Having ruled the U.S. National cross-country ski championships, Sadie Bjornsen of Anchorage is ready to take on the world.
Bjornsen, 23, captured a medal for the fourth time in four races at the championships in Midway, Utah, completing her haul by claiming gold in Tuesday's freestyle sprint.
The winner of two golds and two silvers, Bjornsen now heads to Europe for the World Cup tour. She'll join a strong U.S. women's squad that includes two of her Alaska Pacific University teammates, Kikkan Randall and Holly Brooks, who have been racing the World Cup all season long and just finished the Tour de Ski, nordic skiing's most grueling race series.
"This is good confidence going into the World Cup," Bjornsen told the U.S. Ski Team. "When you're exhausted ,sometimes your head struggles a bit by thinking "How am I going to do this? I'm so tired," and today was exactly a confidence builder because it reminded me that even when you're tired you can still go.
"And of course I was thinking about my teammates who just competed at the Tour de Ski and how exhausted they must have been. Now I'm back on the World Cup through the rest of the season."
Bjornsen's brother Erik, 21, finished second in the men's race for his third medal of the championships -- two silvers and one gold.
A pair of Fairbanks skiers -- Becca Rorabaugh of APU and Logan Hanneman of UAF -- turned in fourth-place performances.
In the junior races, Alaskans grabbed three of the six medals awarded. Forest Mahlen of APU and Tanner Ramey of Alaska Winter Stars placed second and third, respectively, in the boys race, and Celia Haering of APU took silver in the girls race. APU's Thomas O'Harra, sixth among boys, was the only other Alaskan to make it to the finals.
Sadie Bjornsen was the eighth-fastest qualifier in the 1.3-kilometer race and went on to win her quarterfinal and semifinal heats.
"I struggled a bit in the qualifiers this morning so it was a good test for me to come back and know that I could go for it," she said. "I ended up in the right place on the downhill and kicked it home.
"... Everybody was exhausted today after four races. Today was really about who could dig the deepest and who could really go for it when they're exhausted."
Dakota Blackhorse von Jess of Bend, Ore., beat Erik Bjornsen for the men's championship.
Reach Beth Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
By BETH BRAGG