Bjornsen's gold leads way for Alaskans at national ski championships

Beth Bragg

Sadie Bjornsen led another blockbuster showing for Alaska skiers -- and the Bjornsen family -- Sunday at the U.S. National cross country ski championships.

After earning silver medals in the first two races, Bjornsen ascended to the top of the podium by winning the women's 20-kilometer classic race at Utah's Soldier Hollow. She beat teammate and silver medalist Kate Fitzgerald of Palmer by 12.9 seconds

"I have been looking forward to trying to get a win this week, so I'm happy to get to stand on the top," Bjornsen, 23, said in a press release from the U.S. Ski Team. "Today my goal was to do my best out there and not walk away from the day feeling like I could have made improvements.

"The last two races it's been a small margin, so I knew today it was my opportunity since classic is a strength of mine."

In the men's 30-K, Sadie's brother Erik claimed silver and David Norris of Fairbanks took bronze. Torin Koss, a longtime member of the U.S. Ski Team, grabbed a narrow 3.1-second victory for his eight career title.

The Bjornsens are both members of the U.S. Ski Team and together they have collected five medals in three races at the national championships. Sadie was outlunged at the finish line in the freestyle sprint and was the runnerup by 11 seconds in the 10-K freestyle; Erik won the 15-K freestyle after getting shut out in the sprint.

Sadie, 23, blazed the pair's trail from Winthrop, Wash., to Alaska. She came to UAA in 2008 and became an NCAA All-American her freshman season. The next year, she quit collegiate skiing and joined the Alaska Pacific University nordic program.

Erik, 21, followed a similar path. He spent a season at UAA, earning All-America honors as a freshman just like his sister, and then joined the APU program.

APU's women have been on fire at the national championships, even though their top two skiers -- Kikkan Randall and Holly Brooks -- are racing in Europe. With Sadie leading the way, APU has earned seven of the nine medals awarded.

Fitzgerald has two medals -- she was third in the 10-K freestyle -- and so does Rosie Brennan of Park City, Utah -- gold in the 10-K freestyle and bronze in the sprint. Fitzgerald placed fourth in the sprint and Brennan finished fourth in Sunday's 20-K, behind Vermont's Sophie Caldwell.

Bjornsen took control of the race on the final hill in the Soldier Hollow stadium.

"I've never skied a classic race for this long, so I knew the key was just going to be to relax through it," she said. "I tried to stay in the pack -- lead some, follow some. Never blow out my legs.

"I knew when I saw Sophie still in the pack that the sprinters were still hanging in and that it was going to be challenging coming down to the final sprint. On the sprint hill I tried to surge and break her legs a little bit and I looked and she was still with me, and so going up the hill I just gave it my all and I could hear that the gap was growing bigger. From there I just hammered the rest of the way home."

Logan Hanneman of Fairbanks won the junior boys 10-K classic, with Anchorage's Forest Mahlen placing fourth. In the junior girls 5-K, Anchorage skiers Annie Liotta and Sarah Freistone placed sixth and seventh, respectively.

The championships wrap up Tuesday at Soldier Hollow with a freestyle sprint.

Reach Beth Bragg at or 257-4335.

U.S. National Championships

Men's 30-K classic

1) Torin Koos. 1:26:04, 2) Erik Bjornsen, APU, 1:26.07.1; 3) David Norris, Montana State, 1:26.12.1

Other Alaskans -- 11) Patrick Johnson, Sun Valley, 1:26:46.2; 12) Andrew Dougherty, University of Denver, 1:26:48.1; 13) Michael Fehrenback, UAF, 1:26:50.9; 14) Brent Knight, APU, 1:7:38.6; 17) Moelgaard-Nielsen, UAA, 1:27:55.1; 18) Lukas Ebner, UAA, 1:28:11.1; 19) Scott Patterson, University of Vermont, 1:28:30.6; 20) Lex Treinen, UAF, 1:28:37.2; 21) Jonas Loeffler, UAF, 1:28:47.3; 28) Eric Packer, Stratton Mountain, 1:29:43.9; 31) Tyler Kornfield, UAF, 1:29:50.7; 35) Dylan Watts, APU, 1:30:48.5; 36) Silas Talbot, Dartmouth, 1:30:59.9; 42) Peter Kling, APU, 1:31.44.8; 44) Erik Fagerstrom, Dartmouth, 1:32.05.1; 45) Max Olex, UAF, 1:32:14.4; 53) Andrew Arnold, UAF, 1:34.01.1; 56) Kenneth Brewer, UAF, 1:34:35.6; 60) Viktor Braennmark, UAA, 1:35:46.7; 70) Peter Brewer, Alaska Nordic Racing, 1:39:12.6; 75) Davis Dunlap, UAA, 1:40:31.0; 76) Carl Smith, Alaska Winter Stars, 1:40:48.8.

