Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's Emily Hannah trains with her teammates Friday afternoon in the shadows of Howelsen Hill for the upcoming U.S. Cross-Country Championships at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah.

Photo by Ben Ingersoll

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's Emily Hannah trains with her teammates Friday afternoon in the shadows of Howelsen Hill for the upcoming U.S. Cross-Country Championships at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah.

Steamboat Winter Sports Club Nordic team prepping for Cross-Country Championships

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— Next weekend marks the start of the U.S. Cross-Country Championships at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah, but the deep and talented field of athletes won’t be anything new for Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skiers making the trip.

US Cross-Country Championships schedule

Saturday, Jan. 4

■ Women's 10K classic

■ Men's 15K classic

Sunday, Jan. 5

■ Sprint free qualification men

■ Sprint free qualification women

Wednesday, Jan. 8

■ Men's 30K mass free

■ Junior men's 10K mass free

■ Women's 20K mass free

■ Junior women's 5K mass free

Friday, Jan. 10

■ Men's classic sprint qualification/finals

■ Women's classic sprint qualification/finals

A week removed from a smattering of impressive outings among elite athletes at the Crested Butte Solstice Showdown, Winter Sports Club Nordic skiers are busy training for one of their most challenging — and longest — competitions of the season.

“We’re just getting out of the overload phase of training,” Winter Sports Club cross-country coach Josh Smullin said. “In the next few days, we’ll start dropping down quite a bit on the training load to give them a peak, hopefully, so they’ll still have high fitness but go in feeling rested, too.”

The Cross-Country Championships begin Jan. 4 and end Jan. 10. Opening day will feature the classic individual starts with the women’s 10K classic and men’s 15K classic. Jan. 5 is the sprint free men’s and women’s qualification.

Smullin thinks that after taking first place in the senior classic sprint last weekend at Crested Butte, U20 skier Evan Weinman has an opportunity to make some early noise in Utah.

“Evan raced very well in the classic sprint last weekend, and he has been typically quite stronger in classic skiing than in skate, but he’s quite good in skate sprints, as well,” Smullin said. “We expect him to have a very strong first few days.”

On the men’s side, Smullin added U18 skier Lars Hannah, coming off an eighth-place showing at the Solstice Showdown classic sprint, has a chance to make things interesting at the top with Weinman.

Helping his skiers next weekend, Winter Sports Club head cross-country coach Brian Tate said, will be familiarity with Soldier Hollow, a course his athletes got a taste of in February.

While the Winter Sports Club men may be carrying in some expectations from their coaches, the local women’s competitors are bringing experience.

Competing collegiately for Dartmouth College and training during the holiday break with the Winter Sports Club, Emily Hannah figures to be around the top of the pack at the championships.

“Emily Hannah has been to World Juniors the last two years, and she should make it again,” Smullin said. “She’s one of the ones we’re taking who should have great results and should have a chance to be in the top 10 overall in a couple of the races.”

After grabbing second in the Solstice Showdown senior classic sprint, Winter Sports Club and University of Colorado skier Lucy Newman also could mix things up at the top.

As far as international points and race qualifying are concerned, the championships will play a big role in deciding where certain skiers are competing as the season chugs along.

The championships are FIS and USSA races, and with international points up for grabs, a lot is at stake.

“For the juniors we’re taking, there’s a U18 national trip, so it’s the best six guys and best six girls that are under 18 get to travel to Finland and compete in the Scandinavian Championships,” Smullen said. “The top six juniors under 20 years old for girls and guys get to go to Val di Fiemme where the World Championships were last year in Italy.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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