Hjulsten leads Tech at championships

HOUGHTON, Mich. — Haakon Hjulsten earned a spot on the podium and Deedra Irwin finished in the top 10 in today’s classic sprints at the U.S. Cross Country Championships hosted at Michigan Tech’s Nordic Training Center.

The event, which was postponed yesterday to today because of cold temperatures, featured a qualifying race followed by rounds of quarterfinals, semifinals and finals for each gender. All races were 1.5 kilometers in length.

Hjulsten was the top qualifier on the men’s side with a time of 4:23. Tech had two more men earn spots in quarterfinal races as Sam Holmes qualified in 20th position (4:37) and Thomas Kendrick was 28th (4:38).

Hjusten was the only one of the three to advance past the quarterfinal. He finished second in the quarter and won the semifinal before taking third in the final in 4:13—seven seconds behind the champion (Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess) and one tick back of second place.

Irwin was Tech’s only female qualifier, as she turned in the 11th-fastest time (5:26) in the day’s opening race. Alice Flanders was less than one second away from a qualifying spot as her 5:35 earned her 33rd position (top 30 qualify for heats). Ulrika Axelsson was 42nd in qualifying (5:39).

Irwin did not finish in the top two of her quarterfinal heat, but advanced to the semifinals based on time. She was fifth in her semifinal heat and fourth in the “B” final, making her 10th overall. Rosie Brennan was the champion (4:52).

“I’m really pleased with the day the team had,” said Tech coach Joe Haggenmiller. “Haakon is skiing really fast, and he’s the first person associated with Tech to make the podium at U.S. Nationals.

“Deedra had an awesome day, qualifying 11th, then moving up a spot in the finals. Getting Sam Holmes and Tom Kendrick into the heats was a big accomplishment as well.

“Again, the race crew and volunteers did a great job all day under tough, ever-changing weather conditions.”

The athletes will have a day off tomorrow before classic distance races on Thursday (Jan. 8).

(Information/Photo Courtesy of MTU Athletics)