RUMFORD – It started with a rain delay and ended with a championship blunder, but U.S. Ski Team coach Matt Whitcomb couldn’t be happier about the 2012 U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships after their two-year run at Black Mountain ended Sunday.

“Certainly the conditions were dicey coming into it,” he said. “But considering the weather forecast that had a few cold days in it and the race crew that’s here, I was pretty confident we were going to have world-class races, and I think that’s what we pulled off.”

“Or, I should say,” he said with a nod to the Chisholm Ski Club volunteers and the local contractors and workers who managed to cover the trails in man-made snow, “I think that’s what these guys pulled off.”

Part of the event involves not only crowning national champions but also selecting three international teams to compete at the Scandinavian Cup in Estonia, and the Junior and U-23 World Championships in Turkey next month.

“We were able to select the teams fairly,” Whitcomb said. “The athletes (earning berths) won on very demanding courses on fair days.”

NONE OF THE SKIERS selected for the international trips hail from Maine. Freeport native Lucy Garrec, a senior at the University of Vermont, was closest after finishing ninth in the standings for a U-23 team that included five female skiers.

Garrec was happy about her week nonetheless. She finished 15th in Thursday’s 10K freestyle and 10th in Friday’s 20K classical before placing 17th Sunday.

“I was really excited,” she said, “because I don’t usually do well in sprint qualifiers.”

Egan, a Cape Elizabeth native now with the Craftsbury (Vt.) Green Racing Project, was particularly encouraged by her 11th-place finish in Friday’s 20K classical race. Only one second separated her from 10th.

“I’m happy,” she said. “I didn’t have any top 20s last year and I was top 20 in every race this year, so that’s a big improvement.”

NATIONALS WILL BE held the next two years at Soldier Hollow in Utah. Rumford faced warm-weather challenges in each of the two years it hosted the event, which provided a boost to the local economy of an estimated $1.5 million this winter, according to a forecast by the Western Maine Economic Development Council.

Dasha Gaiazova, the Moscow-born Canadian winner of Sunday’s 1.4-kilometer women’s classical sprint, wasn’t eligible to win the U.S. title that went to runner-up Jessie Diggins. Gaiazova earmarked a good portion of her $1,200 first-place money for the skiers and coaches of Alaska Pacific University, who invited her to stay with them at a rented home.

“They’ve been so gracious and nice,” said Gaiazova, who lives in Banff, British Columbia. “I told them if I’m winning, I’m taking everybody out (Sunday night). So there was a lot of motivation to ski fast (Sunday) and keep my word. They’ve done a fantastic job for me out of kindness of their heart.”

TWELVE JUNIOR skiers qualified for semifinal heats. Eric Lustgarten of St. Lawrence University, Reitler Hodgert of Oregon and Silas Talbot of Dartmouth took the top three spots in the boys’ final.

For the girls, Brooke Mooney of Stratton Mountain, Eliza Rorabaugh of Alaska and Celia Haering of Alaska finished on the podium.

“I certainly noticed we have some outstanding juniors coming through the pipeline,” said Whitcomb. “Sometimes you come away from these events scratching your head and wondering if the next Kikkan Randall or Andy Newell is actually in that next group or not. And this week, I’m actually leaving very encouraged.”

NORTH YARMOUTH native Sam Humphries was scheduled to compete Sunday but slipped in the parking lot while jogging and hit his head. Maine Winter Sports Center coach Will Sweetser said Humphries has a possible concussion.

Among Maine men who came up short of qualifying for quarterfinal heats: Nils Koons of Sidney (37th), Fred Bailey of Andover (46th), Derek Rowe of Farmington (71st), Nate Niles of South Freeport (90th) and Justin Fereshetian of Turner (97th).

Among Maine women, Shelby Aseltine (Wilton) was 72nd and Sadie James (Mt. Abram) was 74th.

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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