Midway, UT Jan. 8--Two-time Olympian Marcus Nash of Fryeburg, Maine, ambushed Canadian Phil Villeneuve halfway through the final heatSaturday on the way to retaining his national sprint ski title on the 2002Olympic venue.
Nash won by several strides over Villeneuve at Soldier Hollow on thefirst day of championships, with Justin Wadsworth of Bend, Ore., third.
Beckie Scott led a Canadian sweep of the top three places in thewomen'ssprint, and divided the prize money. Three-time Olympian Nina Kemppel of Anchorage, Alaska, finishedfourthand, as the top U.S. skier, was declared the national champion, givingher sixstraight U.S. championships and 10 overall. Regulations stipulated that prize money would go to the topfinishers,but the national title would be awarded to the first U.S. finisher.
RebeccaQuinn of Gunnison, Colo., was the silver medalist and 16-year-old KikkanRandallof Anchorage, Alaska, competing in her first nationals, took the bronzemedal.
Light snow started in early afternoon and significantly slowed trackconditions for the semifinals and finals. "It really slowed down - you couldn't tuck that last downhill intothestadium," Nash said.
He overtook Villeneuve on the next-to-last uphill and pulled awayfromthe pack over the final 750 meters. He discussed the tactic with U.S.coachChrister Skog before the final heat and gambled that his skis were fastenough.
"I made a couple of risky moves, but they really paid off," Nashsaid."I knew on the downhills I had really fast skis, and I told Christerbefore ifI had fast skis I was going to pull away on the uphill, and then get abigenough lead over the top that I can coast into the finish."
Scott, who has had a top-10 and three top-20s in World Cup racingthiswinter, said there was understandable satisfaction in having threeCanadians on the podium.
"It didn't surprise me. We've become stronger as a team," she said,"andI think we sent a message that we can be tough. I think we could havesomemore podium sweeps this week."
After an off day Sunday, the championships continue with four moredaysof racing before concluding next Saturday.