Two days after he skied a forgettable race at the U.S. National Championships, Erik Bjornsen turned in a performance he's bound to remember for a long time.
Bjornsen, 21, captured his first national title Friday by winning the men's 15-kilometer freestyle race on the Soldier Hollow trails in Midway, Utah.
The win was part of a golden day for Alaska Pacific University's nordic ski center, which celebrated two championships -- Rosie Brennan won the women's 10-K freestyle for her first national title and her second trip to the podium this week.
Brennan won bronze in Wednesday's classic sprint, a race Bjornsen was expected to do well in. But after qualifying for the quarterfinals with the 13th-fastest preliminary time of the day, Bjornsen finished fifth in his heat, ending his hopes to make the finals, much less win a medal.
But the disappointment provided him with fuel for Friday's race.
"I woke up this morning just wanting revenge from the classic race," Bjornsen told fasterskier.com.
He earned redemption by racing to a time of 37 minutes, 2.7 seconds, beating defending national champion Tad Elliott of Vail, Colo., by six seconds and bronze medalist Matt Gelso of Sun Valley, Idaho, by 15.6 seconds.
Bjornsen, who is from Winthrop, Wash., but has trained in Alaska ever since he graduated from high school, was part of a big Alaska contingent that made its presence known in a big way Friday.
Brennan, a 24-year-old who came to APU from Park City, Utah, won the women's race in 29:12.2 and led an APU sweep of the medals. Sadie Bjornsen, Erik's older sister, took silver in 29:23.2, and Kate Fitzgerald of Palmer took bronze in 29:50.5.
Anchorage's Caitlin Patterson, a former Alaska Winter Stars skier who trains in Vermont with the Craftsbury Green Racing Program, placed fifth, and Fairbanks' Becca Rorabaugh of APU placed sixth.
Erik Bjornsen was the sole Alaskan on the men's podium, but four others joined him in the top 11.
Anchorage's Patrick Johnson, who trains in Sun Valley, Idaho, was fifth, Fairbanks' David Norris of Montana State was ninth, Anchorage's Mark Iverson of APU was 10th and Anchorage's Scott Patterson of the University of Vermont -- Caitlin's younger brother, who also grew up training with Alaska Winter Stars -- was 11th.
Erik Bjornsen came to Anchorage to ski collegiately for UAA, where he became an NCAA All-American as a sophomore by claiming second place in the 20-K national championship. Then he joined Sadie at APU, which doesn't field an NCAA team but instead focuses on training elite skiers for international competition.
Both Bjornsens collected medals Friday. It was the second straight silver for Sadie, who was edged at the finish line in Wednesday's sprint. Brennan took the bronze medal in that race.
Heading into Sunday's mass-start classic race, APU skiers have grabbed five of the six women's medals awarded so far at the championships. And the team's best skiers aren't even at Soldier Hollow -- Kikkan Randall and Holly Brooks are both in Italy, competing in the Tour de Ski.
Reach Beth Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships
Friday at Soldier Hollow, Utah
Men's 15-kilometer freestyle
1) Erik Bjornsen, APU, 37:02.7; 2) Tad Elliott, SSC Vail/Team HomeGrown, 37:08.7; 3) Matthew Gelso, Sun Valley, 37:18.3.
Other Alaskans -- 5) Patrick Johnson, Sun Valley, 38:03.9; 9) David Norris, Montana State, 38:35.3; 10) Mark Iverson, APU, 38:35.5; 11) Scott Patterson, Vermont, 38:35.9; 22) Reese Hanneman, UAF, 39:12.8; 30) Logan Hanneman, UAF, 39:43.3; 31) Andrew Dougherty, Denver, 39:46.3; 32) Forest Mahlen, APU, 39:47.5; 34) Dylan Watts, APU, 39:49.7; 38) Viktor Braennmark, UAA, 39:53.7; 39) Jack Novak, APU, 39:54.3; 45) Tyler Kornfield, UAF, 40:10.7; 46) Lex Treinen, UAF, 40:12.7; 47) Eric Packer, Stratton Mt., 40:13.2.
