Another national championship for Rosie Brennan and two more medals for the Alaska Pacific University men made for a fantastic finish for the Alaska contingent at the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships in Houghton, Michigan.
Brennan captured her third national title in four races by dominating Saturday's freestyle sprint, ruling a six-woman final that included three APU skiers. Chelsea Holmes of Girdwood finished fourth and Becca Rorabaugh of Fairbanks placed fifth.
APU skiers made up half of the men's final too, and they claimed two of the three medals. Tyler Kornfield of Anchorage placed second, Reese Hanneman of Fairbanks took bronze and Lex Treinen placed fifth behind winner Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess of Bend, Oregon.
The championships amounted to a week-long coronation ceremony for Brennan and a coming-out party for the APU men.
Brennan, 26, was the only skier to medal in all four races on the Michigan Tech ski trails. She won the bronze medal in last Sunday's 10-K freestyle, battling back after a broken pole led to two faceplants and left her with only one pole for about two kilometers.
"I'm really ecstatic," a smiling Brennan said in a videotaped interview. "It's been an incredible week. I couldn't have asked for more. This is by far the best race series I've ever had in my life."
Brennan came into the championships as the leader of the SuperTour domestic race series, a status that earned her a spot on the U.S. Ski Team's World Cup squad. Brennan will ride this big wave of momentum all the way to Europe, where she will join APU teammates Kikkan Randall and Sadie Bjornsen.
The championships also provided a showcase for an APU men's team that has added several new skiers in the last two years -- most of them Alaskans -- and is gaining prominence on the national stage.
The medals for Kornfield and Hanneman gave APU three for the week. The first came Thursday when Treinen won silver in the 30-K classic, and all week long, team members claimed spots in the top 10.
"This is the best men's team I've ever been a part of," Hanneman said in a taped interview. "The vibe is so good right now."
Hanneman won medals in three races at last year's championships, but Kornfield's silver was his first national-championships medal since 2012.
In an interview conducted and shared by his teammates, Kornfield said it felt great to be back on the podium. "Everything went perfectly today," he said.
Saturday's race provided a near-perfect finish for a lot of Alaskans. Seven of the 12 semifinal spots in the men's race and five of the 12 in the women's race went to Alaskans.
In the women's B final, which decided the seventh through 12th places, Anchorage skier Jessica Yeaton and Caitlin Patterson finished 1-2 to claim seventh and eighth place, respectively. In the men's B final, Logan Hanneman of UAF placed second, followed by APU skiers David Norris and Eric Packer, results that made them eighth, ninth and 10th overall, respectively.
Alaska's juniors dominated too.
Lydia Blanchet took the gold medal and Taryn Hunt-Smith placed fifth in the girls race, and in the boys race, three Alaskans made it to the six-skier finals -- third-place Seiji Takagi of Alaska Winter Stars, fifth-place Conner Truskowski of APU and sixth-place Dawson Knopp of Alaska Nordic Racing.