Her body told her she should probably slow things down a bit, to conserve some energy during a long day of racing. Jessie Diggins' heart had a different opinion.

At long last, the Afton native was finally on the course for a World Cup cross-country race in her home state. Thousands of people covered the hillsides at Theodore Wirth Park. They raised such a ruckus she wasn't sure she would hear the starting gun.

"I was just letting it all in, because this is so cool," Diggins said. "Nothing is ever going to feel like this again."

That made it an easy call. Diggins gave in to her heart, racing with abandon through all four grueling rounds of the freestyle sprint. While she was a little spent in the finals, she wasn't the least bit unhappy with a fourth-place finish, given the greater rewards of a day she called the coolest of her entire racing career.

Sweden ruled the women's race, with Jonna Sundling and Linn Svahn claiming the top two spots. Kristine Stavaas Skistad of Norway finished third. Sundling's time of 3 minutes, 6.40 seconds beat her teammate by .95 of a second, and Diggins was fourth in 3:11.29.

Norwegian star Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo won the men's race in 2:54.24, followed by Italy's Federico Pellegrino and Haavard Solaas Taugboel of Norway.

The first World Cup cross-country races in the United States since 2001 drew a crowd estimated at nearly 20,000. European and American athletes alike raved about the atmosphere at an event made possible through years of effort from Diggins and the Loppet Foundation, the Twin Cities nonprofit that organized the races.

Diggins said she cried seven times Saturday. The most decorated cross-country skier in U.S. history, she has won world championships, a World Cup overall title and three Olympic medals, including the first gold ever by an American.

Nothing could compare to how it felt to race at home for the first time in her 13 seasons on the World Cup tour.

"I have dreamed about this for my entire career," Diggins said. "And this totally blew me away. It was really overwhelming.

"You just feel totally full of adrenaline. It was like this wall of noise, the loudest I have ever heard on a ski course in my life. It was so cool."

Most spectators Saturday had never attended a World Cup cross-country race. One of the first things they learned: you can hear the venue before you see it.

Those walking into the park's south side at 8 a.m. had a serene hike until they got to the bridge. Then AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" blasted through the woods, spun by the on-site hype crew. The area around Wirth Park's Trailhead building teemed with fans swaddled in goosedown and fleece, along with several American flags.

Even the newcomers knew to bring cowbells, the ski aficionado's noisemaker of choice. By the time the qualifications started at 10 a.m., thousands had staked out the best viewing areas.

Diggins said when the athletes were warming up, the unusually large number of people already at the park made the atmosphere the best of any World Cup event this season. Sundling said the athletes aren't used to such raucous crowds, while Pellegrino called the spectators "incredible."

It was especially overwhelming for the Americans, who had never raced a World Cup on home snow.

"I've cried so many times today, just out of sheer emotion," said Julia Kern, Diggins' teammate and friend. "Jessie and I just kept trying to hold back the tears. I've never experienced anything like this before, and it's even more than I could have dreamed of."

The 30 fastest skiers in the men's and women's qualifying rounds advanced to the quarterfinals. Diggins led four American women into the quarters, while Zak Ketterson of Bloomington was among four U.S. men to move on.

The crowds grew even louder for the quarterfinals. They waved flags of several nations, and one adventurous soul climbed a tree for a better view.

Diggins put the pedal to the floor in her heat, leading the entire way and creating a 20-meter gap at one point. She said she was thinking only that she wanted to reach the final, so she could prolong her race day to the full extent.

She finished first in her semifinal, too, acknowledging she might have made herself "a little tired" for the final. Diggins let her adrenaline flow, choosing to enjoy the spirit of the day.

Sundling and Svahn took charge quickly in the final, which came only 16 minutes after the semis. Diggins spent most of the race in fourth place, but finishing just off the podium didn't prevent her from taking a bow. Though the top three finishers usually are the only skiers to take a victory lap in front of the grandstand, all six participated, with Diggins slapping the hands of those in the front row.

Though the wall of noise was loudest for Diggins, Klaebo got his share as well. "I think we need to come back here more often," he said.

That's Diggins' hope, though nothing will ever feel like the first one.

"This was so special," she said. "It was just an amazing feeling."