RUMFORD — On the fourth day of competition at the U.S. Cross Country Championships at Black Mountain, Jessie Diggins of Minnesota won her third title of the week, Noah Hoffman of Colorado claimed his first and a pair of Maine skiers turned in the best results of their careers.

“Totally unexpected,” said Diggins, a 20-year-old in her first year on the U.S. Ski Team, on taking the 20-kilometer classical race after already having won Thursday’s 10K freestyle and Tuesday’s 1.4K sprint titles. “I wasn’t planning on this happening this week but sometimes it all comes together at the right time.”

With the week’s first significant snowfall dusting the woods and hills on a white Friday morning, the mountain took on the look and feel of a proper ski area rather than simply featuring a wide ribbon of man-made snow.

“It looks a little more like winter now,” said Hoffman, 22, a four-year member of the U.S. Ski Team who bolted from the lead pack two-thirds of the way through the men’s 30K classical and won by nearly a minute over David Norris of Alaska and a field of 84. “This new snow definitely slowed things down considerably.

“I think it probably played into my favor a little bit, made it more of a strength course and a little easier to get away,” Hoffman said. “The organizers have done an incredible job with the lack of snow. I’m really impressed.”

Alaskan Eric Packer of Dartmouth College was third. Fellow Dartmouth student Ida Sargent of Vermont was runner-up to Diggins in the women’s race, a little more than 11 seconds behind the winning time of 65 minutes, 49.9 seconds, with Jennie Bender of Minnesota two seconds further back in third.

In Tuesday’s championship freestyle sprint final, Bender wiped out within 25 meters of the finish and Sargent had to ski with one pole for a good distance after breaking hers beneath a competitor’s ski. Sargent wound up sixth Tuesday and placed 12th in Thursday’s 10K freestyle.

“It was unlucky, but it happens,” Sargent said. “Hopefully the (classical sprint scheduled for Sunday) will go better than that.”

On Friday, with snow falling steadily, the women skied six laps of a 3.2K loop and the men skied nine.

Lucy Garrec of Freeport is a senior at the University of Vermont and easing into her season after injuring a shoulder that had already undergone an operation.

“I was nervous about this race because I tend to go down easily in mass starts,” Garrec said. “But it turned out really well.”

Indeed, Garrec finished a best-ever 10th in a field of 56, about a minute and a half behind Diggins. Cape Elizabeth native Clare Egan was 17th and Freeport native Molly Susla of Colby College 51st.

Coming on the heels of a 15th-place showing in Thursday’s 10K freestyle event, Garrec put herself in contention for the U-23 World Cup team scheduled to compete in Turkey later this winter.

A strong showing in Sunday’s classical sprint would do likewise for Welly Ramsey of New Sharon and the Maine Winter Sports Center after he finished 13th in Friday’s 30K event.

Having placed 55th in the previous day’s 15K freestyle race and feeling a cold or flu bug creeping into his system, Ramsey considered pulling the covers over his head Friday morning and going back to sleep.

“I was completely dead,” he said. “I just dragged myself out of bed, ate a bagel and hopped into the van.”

After walking around and speaking with MWSC coach Will Sweetser, Ramsey, who recently turned 21, opted to go ahead and give it a shot.

“Sometimes when it’s like that, when you feel something’s not quite right,” Sweetser said, “your body is ramped up to fight something off and you can have a really good day.”

Ramsey’s time of 1:28:49.3 was exactly two minutes behind that of Hoffman.

Two other skiers with Maine ties placed among the top 20 men Friday. Bates graduate Sylvan Ellefson of Colorado finished 16th and Nils Koons, a Messalonskee High School graduate from Sidney, was 20th.

Also, Spencer Eusden (South Paris, Bowdoin) was 41st in 1:34:06; Tim Whiton (Portland, Gould Academy coach) was 44th in 1:34:46; Mike Lessard (Greene, MWSC) was 46th in 1:35:00; Fred Bailey (Andover, MWSC) was 54th in 1:37:39; Andrew Clemence (Falmouth, University of New Hampshire) was 64th in 1:40:18; and Justin Fereshetian (Turner, UMaine-Presque Isle) was 66th in 1:42:22.

Today is a training day with only two adaptive sit-ski races scheduled, of 5 kilometers for women and 10 for men.

The event concludes with Sunday’s classical sprints.


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