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Michigan Tech’s Alice Flanders and Northern Michigan University’s Erik Soderman won the individual start freestyle race at the CCSA Distance Championships on Saturday, February 14th at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis. Cold temperatures delayed the start by an hour until the air warmed to -4 degrees Fahrenheit, the minimum temperature allowed for competitions.

Flanders proved that she remains the woman to beat in freestyle at Wirth Park, winning the 10 kilometer event with a time of 13:53.2. Flanders, a senior at Michigan Tech grew up in Crystal, Minnesota skiing the trails at Wirth Park.

“No doubt about it, she feels good skating on that course when it’s compact, straight man-made snow,” said Michigan Tech Head Coach Joe Haggenmiller. “This one’s kind of in our wheelhouse.”

Taking second place, 11.1 seconds behind the pace of Flanders was Northern Michigan’s Jordyn Ross. In third place was St. Scholastica’s Sharmila Ahmed, taking her first individual podium in the CCSA this season with a sharp performance at Wirth.

“She had a rough day in the classic – athletes have those,” said St. Scholastica Head Coach Chad Salmela. “She bounced back from that great, I was really impressed with her focus.” Salmela added, “A podium is always nice, especially at a championship.”

In fourth was Marit Sonnesyn of Gustavus, enjoying another great day of racing at Wirth. “It was her fourth straight race in the top 5 at NCAA qualifiers,” said Gustavus Head Coach Jed Friedrich. “I thought she’d be a little tired from yesterday from putting in a big effort in the chase group, so to see her get this kind of a result today, and be so close to being on the podium was really good to see.”

5th was Felicia Gesior of NMU, and in 6th was St. Scholastica’s Anita Kirvesniemi. Known as something of a classic specialist, the result marks Kirvesniemi’s second top ten freestyle performance in the CCSA this season.

7th place went to Michigan Tech’s Deedra Irwin, who recently returned to the Huskies from the U23 World Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

“I was happy with how both Deedra [Irwin] and Tom [Bye] skied given their travel schedule,” said Haggenmiller. “They both flew back from Kazakhstan on Monday. I thought they needed some racing this weekend but not necessarily both races, so we looked at Saturday’s race as being a little less taxing.”

NMU’s Sophie Schimpl took 8th, while Alaska Fairbanks Anne-Tine Markset and Nicole Bathe took 9th and 10th respectively. “It’s good to see some consistency from Anne-Tine,” said Alaska Fairbanks Interim Head Coach Christina Turman. “Even when she’s not feeling great she can still hold her own.”

11th went to Allison Ternes of CSS, 12th was Vera Gruber of NMU, and in 13th was UAF’s Ann-Catherine Uhl. 14th went to Rebekka Schueder of NMU, and 15th was Elizabeth Peterson of CSS.

“I think we had a really good weekend, especially on the women’s side,” said Northern Michigan Head Coach Sten Fjeldheim. “I saw quite a few of our young freshmen perform better then they have, like Gruber and Rebekka Schueder. Jordyn [Ross] also had a solid weekend and Felicia [Gesior] had a win and was fourth today, so that was real solid…A really positive weekend for the ladies.”

St. Cloud State University Head Coach Jeremy Frost was happy with Maria Hauers race, as she skied to 21st in the CCSA. “It was a cold day and you could tell some of the competitors were really bothered by it,” said Frost. “I felt Maria did a good job of not letting the cold, wind, and delayed start time disrupt her game plan and she was able to put in a quality race effort in less than ideal conditions.”

Fjeldheim was impressed with the depth of the women’s field, saying, “all the athletes showed a lot of class racing in the cold temperatures. It was good solid competition for our women. I think the whole region here—with Alice [Flanders] and Sharmila [Ahmed]—I think our whole region here is becoming a lot more competitive, especially on the women’s side. So that’s a good sign. The whole CCSA looked strong today.”

Erik Soderman of NMU took his first win in the CCSA on Saturday, winning with a time of 19:27.2. His teammate Fredrik Schwencke was second, 2.3 seconds behind the pace of Soderman.

Fjeldheim said that it was a close race between the NMU teammates. “Erik and Freddy, they were getting splits back and forth. They were never more then 4-5 seconds apart the whole race.”

“I think Fredrik is getting more and more confident in his skating,” said Fjeldheim of Soderman’s improved skating technique.

