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Nordic SuperTour sprint event today

This season's Nordic World Cup schedule began Oct. 27 with a 1.5-kilometer sprint event on man-made snow through the lighted streets of Dusseldorf, Germany.

This season's Nordic World Cup schedule began Oct. 27 with a 1.5-kilometer sprint event on man-made snow through the lighted streets of Dusseldorf, Germany.

It was televised internationally by World Championship Sports Network, raising the profile of sprint racing, which has been part of the past two Winter Olympics.

Head-to-head sprint racing, under the lights, comes to Duluth today on the Duluth Marshall campus as part of the SuperTour series, featuring developing Nordic athletes. Approximately 40 entrants are expected for elimination rounds beginning at 4 p.m. Finals are set for 5:30 p.m. on what's predicted to be a frigid evening.

"Sprint racing is the best cross-country spectator event by far,'' said St. Scholastica Nordic coach Chad Salmela, who's worked as an Olympic biathlon broadcaster for NBC-TV. "It's very exciting, very entertaining.''

Construction site-type lighting will be used for the 1.4K course adjacent to Marshall's football field. Racers will compete for $5,000 in prize money ($875 to the top man and woman), before the SuperTour moves on to Telemark Lodge in Cable, Wis., for races Saturday and Sunday.

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Also today are high school 100-meter races at 4:30 p.m. and a citizen's 4.2K mass start race at 6:30 p.m.

Among the top SuperTour skiers expected to compete are Phil Wood, Michael Somppi and Sarah Hewitt, with the Canadian National Team Development Center in Thunder Bay, Ontario; former University of New Mexico athlete Kristina Strandberg of Sweden; Alaska-Fairbanks senior Marius Korthauer of Germany; and Emily Nishikawa of Whitehorse, Yukon.

Top skiers from the Northland include Andre Watt of Duluth and former U.S. Olympic biathlete Carolyn Treacy Bramante of Minneapolis. A donation of $5 to the American Red Cross can be made by spectators.

An annual SuperTour sprint event in Duluth is the goal of organizer Dave Johnson, who helped direct the building of the Marshall course starting in 2003.

"The races have been at Telemark during a weekday with few spectators. We'd like to keep it here and build the interest and the caliber of the field,'' said Johnson, Nordic coach at Marshall.

American sprint skiing received a huge boost Dec. 16 when Kikkan Randall of Anchorage, Alaska, became the first U.S. woman to win a World Cup Nordic race. She defeated world sprint champion Astrid Jacobsen of Norway in a 1.2K event in Demino, Russia.

This week's SuperTour races are being held at the same time as a World Cup stop in Canmore, Alberta, which began Tuesday and has sprint finals Saturday.

n The Lake Superior College Nordic Spirit Ski Race and Tour is Sunday at Spirit Mountain with three races: 10K at 8:50 a.m., and a 13K and 25K freestyle at 9 a.m. About 250 entrants are expected.

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The start and finish are on the downhill side of Spirit Mountain next to the chalet. Skiers can enter at www.midwestevents.com and www.duluthxc.com . The entry fee is $40 through Friday and $50 on race day. A ski expo is 6-7:30 p.m. Saturday and starting at 7 a.m. Sunday.

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