APU's Bjornsen, partner 5th in World Cup relay ski race

Sadie Bjornsen of Alaska Pacific University helped the U.S. Ski Team wrap up a tremendously successful three days of competition at the site of next year's Winter Olympics.

Bjornsen teamed up with Ida Sargent of Orleans, Vt., to claim fifth place in a World Cup team sprint race Sunday in snowy Sochi, Russia.

Bjornsen and Sargent won their semifinal heat and finished less than four seconds away from a medal in the finals.

Taking gold in the race, which consisted of six trips around the 1.4-kilometer sprint course, with partners alternating each leg, was Finland in 17 minutes, 8.95 seconds.

Bjornsen and Sargent clocked 17:16.11 and were less than four seconds behind the bronze-medal team from Canada (17:12.53).

It was the second time this season Bjornsen and Sargent have cracked the top 10 in a World Cup team sprint. They placed seventh in Liberac, Czech Republic, earlier this year.

"Each team sprint Sadie and I do together, we move up a little more," Sargent said in a release from the U.S. Ski Team. "You have to be happy with that.

"It was tough because we were so close to the podium. That's the goal. It's so close -- we can totally do it."

The U.S. men's team of Simi Hamilton and Andy Newell grabbed seventh place in the men's race after winning its semifinal heat to share in the week's successful showing in Sochi.

Anchorage's Kikkan Randall got things rolling for the Americans on Thursday by winning the freestyle sprint race and leading five U.S. women into the quarterfinal heats.

Randall, the star of the team who triumphed despite a chest cold that limited her training, skipped the remaining two races in an effort to regain her health. But other U.S. skiers came up big, including Liz Stephen of E. Montpelier, Vt., who posted a career-high eighth-place result in the 15-kilometer skiathlon Saturday.

Then the men's and women's sprint teams turned in impressive results Sunday. Hamilton and Newell were in fourth place in the men's final before getting tangled up in a crash.

Bjornsen, who is from Winthrop, Wash., but trains in Anchorage with APU, teamed with Randall to win a World Cup team sprint last season. Randall has sat out the last two team sprints -- she chose not to race in Liberac in order to recover from the arduous Tour de Ski -- but in her absence, Bjornsen and Sargent have proven a worthy partnership.

"I think when we come back here next year we're going to be in the hunt for medals at this event," said U.S. Ski Team coach Chris Grover.

Anchorage Daily News