Paul Schommer made the podium once again, his third of the CCSA Championships. “Paul had a rough day in [Friday’s] classic race,” said Salmela. “He’s been focusing on biathlon so he’s been up and down in classic races this year, but he bounced back on Saturday nicely, which is good for confidence. I think he can be every bit as good at NCAA Regionals.”

Fourth was Adam Martin of NMU, and 5th was St. Olaf’s Jake Brown. 6th was Thomas Bye of MTU, recently returned from the Junior World Championships, and St. Scholastica’s Reitler Hodgert took 7th.

Jonas Loeffler of UAF was 8th, and in another breakout performance for the NMU sophomore from the Czech Republic, Kristof Kopal took 9th.

“Kristof Kopal has made a huge step in the right direction,” said Fjeldheim. “He’s come so far from last year. I’m really satisfied with the men’s team this weekend.”

The St. Scholastica men’s and women’s team won the CCSA Championships, a four event series held over the past two weekends at Spirit Mountain Nordic Center in Duluth, Minnesota and Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis.

“Winning both men’s and women’s CCSA Championships is a huge step forward for our ski program,” said a thrilled Salmela.  “We had a spectacular day again as a team.”

Salmela had been concerned about the losing the Saints advantage to Michigan Tech, who were bolstered by the return of Deedra Irwin from the U23 World Championships. “I didn’t know if we’d hold our own today with them at full power,” said Salmela, “but our ladies stepped up big. To finish the Championship by edging Tech by a point was kind of an icing on the cake…a sign that we earned this title.”

Salmela was equally pleased with his men’s team, saying, “I really was impressed with our men today, they haven’t raced this well as a team all year, and I think our guys just rose to the occasion on a day that they had to perform to make history. I get goose bumps thinking about it…The whole team, scorers and non-scorers, all made me so proud today. Doing what we did today just makes the title we won so much sweeter because it was a championship performance by our guys. No doubt about it.”

Results: Men | Women

– Pasha Kahn

 

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Northern Michigan University’s Felicia Gesior and Fredrick Schwencke took the top honors in Friday’s classic mass start race at the CCSA Distance Championships held at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis.

The women’s 15-kilometer race was initially led by Michigan Tech’s Ulrika Axelsson who pushed the pace early on in the five lap race. Axelsson was joined in the lead on the first lap by Nicole Bathe of Alaska Fairbanks before the NMU duo of Felicia Gesior and Jordyn Ross skied to the front of the race.

From then on the trio of Axelsson, Gesior and Ross led the race, staying 10 to 15 seconds ahead of the chasing pack. “She [Axelsson] was kind of the person pushing the pace throughout the race,” said Michigan Tech Head Coach Joe Haggenmiller. “She animated the race.” Haggenmiller added, “It was fun to see her out there making everyone work hard.”

At the start of lap 4 St. Scholastica’s Allison Ternes took the lead of the chasing pack. “I think Allison just was feeling good and had no real experience beyond lap 3,” said St. Scholastica Head Coach Chad Salmela. It was Ternes first race of more than 10 kilometers, and as Salmela put it, “she got excited, but tired a bit down the stretch.”

Late in the final lap of the race Gesior made her move, pulling ahead of Axelsson and holding her off in a close race to the finish line. Gesior won with a time of 44:32.9, 1.8 seconds ahead of Axelsson.

Gesior’s victory came in part from a change in strategy for the junior Wildcat. “Felicia learned from last time we were here not to lead the whole race,” said NMU Head Coach Sten Fjeldheim referring to the Twin Cities Championship mass start classic race held at Wirth Park in late January. In that race Gesior broke away early to lead by a wide margin before tiring late in the event to take second. Gesior made no such mistake in Friday’s race.

“Both Jordyn [Ross] and Felicia skied smart races today,” said Fjeldheim. “Our whole women’s team was in the top 15.”

“It was down to Ulrika [Axelsson] and Felicia [Gesior] on the last lap, and Felicia had a little more left for the last half a lap,” said Haggenmiller. “Credit to Felicia for being able to hang on and win a fairly tight sprint.”

In third place was NMU’s Jordyn Ross, 8.4 seconds behind Gesior and in fourth was Anita Kirvesniemi of St. Scholastica. “She was super savvy today to get fourth, despite hitting a rough patch,” said Salmela. “That’s just really smart racing that gets you there under the circumstances.”

