By Mike Maltais

Erik Bjornsen captured a national championship title in the 15-kilometer classic and led a contingent of Methow Valley skiers who competed at the U.S. National Championships held at Soldier Hollow, Utah, last Saturday and Sunday.

Along with the 15K, Saturday’s docket also featured a women’s 10K in which Winthrop’s Caitlin Gregg earned a silver medal with a second-place finish. Her husband, Brian Gregg, made his statement in the 15K with a fifth-place finish.

“Hopefully this moves Erik, Brian and Caitlin one step closer to the Olympics but it is hard to say,” said Leslie Hall, Methow Valley Nordic Team (MVNT) program director and herself a three-time Olympian.

MVNTs Olivia Ekblad experienced her first competition at senior nationals and placed 110th overall and 19th in the U18 girls’ category.

Sunday was skate sprint day at U.S. Nationals. “Caitlin scorched the qualifier with the fastest female time by four seconds, which is significant in a 1.5K race,” said Hall. “She ended up being edged out in the final and placed second on the day after some excitement in the quarterfinals.”

Ekblad and Maya Seckinger both performed well but didn’t make it past the qualifier in the junior event, Hall said. “Seckinger placed 105th overall, eighth in the U16 girls and about 32nd in junior. Ekblad was 121st overall, 29th in the U18 girls and about 39th in combined junior.”

The men’s race found Sam Naney qualifying in third, Bjornsen ninth and Brian Gregg 28th. All advanced to the quarterfinals.

“Naney and Gregg ended up in the same quarter and with only two advancing they both made it,” Hall said.

Bjornsen experienced some bad luck with a crash near the end of his quarter that ended his competition for the day. Naney and Gregg made it into the final and finished sixth and eighth respectively.

Results can be found at http://summittiming.com/races/race_results.php.