60) Jake Brown, FAST, 40:56.3; 62) Silas Talbot, Dartmouth, 40:58.7; 67) Max Olex, UAF, 41:12.9; 71) Thomas O'Harra, APU, 41:16.6; 73) Michael Fehrenbach, UAF, 41:18.0; 78) Erin Phillips, APU, 41:21.6; 80) Vanya Rybkin, NCS Fairbanks, 41:25.5; 81) Stefan Hajdukovich, UAF, 41:25.6; 92) Lasse Molgaard-Nielsen, UAA, 41:41.5; 96) Kenneth Brewer, UAF, 41:44.1; 98) Jonas Loeffler, UAF, 41:45.9.
110) Brandon Brewster, UAA, 42:26.1; 115) Riley Troyer, NCS Fairbanks, 42:44.5; 117) Seiji Takagi, Alaska Winter Stars, 42:48.5; 123) Erich Hoefler, FAST, 43:00.0; 130) Jan Ketterson, FAST, 43:17.5; 131) tie, Isaac Lammers, 43:21.9, and Tanner Ramey, AWS, 43:21.9; 140) Daniel Serventi, APU, 43:38.0; 141) Jacob Volz, APU, 43:41.6; 143) Andrew Arnold, UAF, 43:45.1; 147) David McPhetres, Alaska Nordic Racing, 43:56.1; 150) Alex Loan, Alaska Nordic, 44:02.7; 155) John Farr, APU, 44:12.9; 156) Eric Backstrum, AWS, 44:16.6; 160) Peter Brewer, Alaska Nordic, 44:22.7; 163) Davis Dunlap, UAA, 44:35.0; 171) John Glen, UAA, 44:54.3; 206) Michael Wise, APU, 48:25.7; 212) Garth Schulz, AWS, 50:56.7.
Women's 10-kilometer freestyle
1) Rosie Brennan, APU, 29:12.3; 2) Sadie Bjornsen, APU, 29:23.2; 3) Kate Fitzgerald, APU, 29:50.5.
Other Alaskans -- 5) Caitlin Patterson, Craftsbury Green, 29:54.7; 6) Becca Rorabaugh, APU, 30:01.3; 13) Marine Dusser, UAA, 30:52.2; 15) Chelsea Holmes, Sun Valley, 31:02.1; 17) Jessica Yeaton, Montana State, 31:07.3; 28) Sarah Cresap, APU, 32:26.7; 33) Sarah Freistone, UAA, 32:38.0; 37) Annie Liotta, Montana State, 32:43.4; 41) Heather Edic, UAF, 32:53.4; 42) Alyson McPhetres, UAF, 32:57.6; 44) Crystal Pitney, UAF, 33:03.1; 47) Kate Backstrum, Montana State, 33:10.0.
57) Marion Woods, AWS, 33:32.9; 68) Marit Rjabov, UAF, 33:52.2; 70) Theresia Schnurr, UAF, 33:55.1; 80) Sarissa Lammers, Alaska Nordic, 34:13.8; 89) Cara McCulloch, UAA, 34:26.6; 91) Hannah Boyer, Northern Michigan, 34:31.6; 94) Patricia Sprecher, UAA, 34:34.0; 97) Celia Haering, APU, 34:46.8.
100) Teagan Yutrzenka, AWS, 34:47.7; 106) Stephanie Kirk, Vermont, 35:10.6; 111) Tsaina Mahlen, APU, 35:26.6; 124) Megan Edic, Northern Michigan, 35:49.0; 127) Ann Spencer, AWS, 35:55.7; 132) Annika Flynn, AWS, 36:25.6; 140) Taryn Hunt-Smith, APU, 37:06.0; 144) Karina Packer, Dartmouth, 37:38.3; 147) Eliza Rorabaugh, NCS Fairbanks, 38:47.8.
By BETH BRAGG