In 5th place was Marit Sonnesyn of Gustavus, and in 6th was Anne-Tine Markset of Alaska Fairbanks. “Anne-Tine skied a great race,” said UAF Interim Head Coach Christina Turman. “It’s been exciting to watch Anne-Tine throughout the season. It’s fun to watch her race.”

Taking 7th was Allison Ternes of St. Scholastica. “To be 7th in this field as a freshman in your first 15 kilometer race is just super impressive,” said Salmela. “I think race of the day goes to Allison.”

In 8th was Nicole Bathe of UAF, and in 9th Rebekka Shueder of NMU, a freshman from Sparneck, Germany. Rounding out the top ten was NMU’s Sophie Schimpl.

The men’s 20-kilometer mass start classic race was led early on by St. Scholastica’s Reitler Hodgert before Northern Michigan’s Fredrik Schwencke, Adam Martin, and Erik Soderman took over the front of the race along with UAF’s Jonas Loffler. The four leaders skied ahead of the rest of the men’s field with Hodgert and St. Olaf’s Jake Brown leading the chase.

UAF’s Loffler hung on to the three Wildcats until the final lap of the race when the NMU trio began to vie for the top honors. In the end it was Schwencke who had the closing speed to win the day, crossing the finish line with a time of 45:03.3. Martin took second, 5.2 seconds behind, and Soderman third, 1.6 seconds later.

“It was good to see the boys staying fit and fast,” said Fjeldheim. “They were challenging each other throughout the race.”

Loffler of UAF took fourth, a performance that pleased Turman. “Jonas [Loffler] was the highlight in a day where the men’s team really shined,” said Turman. “We had 5 guys in the top 15 and we’re sitting comfortably in second place as a team.”

“I’ve known all season that we can ski at this level,” said Turman, adding, “Jonas skied to his potential today, and there’s nothing quite as satisfying for a coach as seeing someone reach their potential.”

In 5th was St. Olaf’s Jake Brown. “It’s his second good classic race of the season,” said St. Olaf Head Coach Tom Jorgenson. “That puts him in a good position for making NCAA’s.” Brown, known for his skating prowess, has sharpened his classic technique this season. “It helps that the classic races are mass start and longer distances,” said Jorgenson. “The longer the distance the better Jake does.”

Taking 6th was Hodgert of St. Scholastica. “Reitler was really on today, you could tell,” said Salmela. “He was so on that it was a little much at the start. I think without realizing it, he used up a bit of energy in the first 6 kilometers that would have come in handy about the time Jake Brown made a surge. But that’s how you learn—from experience, and Reitler had a great one today.”

7th went of Alexander Eckert of UAF, and in 8th place was Kristof Kopal of NMU. A sophomore from the Czech Republic, it was Kopal’s first top ten performance.

9th and 10th went to Michigan Tech’s Kyle Hanson and Thomas Kendrick, respectively. “The guys raced really well,” said Haggenmiller, “they raced their way up.”

The CCSA coaches praised the race organization at Wirth, noting that the course was both fast and fair.

Results: Men | Women

– Pasha Kahn

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Michigan Tech’s Haakon Hjelstuen and Ulrika Axelsson skied to victory in Sunday’s CCSA Sprint Championships held at Spirit Mountain Nordic Center in Duluth, Minnesota.

A 1.4 kilometer freestyle sprint, held on a winding and technical trail made for exciting racing. After a qualifying sprint 18 racers advanced to the semifinal heats, with the top two from each heat advancing to the final and third and fourth place skiers moving on to the B final.

In the first men’s heat Hjelstuen, the fastest qualifier of the day with a time of 2:57.9, cruised to first while his Michigan Tech teammate Sam Holmes took second. David Joda, also of MTU finished third and St. Scholastica’s Calvin Mehrhof was fourth to move on to the B final.

In the second heat St. Scholastica’s Paul Schommer and Joe Dubay dueled over the course of the race, with Schommer taking the lead up the final climb into the finish to win the heat with Dubay taking second. Gerrit Garberich of CSS and Thomas Kendrick of MTU advanced to the B final.

The last semifinal heat was led by Chris Parr, skiing in the Open division. Kyle Hanson of MTU took second to move on to the final, while Reitler Hodgert of CSS and Josh Blakenship of Gustavus moved on the B final.

