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Birkie crowns a pair of first-time winners

HAYWARD — Akeo Maifeld-Carucci and Alayna Sonnesyn were victorious today as the 45th American Birkebeiner cross-country ski marathon crowned a pair of first-time champions.

Maifeld-Carucci, a native of Bozeman, Mont., who trains out of Craftsbury Common, Vt., covered the 50 kilometers from Cable to Hayward in 2 hours, 12 minutes, 34.9 seconds, edging Birkie veteran Brian Gregg of Minneapolis by .9 in a wild finish down Main Street in Hayward. It was Maifeld-Carucci’s second Birkie after competing last year, a race in which he led before fading.

“I learned a lot from last year,” Maifeld-Carucci said.

Sonnesyn, meanwhile, is a native of Plymouth, Minn., who trains out of Stratton, Vt. She won in her very first Birkie, covering the skate course in 2:34:00.1, outpacing Anja Gruber, a German native who lives in Bozeman, by 54.6 seconds

Sonnesyn was in tears after winning a race she grew up watching.

“This is a dream come true,” she said.