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Kern Powers USA 1 to Fourth In Lillehammer Team Relay

By Tom Horrocks
December, 5 2021
Julia Kern
Julia Kern out-sprinting Finland’s Jasmi Joensuu to lead USA 1 to a fourth-place finish in the 4x5k team relay in Lillehammer, Norway, Sunday. (Modica/NordicFocus)

The Davis U.S. Cross Country Team wrapped up three days of FIS World Cup racing by fielding four teams in the men's and women’s relay, with the women’s Team USA 1 fighting back to finish fourth Sunday.

“The team relay spirit was out in full force!” said Julia Kern, who skied a tactical final leg for USA 1, pulling back five positions and out-sprinting Finland’s Jasmi Joensuu to finish in fourth. “It has been a blast to have such a big team on the road, with veterans, but also a lot of first-timers, adding a lot of new energy to the team.”

For the women’s 4x5k relay, USA 1 included Hailey Swirbul, Rosie Brennan, Jessie Diggins, and Kern. USA 2 finished 13th and included Sydney Palmer-Leger, Katharine Odgen, Sophia Laukli, and Novie McCabe. 

For the men’s 4x7.5k relay, USA 1 finished ninth and included Luke Jager, Ben Ogden, Gus Schumacher, and Zanden McMullen. USA 2 finished 15th and included Hunter Wonders, David Norris, Kevin Bolger, and JC Schoonmaker.

“It was so, so fun to have two relay teams for both the men and the women,” Diggins said. “We brought a lot of fire to the race today, and I was just so proud watching everyone ski so hard and really just giving it all they had out there today.”

In the women’s race, USA 1 kicked off with Hailey Swirbul skiing the opening classic leg. Swirbul was skied with the lead group until she, unfortunately, broke her pole basket. “She fought hard until the end despite having a sinking pole for most of the race,” Kern said. 

Still chasing Russia, Norway and Sweden, Brennen tagged off the Diggins for the first 5k freestyle leg. With Russia 1, Sweden 1, and Norway 1 setting the pace at the front of the race, Swirbul tagged off to Brennan for the second 5k classic leg. Brennen then posted the fourth-fastest classic lap time, moving USA 1 into eighth.

“For me, it was so fun because I got to ski or leg that I have never seen before,” Diggins said. “We wanted to see if I could just go for as much time as possible, and that is exactly what I did.” 

Diggins worked with Norway’s Ragnhild Haga to pull back more time on the leaders, posting the second-fasted 5k freestyle lap time before tagging off to Kern. Sitting 26 seconds off the leaders, Kern crushed the final 5k, passing Russia 2, Germany 1, Norway 2, setting up a sprint to the line with Joensuu from Finland 1 for fourth, just 21 seconds off the podium.

“I was really happy with how my body and my skis felt,” Kern said. “I was skiing smart within the pack, avoiding a crash, and skiing to my strengths by racing a tactical leg.”

The FIS Cross Country World Cup tour moves to central Europe with races in Davos, Switzerland next weekend, including a freestyle sprint on Saturday, Dec. 11, and distance freestyle races on Sunday, Dec. 12. Heading into Davos, Brennen and Diggins sit fourth and fifth in the overall World Cup standings.

Women’s 4x5k relay
Men’s 4x7.5k relay

Women’s World Cup overall
Men’s World Cup overall
Women’s World Cup distance
Men’s World Cup distance