In the men’s B final Garberich and Reitler led the race from the starting gun, until Michigan Tech’s Joda pulled into the lead heading into the downhill, 500 meters from the finish. Joda demonstrated his speed and strength on the final climb, leaving the rest of the field behind to win the B final comfortably. St. Scholastica’s Mehrhof took second while Gustavus’s Blankenship edged out CSS’s Hodgert who faded late in the race.

The men’s final was led from the start by Hjelstuen, who took control of the race early, with Parr and Schommer in close pursuit. On the final climb Hjelstuen attacked, leaving behind Schommer and Parr to battle for second. Heading into the finish Hjelstuen glanced back, and seeing that he was not under pressure, went for a stylish finish, skiing backwards across the line to win the day.

Parr crossed second, and Schommer third. MTU’s Hanson and Holmes went 4th and 5th respectively, while Joe Dubay of CSS finished 6th, his race hampered by a broken pole.

“Haakon pretty much led from start to finish,” said Michigan Tech Head Coach Joe Haggenmiller. Of Hjelstuen’s method of finishing the race, Haggenmiller chuckled, “that’s a Norwegian thing, he’s a heck of a sprinter so he’s able to go fast enough where he’s able to hot dog it backwards through the finish line.”

“I thought the whole team skied great this weekend,” said St. Scholastica Head Coach Chad Salmela. “Paul [Schommer] looked like his form was quite good, Joe [Dubay] showed a lot of life today, and the format that we don’t get to race much let a lot of others on our team shine today, which I love to see.”

Heat 1 in the women’s sprint race was led initially by St. Scholastica’s Sharmila Ahmed, the fastest qualifier of the day, and her teammate Evelyn Delong. Michigan Tech’s Ulrika Axelsson skied behind the two Saints, moving in behind Ahmed until the final climb where she attacked, winning the heat with Ahmed in second. MTU’s Carolyn Lucca and Green Bay’s Bree Mucha went 3 and 4 in the heat and advanced to the B final.

The second women’s heat was led from the starting gun by MTU’s Lisa Koenig and Green Bay’s Kailey Mucha. Koenig led the race for more than half the distance until CSS’s Ellie Evans made a late charge up the climb to win the heat with St. Olaf’s Piper Bain in second. Koenig and Allison Ternes of CSS moved on the B final.

The third and final semifinal heat was controlled from start to finish by CSS skier Anita Kirvesniemi. Late in the race Liz Peterson of CSS attacked and challenged Kirvesniemi, but a crash in the final meters put her out of contention. Gustavus Adolphus’s Marit Sonnesyn in second. Nora Gilbertson of CSS and Maria Hauer of St. Cloud State University advanced to the B final.

The B final was led out of the gates by the Michigan Tech duo of Koenig and Lucca. Koenig looked strong throughout the heat, with Ternes of CSS closing down the gap to Koenig late in the race, nearly catching the Huskie in the final meters. Lucca skied to third, while Mucha took 4th, Gilbertson 5th, and Hauer 6th.

Saint Cloud State University Head Coach Jeremy Frost said, “Maria [Hauer] has battled illness and injury on and off this season so it was great to see her qualify in 11th and stay in, or right on the pack in the semis and B final.” Frost added that it was “nice to see Kiersten [Haaversen] get so close to qualifying for the heats. That is a great result for her and should give her confidence moving forward.”

Kirvesniemi led the women’s final with an explosive start, creating space for her teammates Evans and Ahmed to follow behind her. St. Scholastica looked to be in control of the front of the race, but MTU’s Axelsson found space to ski into second place behind Kirvesniemi. Axelsson made her move at the base of the final climb, charging up the hill and ahead of Kirvesniemi. St. Scholastica’s Ahmed responded to Axelsson’s move and took the outside corner at the crest of the climb in a bid to pass Axelsson in the final straight away—but the Michigan Tech sophomore from Sweden held on for the victory.

“Ulrika [Axelsson] kind of put herself in second place where she was able to make a move on that final hill,” said Haggenmiller. “She made a really good move and was able to really take it to the rest of the field.”

“It was everything an A final should be” Salmela said about the women’s race. “The course is such that you really want the best line on the final turn even if perhaps you’re dying, because it’s a long way around the outside to take the win. Ulrika made the right decision at the right time, but Sharmila [Ahmed] almost still had enough to go around. It was really a great way to end the weekend.”