Women's 20-K classic

1) Sadie Bjornsen, APU, 1:05:39.2; 2) Kate Fitzgerald, APU, 1:05:52.1; 3) Sophie Caldwell, Stratton Mountain, 1:05:53.3.

Other Alaskans -- 4) Rosie Brennan, APU, 1:05:59.6; 5) Caitlin Patterson, Craftsbury Green, 1:06:04; 6) Chelsea Holmes, Sun Valley, 1:06:15.7; 9) Becca Rorabaugh, APU, 1:09::14.9; 11) Marine Dusser, UAA, 1:09:46.8; 16) Jessica Yeaton, Montana State, 1:10:14.1; 23) Sarah Cresap, APU, 1:11:38.8; 28) Heather Edic, UAF, 1:12:18.2; 30) Crystal Pitney, UAF, 1:12:54; 37) Marit Rjabov, UAF, 1:14:10.5; 38) Karina Smith, UAA, 1:14:17.7; 39) Patricia Sprecher, UAA, 1:14:47.1; 43) Karina Packer, Dartmouth, 1:15:44.9; 45) Theresia Schnurr, UAF, 1:15:57.8; 49) Maya Radonich, UAA, 1:17:34.8; 53) Cara McCulloch, UAA, 1:19:27.4; 58) Kailey Mucha, Wisconsin-Green Bay, 1:24:27.1.

Junior boys 10-K classic

1) Logan Hanneman, UAF, 27:57.9; 2) Kyle Bratrud, Northern Michigan, 28:03.9; 3) Tucker McCrerey, Utah, 28:06.9.

Other Alaskans -- 4) Forest Mahlen, APU, 28:14.1; 13) Benjamin Saxton, Fairbanks, 29:01.1; 21) Jack Novak, APU, 29:11.3; 22) Thomas O'Harra, APU, 29:13.6; 30) Jan Ketterson, Fairbanks, 29:56.9; 31) Stefan Hadjukovich, UAF, 29:58.3; 32) Isaac Lammers, Eagle River, 30:00.0; 35) Vanya Rybkin, Fairbanks, 30:07.3; 39) Alex Loan, Alaska Nordic Racing, 30:16.1; 41) Riley Troyer, Fairbanks, 30:22; 43) Jacob Volz, APU, 30:22.6; 48) Erich Loeffler, Fairbanks, 30:36; 54) Daniel Servanti, APU, 30:45.5; 58) Brandon Brewster, UAA, 30:52.9; 59) Tanner Ramey, Alaska Winter Stars, 31:01; 60) Seiji Takagi, AWS, 31:04.9; 65) Matthew Muffoletto, AWS, 31:29.8; 66) John Glen, UAA, 31:30.2; 68) Jack Parke, AWS, 31:40.7; 71) David McPhetres, Alaska Nordic Racing, 31:44.5; 79) John Farr, APU, 32:03.2; 81) Michael Wise, APU, 32:06.6; 86) Garth Schulz, AWS, 32:26.8; 87) Eric Backstrum, AWS, 32:29.4; 89) Zach Goldberg, Fairbanks, 32:51.4;

Junior girls 5-K classic

1) Katharine Ogden, Stratton Mountain, 15:55.2; 2) Mary O'Connell, Dartmouth, 15:55.8; 3) Heather Mooney, Middlebury, 16:02.1.

Alaskans --6) Annie Liotta, Montana State, 16:16; 7) Sarah Freistone, UAA, 16:19.3; 22) Sarissa Lammers, Alaska Nordic Racing, 16:45.5; 25) Hannah Boyer, Northern Michigan, 16:46.3; 30) Tsaina Mahlen, APU, 16:56.1; 32) Marion Woods, AWS, 17:00.3; 44) Celia Haering, APU, 17:43.8; 50) Megan Edic, Northern Michigan, 17:48.3; 52) Stephanie Kirk, Vermont, 17:49.2; 57) Ann Spencer, AWS, 18:06.5; 66) Teagan Yutrzenka, AWS, 18:22.5; 69) Annika Flynn, AWS, 18:33.7.