingalls is expected to compete in the final event of the cross-country Junior Olympics today, a three-person relay.

Ingalls wasn't the only one to impress on Friday.

Marty Smith made his second podium of the week finishing third in the OJ boys 10-kilometer race with a time of 27:04.53. Paul Rose finished 18th in 29:34.31.

In the J1 girls division, Missy Krause finished 30th and Sophie Leonard finished 34th.

Molly Newman finished 27th and Mary Rose finished 30th in the J2 girls event, and Carter Miller finished 32nd in the J2 boys event.

- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

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