St. Scholastica’s Evans finished just ahead of Kirvesniemi to take third, while Piper Bain took 5th for St. Olaf and Sonnesyn 6th for Gustavus.

St. Olaf Head Coach Tom Jorgenson was pleased with Bain’s result. “Piper [Bain] was our top girl today, she’s a junior transfer and she didn’t ski race during her first two years in college, and she hadn’t done a sprint race since high school so I had no idea what to expect from her today. She’s a quick, scrappy skier; I’m super excited for her today.”

Results

– By Pasha Kahn 

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By Adam Terko 

Note: This year’s Dartmouth Carnival was combined with both a NENSA Eastern Cup and the Craftsbury SuperTour. This report will focus on the EISA racing on Friday and Saturday, the results of which were pulled and separated from the overall race results in determining collegiate placings and scores. For more information, interviews and video coverage of the entire weekend of events, please see more of Fasterskier’s in-depth coverage:

Friday’s Freestyle SprintsSaturday’s Freestyle Interval StartsSunday’s Classic Mass Starts

CRAFTSBURY, Vt. — Strong racers from across the country convened this weekend in the small rural town of Craftsbury, Vermont for three days of high-level ski racing. A combined EISA Carnival (hosted by Dartmouth), SuperTour and Eastern Cup, this block of racing was surely one of the biggest and most anticipated group of contests in the East this winter. At the forefront of “snow-farming” and snow preservation techniques, and home to some of the most diligent grooming and organizational staffs in the country, one would not expect anything less than ideal conditions and preparation for this race series. The Craftsbury Outdoor Center did not disappoint, and neither did the weather. Large storms have swept across New England in the past few weeks, giving great ski conditions to nearly every ski center around. For the Dartmouth Carnival series of races, only skate skis were needed: EISA racers took on cold, hard snow during freestyle sprints on Friday, and tackled some fresh snow and tough hills during a 10-kilometer individual-start freestyle event on Saturday.

Friday: Freestyle Sprint

With the EISA field mixed in with a Supertour event, a strong and speedy race was needed to nab a top-30 overall finish in the qualifying round and the chance to battle head-to-head in the heats. College results would be parsed-out from the heat results to determine placing for the Carnival field, so pushing hard for placement in each heat was of utmost importance.

The top female EISA qualifier was UNH racer Annika Taylor, who has now shown great strength in both classic and freestyle techniques and in nearly any distance as well. In the heats, however, Taylor was knocked out in the semi-final round and settled for third place in the EISA field. Another prominent collegiate skier this year, Corey Stock of host institution Dartmouth, bested Taylor in the semi-finals to earn 2nd place in the EISA field.

The top EISA racer in the women’s field was the only collegiate skier represented in the A-final. Second in qualifying among collegiate skiers and fifth in qualifying overall, Middlebury’s Heather Mooney powered to a third-place finish in the entire event, earning her the top EISA finish and her fifth collegiate win of the season. The victory by Mooney also helped lead the Middlebury women to the top team score in the event ahead of UNH and Dartmouth.

The overall event was won by Bridger Ski Foundation racer (and former UVM skier and northern VT local) Jennie Bender, with Erika Flowers of the SMS T2 team (formerly of Dartmouth) placing second.

The men’s race saw two UVM skiers advancing to the final, with Jorgen Grav taking fourth and Cole Morgan taking fifth, earning them first and second in the EISA results. Battling through to the semi-finals were Dartmouth’s Fabian Stocek and another Catamount, Tobias Trenkle. The two earned third and fourth place, respectively, in the collegiate race. The 1-2-4 strength of the UVM men gave them the team victory ahead of Dartmouth and UNH.

Kris Freeman (Freebird) was victorious in the overall event, edging APU racers Reese Hanneman and Eric Packer (formerly of Dartmouth) in the final.

Saturday: 10 k Freestyle

Saturday saw both the men and women racing a 10-kilometer freestyle event in the individual-start format. Two laps around the hilly 5-kilometer race loop at Craftsbury would cater to racers with strong fitness and climbing prowess, though temperatures in the single-digits to low teens felt warm and comfortable compared to the previous day’s bitter chill.

