Sonnesyn successfully defends Birkie title; Norris avenges photo-finish defeat from 2022

The Minnesota native and defending champion won by about seven seconds.

Skier celebrates win
Alayna Sonnesyn of Minneapolis celebrates her victory at the 48th annual Slumberland Birkebeiner Skate Race in Hayward, Wisconsin in 2022. Sonnesyn won the event again, for a fourth time, on Saturday.
Jake Przytarski / File / Cloquet Pine Journal

HAYWARD, Wis. — Alayna Sonnesyn is becoming something of a one-woman American Birkebeiner dynasty.

The Wayzata High School alumna, listed as being from Minneapolis, won the women's 50-kilometer elite skate race for the fourth consecutive time in which she has competed, taking this year's 49th annual edition on Saturday.

Sonnesyn crossed the finish line in downtown Hayward in a time of 2 hours, 27 minutes, 35.72 seconds, a little more than seven seconds ahead of runner-up Jessica Yeaton of Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Sonnesyn first won the Birkie in 2019 in her first attempt, not long after graduating from the University of Vermont. She did not defend her title in 2020, as she was skiing in World Cup races. Sonnesyn came back for a COVID-19 altered Birkie that didn't finish in Hayward, then prevailed in a more conventional setting in 2022.

Erin Bianco of Ely was 13th among elite women's finishers, while Chelsey Youngberg of Duluth, a Duluth East and St. Scholastica alumna, was right behind her in 14th.


The men's finish had several echoes of 2022 as well. In that event, David Norris of Steamboat Springs and Gerard Agnellet of France went to a photo finish, which the Frenchman won.

This time, Norris left no doubt, winning by more than two minutes in a time of 2:05:39.93. Agnellet was second, though much farther from the front this time.

Bryan Cook of Duluth led local finishers with a 17th-place finish.

Scott Hill (Canmore, Alberta, Canada) and Julie Ensrud (Minneapolis) were the 50-k classic winners.

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