SOLDIER HOLLOW, UT (Jan. 4) - APU Nordic had a strong day at the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships with Erik Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA/APU Nordic) and Rosie Brennan (Park City, UT/APU Nordic) taking their first U.S. titles. Bjornsen won the men's 15k freestyle individual start in 37:02.7, a six second margin over U.S. Ski Team teammate Tad Elliott (Durango, CO/Ski and Snowboard Club Vail). Matt Gelso (Truckee, CA/Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation) took bronze. APU Nordic swept the women's podium with Brennan winning the 10k in 29:12.3 - an 11 second margin over Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA/APU Nordic). Kate Fitzgerald (Palmer, AK/APU Nordic) won bronze. Action continues Sunday with mass start classic distance racing at Soldier Hollow, the 2002 Olympic venue.
Erik Bjornsen skied to his first U.S. title at the U.S. Cross Country Championships at Soldier Hollow. (USSA-Sarah Brunson)
- Erik Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA/APU Nordic) and Rosie Brennan (Park City, UT/APU Nordic) taking their first U.S. titles at the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships at Soldier Hollow.
- In the 15k freestyle individual start, Bjornsen took a six second win over U.S. Ski Team teammate Tad Elliott (Durango, CO/Ski and Snowboard Club Vail) with Matt Gelso (Truckee, CA/Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation) taking bronze.
- Local native Rosie Brennan (Park City, UT/APU Nordic) came back from bronze in the classic sprint Wednesday to take her first gold in a victory over Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA/APU Nordic). It was Bjornsen's second silver. Kate Fitzgerald (Palmer, AK/APU Nordic) was third.
- APU Nordic took four medals, including both gold and a sweep of the women's podium.
- Over 430 athletes from around the country are taking part in the U.S. Championships at Soldier Hollow, the 2002 Olympic venue.
- Racing continues with classic mass start racing Sunday, closing with freestyle sprints next Tuesday.
I'm still a little bit in shock. I can't believe I just won nationals. It's so amazing. My race was unbelievable. I've never been top 10 in a distance race at nationals so to win it was pretty crazy. I went out hard and caught some fast dudes and worked with [Matt] Gelso, who was third today. He kind of pulled me for a lot of it. I was kind of dying the second lap and then the last lap I pulled a couple times for Gelso and just felt like we were hammering that last lap. Coming down the last hill I was just thinking "don't fall! Don't lose it!" because my legs we so filled with lactate. Then I just hammered into the finish and I couldn't believe it. I was just so excited.
So far my time here has been fabulous. I have already exceeded my expectations so I'm just hoping that it will keep going that way! This course has great up hills and that plays to my strengths. The flatter sections here are my challenge but I was able to work with some teammates to work through the flats. It's great to be back home and have my friends and family able to watch. I've been off for the past year's cross country ski racing and nobody really knows what it is, so it's great for them to finally have been able to come out and see it.
I'm happy with today. Skating has always been my weaker event so I'm definitely happy that I was able to do what I did today. But I do want my win this week! We have two more races. I'm on the number two streak so now I want to break that in the upward manner.