After a strong day in the freestyle sprints just 24 hours prior, it was again the Catamounts of UVM who proved their strength in the men’s race. The trio of Rogan Brown, Jorgen Grav and Jack Hegman swept the podium, earning a perfect team score in the EISA event.

Despite failing to qualify for the top-30 in the sprint race, Brown powered to a strong 27-second lead over teammate Grav. Hegman followed 18 seconds back, narrowly edging UNH racer Raleigh Goessling to help Vermont own the podium.

Behind UVM in the team score were UNH and Dartmouth, followed closely by the men of Williams College. All of the top four schools put at least 3 skiers in the top-15, with only Frederic Touchette (Laval, 5th place) and Kyle Curry (SLU, 13th place) representing other institutions in the top-17 spots.

In the overall combined race, Kris Freeman (Freebird) took top honors for the second day in a row. He was followed by Brown in second overall and Lex Treinen of APU in third.

The women’s race saw a repeat of the previous day’s EISA podium, albeit in a slightly different order. The consistently-strong trio of Annika Taylor (UNH), Heather Mooney (Middlebury) and Corey Stock (Dartmouth) bested the rest of their collegiate competitors, in that order. Taylor picked up her second freestyle win of the season in strong fashion, putting over 30 seconds into Mooney over the course of the race.

The big time gap continued to third, as Mooney finished 39 seconds ahead of Stock. The UNH women took home the top team score, followed by Middlebury and Dartmouth.

Mary Rose (Sun Valley) was the overall champion on the day, while Taylor earned a tie with Erika Flowers (SMS T2) for second place. Mooney and Stock also wound up in the top-10 with ninth and 10th place finishes, respectively.

EISA racing continues next week in Ripton, Vermont as Middlebury College hosts events at the Rikert Nordic Center.

Results (Collegiate and Overall)

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The College of St. Scholastica (CSS) swept the top of the podium Saturday at the CCSA Relay Championships, winning on home snow at Spirit Mountain Nordic Center in Duluth, Minnesota.

The women’s 3 x 7 kilometer freestyle relay was led out of the gates by Michigan Tech’s Ulrika Axelsson with St. Scholastica’s Anita Kirvesniemi and Liz Peterson skiing in close pursuit. Axelsson held the lead for her entire leg, handing off to teammate Lisa Koenig just ahead of Kirvesniemi and Peterson. Kirvesniemi of CSS 1 tagged off to Ellie Evans, and Peterson of CSS 2 handed off to Chelsey Youngberg. The two St. Scholastica teams quickly took control of the race, with Evans and Youngberg pulling away from Michigan Tech’s Koenig. Evans handed off to CSS 1 anchor leg Sharmila Ahmed with a 31-second advantage over CSS 2’s anchor skier Allison Ternes. Michigan Tech’s Koenig tagged off to Alice Flanders 23 seconds behind CSS 2.

“I felt to ensure a win today, we needed a cushion on the final exchange,” said St. Scholastica Head Coach Chad Salmela. “I wasn’t ruling out pulling it off with Sharmila [Ahmed] and Alice [Flanders] together at the exchange, but when you’re up against Alice in a 7.5km freestyle, you just do the math. It’s just going to take anyone in the CCSA a great day to beat her, and Sharmila is one of the few who could, but a cushion is nice.”

With Ahmed starting the final leg of the race with a 54 second advantage over Flanders, St. Scholastica had the cushion that Salmela desired. Ahmed skied a strong and composed race to win the relay with a total time of 49:02, while Flanders battled back for Michigan Tech, passing Ternes to take second with a time of 49:53.6.

Ternes finished third for CSS 2 with a time of 50:23.5. As the program’s second relay team CSS 2 will not receive medals or championship points but it still marks a result for the Saints.

“Two teams in the top three is just more than you can anticipate,” said Salmela. “Really great skiing from everyone. Ellie [Evans] really made the move of the race, and as it turned out, Sharmila would have had the form today to challenge Alice if it came to that, but it was easier on me for sure that it never did. Our second team was just awesome too, making it to the podium.”

Michigan Tech Head Coach Joe Haggenmiller said that he thought the race “started out pretty well, and our anchor leg went pretty well,” but added, “I think Lisa [Koenig] had a little bit of a rough day on her second leg and that was kind of the story for the men too. You know Scholastica really raced well so we have to give them a lot of credit, they beat us fair and square.”

