ANCHORAGE — An Anchorage cross country skier has won her first national championship.
Holly Brooks led a strong showing by Alaska Pacific University in the 1.4-kilometer women’s senior classic sprint on Sunday’s opening day of the U.S. Cross Country Championships at Black Mountain in Rumford, Maine.
Following Brooks, an APU coach who became an Olympic racer last year, was the University of Colorado’s Eliska Hajkova, with APU’s Morgan Smyth in third and Sadie Bjornsen in fourth. Because Hajkova, from the Czech Republic, is not a U.S. citizen, Brooks, Smyth and Bjornsen were awarded the gold, silver and bronze medals, respectively.
Brooks won by about 10 seconds, a huge margin in such a short race. She used her strength on uphills to build a big gap going into a double-pole finish.
“Someone yelled near the end that I could slow down, but in my mind there was no way. I don’t even think I raised my arms going across the finish,” she told the Anchorage Daily News. “You can’t take anything for granted in a sprint race.”
APU’s Katie Ronsse came in 5th in the six-woman final.
“To line up for the finals at nationals with three of your teammates, you couldn’t ask for anything better,” Bjornsen said.
The men’s final was won by U.S. Ski Team member Torin Koos of Leavenworth, Wash. Taking fourth in the six-man race was Erik Bjornsen of Winthrop, Wash., Sadie Bjornsen’s brother and a skier for University of Alaska Anchorage. Two-time Olympian Lars Flora of APU was fifth, and Eric Packer of the Alaska Winter Stars was sixth.
The championships continue through Saturday.