Hochtl takes fourth at US cross country sprint champs
SOLDIER HOLLOW, UTAH – Thursday afternoon, Kevin Hochtl was exactly where he wanted to be: Vying for the top spot in the final heat of the U.S. Cross Country Sprint Championships.After starting the day by qualifying fourth overall, Hochtl advanced through the quarterfinals and semifinals, then finished off the day taking fourth place.”I had a great day overall,” Hochtl said. “I was looking to do what I did. I have been skiing at this level all year long and wanted to be up there in this position. I wanted to win, but the other guys were skiing well.”
Hochtl had to put in fast runs all day, needing to place second or better in his quarterfinal heat, as well as in his semifinal heat that featured the overall winner, Chris Cook.”(Chris) had a really good day,” Hochtl said. “He opened it up a bit (in the finals) and I skied with him ’till the end. He wore me out a bit.”For most of the final heat, Hochtl held up second place. Near the end of the 1.3K course, Hochtl dropped back to fourth place.”The guy behind me drafted me and boxed me out,” Hochtl said. “I didn’t have the opportunity to open up as much as I should have.”Hochtl’s finish is a good measure of his success during this Olympic-selection season.”I definitely have been skiing at this level all year long,” said Hochtl, who awaits the cross country Olympic committee’s Jan. 15 decision. “We get four starting spots at the Olympics, and I’m ranked No. 4 at the moment. It’s up to (the committee).”The Vail Valley was well represented at the event, with nine Ski and Snowboard Club Vail skiers competing.
Sylvan Ellefson, Vail Mountain School ’05, finished 10th in the junior division and 47th overall.Record pathWhile at Battle Mountain, Hochtl racked up three consecutive Skimeister awards, narrowly missing a fourth due to a disqualification in an alpine race.It wasn’t until Hochtl went to college at St. Olaf’s (Minn.) that he began to concentrate on Nordic skiing. By his senior year there, he advanced to the NCAA nationals.Since graduating, Hochtl has continued his trend of improvement.
“The last four years I’ve been building towards the Olympics,” Hochtl said. “My goal is to reach my potential every year. If I improve by a lot, then that’s great. But with Nordic skiing, you need a lot of patience as you develop later on in life.”Like in other endurance sports, Nordic skiers reach their peak between ages 26 and 34, said 26-year-old Hochtl.”Some skiers are talented and can do it when they are younger,” Hochtl said. “For (others), experience and continuous training allow you to reach a higher potential.”Pursuing Olympic dreams isn’t a lucrative profession, and does require some sacrifice.”I still live in my parents’ place,” Hochtl said. “But there are many people in the Vail community that have supported me so I can continue to train.”World record
Last November, Hochtl etched his name in the record books by breaking the 100 meter sprint world record.Hochtl became the first skier to break the 12-second mark, posting a time of 11.94 seconds.”It’s pretty cool,” said Hochtl, who attributes his diverse skiing and sprint skiing skills to genetics.Hochtl holds the rights to being the fastest man on the planet – in cross country skis. Tim Montgomery is the “World’s Fastest Man,” with a 100-meter time of 9.78 seconds.”Then there’s me,” Hochtl said. “Unfortunately, we have to get the skis and poles going in the right direction, so we are a little slower than those guys.” Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado