Thursday, February 16, 2012

ADN on the Czech Relay....

Alaskan on relay win best in US women's World Cup history

Anchorage's Holly Brooks, bottom right, and her teammates on the U.S. ski team celebrate their  fifth place effort in Noze Mesto, Czech Republic.

NORDIC: Alaskan helps u.s. quartet to best-ever finish at world cup.
The American women continued a historic World Cup season Sunday in the Czech Republic, and this time they did with their star on the sideline.
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Holly Brooks of Anchorage helped the U.S. ski team to fifth place in a cross-country relay race in Noze Mesto, Czech Republic. The result is the best relay finish by an American women's team in World Cup history, according to the U.S. Skiing and Snowboarding Association.

"The crazy thing is that we did all of this while Kikkan was on the side of (the) trail taking pictures!" Brooks wrote in an email.

Randall, the three-time Olympian from Anchorage who is the world's fifth-ranked skier, skipped the race to hasten her recovery from a cold.

As for Brooks, she returned to competition a little more than a week ago after missing a month with a broken wrist. She skied the scramble leg Sunday and put the Americans in good shape after the first leg of the 4x5-kilometer classic. Brooks was part of a five-woman pack vying for fourth place in the exchange zone; just four seconds separated them when they tagged off.

Ida Sargent and Liz Stephen skied the middle legs and 20-year-old Jessie Diggins, a budding star not just on the American team but on the World Cup tour, powered the Americans to fifth place by skiing the fastest anchor leg.

Charlotte Kalla held off Diggins at the finish line to give Sweden fourth place, one-tenth of a second ahead of the United States.

It was a shining moment for the Americans, who are registering the country's best results ever this season, and a encouraging one for Brooks.

"To be able to sit Kikkan today ... and still put together a result like this is a good snapshot of the strength of these ladies," Matt Whitcomb, the U.S. women's head coach, said in a USSA press release. "We are moving forward with big visions for the next relay."

The Americans could very well contend for a medal with Randall in the mix. They were very nearly fourth without her. And there were two Norway teams in the race, both of them finishing in the top three. At the Olympics and World Championships, a country can enter only one team.

"In different circumstances," Brooks wrote, "this would have been a sprint for a bronze medal. If we can do this well without (Randall), just imagine how well we can do with her."

Brooks, 29, is coming off a broken wrist suffered when she slipped on ice while on a Christmas day training run in Austria. She skied the entire Tour de Ski -- nine races in 11 days -- with the injury before taking a month-long break from competition to rehab.

Though her wrist is better now, she's dealing with some stomach issues and dropped out of Saturday's 15-kilometer individual classic race at Noze Mesto. She said she quit that race in order to save energy for Sunday's relay.

"Even though I didn't feel close to 100%, I was able to keep our team in contention," Brooks wrote. "Today's race was a lot of fun and just the pick me up I needed after a difficult beginning to the 2012 ski season.
"It's been a hard road back but I'm looking forward to the remaining races of the season."
Reach Beth Bragg at or 257-4335.