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Brennan Secures Third Place in Drammen City Sprints: A Resilient Comeback Amidst Strong Team Performance

By Leann Bentley - Stifel U.S. Ski Team
March, 12 2024
rosie brennan
Rosie Brennan on the podium in Drammen, Norway for the classic sprint. (NordicFocus)

Rosie Brennan is back.

In the heart of Drammen, Norway, amidst one of the most exciting and challenging races on the circuit, Rosie Brennan made a remarkable comeback, clinching third place in the Drammen City Sprints.

In a season that started with back-to-back podiums and top-10 after top-10, Brennan has faced many ups and downs this 2023-24 season. After only three days rest between last week's 50k Holmenkollen, where athletes skied 31+ miles with over 6,000 feet of elevation gain, Brennan and the field were tasked with a course that played to double pole strength and a whole lot of grit.

"Honestly, I'm a bit surprised! I felt really bad yesterday, so I think the extra day helped. You never know what the body will do - maybe I need to do a 50k warm-up all the time!" Brennan joked. "I am so happy. It's been a tough year. I didn't know what was going on or what I could do to get back, but it's nice to know that it's still there and that I can have a strong finish to the season."

With the podium, Brennan snags her fifth individual podium of the season, but even more special, she finally can check the box on two of her career-long goals. When starting her career, Brennan set out to collect bibs 1-50. With 228 World Cup starts and today's bib #3, Brennan collected 1-50, checking off a goal that seemed impossible towards the beginning of her career. Her second, and more important, goal was to podium in every single World Cup discipline - both classic and sprint, skate and distance. Today, she achieved that goal with her third-place result in the classic sprint. 

But Brennan wasn't the only one shining on the classic tracks today. Her teammates also had a stellar performance, with three U.S. women joining Brennan in the sprint heats and three U.S. men advancing through from the qualification round. This strong representation underscored the depth of talent within the Stifel U.S. Cross Country Ski Team and once again put the red, white and blue in full display among the thousands of Norwegian flags lining every square inch of the Drammen city sprint loop. 

In the men's race, the U.S. contingent continued to impress with three men, including Zanden McMullen, securing spots in the heats. McMullen's performance was particularly noteworthy as he achieved his career-best result, finishing in 17th place. His result comes off the back of a strong season for the young Alaskan, who bested his previous result in nearly every World Cup weekend. Alongside McMullen was the leading man, JC Schoonmaker. Schoonmaker skied a tactical, gritty race to advance through to the finals, where he finished sixth. He is having a stellar season, with back-to-back top 10s and his career-first podium earlier this winter in the Östersund classic sprint. Zak Ketterson was the third American to advance and though his day ended with the quarterfinal, he nabbed another top-30 result to add to his strong World Cup resume. 

"It feels great to be back in the finals just to know I can be in there," said Schoonmaker. "For sure would’ve loved to put up more of a fight in the end, but it’s some pretty fast guys in there and they don’t make it easy. I went into today trying to focus on trusting my finishing ability and even though I wasn’t finishing very well, it put me in a good position to move on. Was glad to feel like I was making smart choices and being active mentally during the heats."

For the women, it was Brennan, Julia Kern and Jessie Diggins punching their ticket to the heats. Brennan qualified third, setting herself up nicely going into the quarters with Diggins and Kern close behind. Brennan and Kern qualified through to semifinals, while Diggins did not advance out of the quarters. In the semis, Brennan crossed the line in fourth, advancing through based on her time; Kern did not advance but still finished the day in seventh, a testament to her strong skiing through the day and another noteworthy top 10 to her resume, on her favorite course no less.

Into the finals, in the decisive moments of the race, Brennan's grit showed. With a burst of speed in the final stretch, she surged ahead, securing her place on the podium with a well-earned third place. Met by nearly her entire team, including all the wax technicians and coaching staff, the team celebrated yet another Stifel U.S. Ski Team podium with the city of Drammen cheering right behind them.

For the women, Brennan led the way on the podium, Kern seventh, Diggins 16th, Erin Bianco of Bridger Ski Foundation in 36th, Sammy Smith of the Stifel U.S. Cross Country Ski Team D Team in 42nd, and Alaska Pacific Universities Renae Anderson in 43. For the men, Schoonmaker was sixth, McMullen 17th, Zak Ketterson 29th, Gus Schumacher 32nd, Kevin Bolger of Team Birkie 34th, Luke Jager 41st and Michael Earnhart 52nd. 

Now the team resets for yet another race weekend, only 48 hours away, where they will close out this historic season in Falun, Sweden for the cross country World Cup Finals. 

Tuesday's results in Drammen ended with Norway's Kristine Stavaas Skistad and Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo taking home the victory for the women and men. Diggins continues to lead the overall World Cup standings by 102 points ahead of Sweden's Linn Svahn; Brennan sits fifth.