RUMFORD – Sunday marked the end, but hardly the climax, of the U.S. Cross Country Skiing Championships at Black Mountain.

Neither Jessie Diggins of Minnesota nor Tyler Kornfield of Alaska — each of whom won a national classical sprint title Sunday afternoon under clear skies with temperatures in the low 20s — was first to reach the finish line in the championship heat, and neither left Rumford with the $1,200 in first-place prize money.

For Diggins, who had swept the week’s previous three women’s races, the explanation was simple. Daria “Dasha” Gaiazova, a 2010 Canadian Olympian, beat Diggins in Sunday’s final and collected the big check, leaving Diggins the U.S. title.

“It’s like an asterisk sweep,” Diggins said of her 4-for-4 week.

As for Kornfield, he glided across the finish line well behind Tuesday’s freestyle sprint winner, Torin Koos of Washington. Koos, 31, won both sprint events at last year’s nationals at Black Mountain and figured he had his seventh U.S. title in the bag … until learning of his disqualification.

A five-member race jury — which already had issued Koos a written reprimand for moving ahead two rows in Friday’s mass start classical race — ruled the veteran skier had obstructed a competitor when Koos cut off Ryan Scott as Koos changed from the third to the second set of four tracks as they approached a hill midway through the 1.6-kilometer sprint.

“There was an official there who saw it,” said jury member Chuck Broomhall. “Where (Koos) had already gotten a written warning earlier this week, it was an automatic disqualification.”

Koos declined interview requests after the decision as he attempted to mount an appeal to the International Ski Federation within his allotted 72 hours.

“On the climbs I wanted to have my own lane in case some people were attacking,” he said immediately after the race, before learning of the DQ. “I took the lead on the second climb, which was pretty difficult because it’s in the shade, so it’s not as soft as the rest of the course. It’s a little more glazed, so skis play a big factor there.”

In his quarterfinal and semifinal heats, Koos moved up from third to first in the final stretch with strong double-poling.

“So I thought I could win that way,” he said, “but if I could decide the race before then, why not?”

Instead of the seventh U.S. championship for Koos, the sprint title was the second for Kornfield, 20, a student at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks who declined the prize money in order to retain his collegiate eligibility. He also finished second in this same event two years ago in Anchorage, Alaska, to a Swedish teammate.

“I moved up in that one, too,” Kornfield said. “It’s definitely a few interesting national championships I’ve won.”

Kornfield finished third in Tuesday’s freestyle sprint and 10th in Friday’s 30-kilometer classical race. He had a five-meter gap Sunday on Michael Sinnott of Idaho, who was bumped up from second to third place. Alaskan Eric Packer of Dartmouth was third, and Scott, of Montana, was fourth.

“It’s definitely difficult for me to say I’m a national champion when Torin got disqualified,” Kornfield said. “But according to the rules, it was definitely a bad call by Torin to make that move at that point. In the end, (the race jury) made the right call.”

Kornfield said the incident happened right in front of him. He said Scott was about a boot length behind Koos as the skiers approached the shaded hill, at the top of which Koos pulled away from the field.

“Torin moved over Ryan’s skis, pushing Ryan over to the next track,” Kornfield said. “According to the rules, your tails have to be in front of the person you’re passing’s tips. His obviously weren’t by quite a bit.

“Under certain circumstances, it’s OK to do that, but if there’s four tracks the whole course (as is the case at Black Mountain), it’s not necessary.”

Only 30 of 121 men qualified for the quarterfinal heats, which included Cumberland native Sam Tarling of Dartmouth, New Sharon native Welly Ramsey of the Maine Winter Sports Center, and Fort Kent native Nick Michaud of Bates. None of the Mainers advanced to the semifinals, and their official placements were Ramsey 14th, Tarling 16th and Michaud 26th.

Oddly enough, all three posted faster qualifying times than the 3 minutes, 47 seconds turned in by Scott.

Cape Elizabeth native Clare Egan, Freeport native Lucy Garrec of the University of Vermont, and Fort Fairfield native Hilary McNamee of Dartmouth and the Maine Winter Sports Center all qualified for the quarterfinals of the women’s 1.4K sprint, though none reached the semifinals. Egan and Garrec finished third and fourth, respectively, in the same heat, and wound up 15th and 17th overall, with McNamee 19th among the field of 81.

Gaiazova, who was born in Moscow and emigrated with her family to Canada at the age of 15, spent the first part of this winter on the World Cup tour.

“I love Rumford,” she said. “I love the trails. I love the way they flow and the profile. It’s a gracious course, where you do beautiful skiing.”

Kate Fitzgerald of Alaska took third, and Ida Sargent of Vermont was fourth.

“I couldn’t keep up with (Gaiazova) at all,” Diggins said. “These girls are amazing competitors. I feel so lucky to be able to race with them.”

As for her sweep, asterisk or not, “I definitely didn’t expect it,” she said, “but I’m absolutely thrilled that it happened.”

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

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH


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