Patten & Needham crack top-20 in classic mass start at U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships

Published: Jan. 6, 2023 at 10:40 PM EST
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HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) - The Michigan Tech Nordic Ski team turned out two top-20 performances in the 20k classic mass start on the third day of the 2023 U.S. Cross Country Ski Nationals presented by Hampton Inn & Suites at the Tech Trails in Houghton on Friday.

Skylar Patten placed 11th in the men’s 20km classic mass start, while Anabel Needham placed 20th in the women’s 20km classic mass start.

The Huskies also had a notable finisher In the 10km junior classic mass start, as Wes Campbell placed eighth overall in a time of 28:12.4.

“Wes getting involved in a crash 1km into the race and moving up from 30th to finish eighth is a commendable performance,” head coach Tom Monahan Smith said.

Patten, who made the U.S. National podium earlier this week after a third-place finish in the freestyle interval start, was the first Husky through the finish in the 20k classic mass start, taking 11th overall. His effort was the ninth-best among Americans and fifth in the collegiate race.

“It was an incredibly tough race,” Patten said. “The leaders started faster than I expected and I just tried to stay out of trouble on the first descent. From there on I tried to work my way up the field and find fast people to ski with to hopefully catch people who may have popped out of the lead group.”

The Park City, Utah, native held his position for the majority of the race being in 12th through the first 10k (26:13.4), before moving up one spot over the final 10k to cruise to a time of 52:44.5.

“Skylar has made a jump to a new competitive level in the last two seasons and it is so cool that he can confidently know he is a national contender in any distance event,” Monahan Smith added.

The Huskies saw two additional performances crack the top-35 in the men’s race, with Henry Snider (54:34.2) and Colin Freed (54:48.8) placing 30th and 33rd, respectively.

“Henry and Colin skied to some of their best classic races of their careers,” Monahan Smith mentioned.

Of note, Tryg Solberg and Parker Coutre-Rathwell were among the top 50 in a field that saw 99 finishers. Solberg cruised to the finish line in a time of 56:21.6, good for 43rd place, while Courte-Rathwell just dipped under 50th place with his time of 57:02.0 marking him the 49th skier through the stadium.

In the women’s 20km classic mass start, Houghton native Anabel Needham placed 20th in her second-ever time competing in the event.

“My skis were rockets, I felt really fast and I was able to make up time on the downhill,” Needham said. “It was a tough fight and I took a spill on the first lap but I was able to push through and catch a pack in front of me and hang on for the last lap.”

Although it was just her second time doing the event, she had a strategy that led to her success.

“I rely a lot on getting feeds and focusing on technique and each section of the course so I don’t get too overwhelmed,” Needham added.

Her performance was seventh within the U23 field and 12th collegiately.

“Anabel showed a ton of grit out there today racing her way to a top-20 performance after having an early crash that left her chasing,” Monahan Smith remarked. “We were so stoked to see she had the ability to push through today, as it takes an immense amount of maturity and willpower to get yourself back into a race after you crash.”

Olivia Laven was just outside of the top-30 finishers, making the final climb to the finish in 1:05.15.2, good for 31st in the field.

Jasper Johnston cracked the top-40 with his 39th (29:37.6) place finish in the junior classic mass start.

The 2023 U.S. Cross Country Ski National Championships presented by Hampton Inn & Suites will conclude with Saturday’s freestyle sprint. The women’s qualifying round will begin at 9:30 a.m. with the men’s qualifying round to follow at 10:10 a.m.