The U.S. women’s 4 x 5-kilometer relay team made history on Sunday in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, placing second overall for its strongest podium finish ever.
The relay team was led by Sophie Caldwell in the opening classic leg. Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østeberg took it out hard, leading all teams from the start. Caldwell kept the chase pack going and tagged off to Sadie Bjornsen for the second classic leg of the day.
In lap two, Bjornsen and Finland’s Krista Parmakoski began to gap the rest of the field, battling it out for second and third place. Coming into the exchange zone, Bjornsen was third and tagged Liz Stephen for the first freestyle leg, 25.7 seconds behind Norway in first and 1.2 seconds behind Parmakoski.
Stephen charged past Finland’s Riitta-Liisa Roponen with 2 k to go, moving the U.S. into second place behind Norway’s Therese Johaug. Stephen trailed Johaug all the way until the exchange zone, where the hand off for the final freestyle leg went to the team anchor, Jessie Diggins, 32.5 seconds back .
Chasing down Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen of Norway, Diggins expanded Stephen’s lead over third place. Diggins crossed the line in second overall for the U.S., 42.1 seconds behind Norway’s winning time of 50:17.2 and 13.8 seconds ahead of Finland in third.
The U.S. women have been on the podium three times before (in third place), most recently at the last relay in Lillehammer, Norway, where they placed third behind Norway and Finland.
The Canadian women, in their first-ever relay for all four (Emily Nishikawa, Dahria Beatty, Cendrine Browne, and Maya MacIsaac-Jones) placed 12th (+5:02.4).