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay took fourth in the women’s relay, and third in the Championship standings. Led by Kailey Mucha, Hanne Guthrie, and Bree Mucha, in that order, the Phoenix enjoyed a good day at Spirit Mountain.

“All three had respectable laps—they showed progressive effort,” said Green Bay Head Coach Steve Teclaw. “Hanne [Guthrie] had the best race of the three, she had a lot left in the tank after the first lap and was able to put time on the other girls.” Guthrie skied the second fastest middle leg for the Pheonix. “All in all it’s a fun weekend,” said Teclaw.

St. Olaf 1 took 5th in the relay with Michigan Tech 2 in 6th, and Saint Cloud State University 1 in 7th. Gustavus Adolphus finished 8th.

The men’s 3 x 10 kilometer freestyle relay was led in the opening leg by Michigan Tech’s Kyle Hanson. Chasing Hanson was Reitler Hodgert of CSS 1 and Jake Richards of CSS 2. St. Olaf’s Nels Thompson was also in close pursuit along with MTU 2’s Thomas Kendrick.

Hanson demonstrated his skating prowess, pulling ahead of the chasing pack to hand off to his teammate Sam Holmes with a 16 second advantage over CSS 1. Hodgert tagged Paul Schommer who started quickly with an eye on closing the gap to Holmes. Schommer caught Holmes and continued to put time on the rest of the field, handing off to Joe Dubay with a 1:16 advantage over Nick Power of CSS 2. Holmes tagged MTU 1’s anchor leg skier Haakon Hjelstuen in third.

Hjelstuen skied a fast first lap, catching CSS 2’s Calvin Mehrhof, but Dubay proved to be out of reach for the Norwegian exchange student. Dubay skied to victory for the Saints with a total time of 1:05:13, with Michigan Tech taking second with a time of 1:06:08.

The Saints relay victory came in part due to the strategic acumen of their skiers. “Paul [Schommer] is a great, great skier,” said Salmela, “but the guys saw me putting Paul last against Haakon [Hjelstuen], and they actually told me they knew Paul could ski with him if they were knotted together, but they all agreed Paul couldn’t outsprint Haakon if it came down to that. They asked for an order change, and I gave it to them.”

CSS 2 took third while MTU 2 skied to fourth. St. Olaf finished 5th overall, but third in the CCSA Championship standings.

“I set a goal of our team being in the top three programs, and our men’s team made that,” said St. Olaf Head Coach Tom Jorgenson. “I can tell that our team really likes skiing relays, they’re very team focused, so they do well in events like these.”

Jorgenson said he was “really impressed by Nels [Thompson’s] opening leg, he was right there with the other teams so I’m really encouraged by Nels result there. And Jake [Brown] skied a great anchor leg to put us into that third program position.”

Jorgenson added that, “It’s pretty impressive what they’ve done here on this course with how little snow we have right now, so I’m glad that we can be here.”

Gustavus Adolphus took 6th in the men’s relay, CSS 3 was 7th, and Green Bay 8th.

– By Pasha Kahn

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Russia dominated the final day of cross country skiing competitions at World University Games in Strbske Pleso, Slovakia, sweeping the top five spots in the men’s 30 k race. Andrey Larkov came away with the win over Raul Sharkirzianov and Artem Nikolaev on Sunday.

The day before the women contested a 15 k skate mass start, with Anastassiya Slonova of Kazakhstan earning her second win of the week after also besting the field in the skate sprint. Slonova finished 8.8 seconds ahead of Svetlana Nikolaeva of Russia, with Ewelina Marcisz of Poland placing third.

Full Results from all competitions can be found at the event website.

The U.S. was represented by the University of Wyoming team, whose best finishes were:

Elise Sulser placed 23rd (+1:19.7 from winner Oxana Usatova of Russia, who most recently competed in the Tour de Ski) in the 5 k classic.

Sierra Jech placed 41st in the skate sprint.

Catherine Schmidt placed 42nd in the 15 k skate.

Yara Thomas placed 50th in the skate sprint.

Britta Schroeter placed 52nd in the skate sprint.

Samuel Wiswell placed 53rd in the 30 k skate.

William Timmons placed 54th in the 30 k skate

Kyle Bochanski placed 71st in the skate sprint.

Benjamin Noren placed 74th in the skate sprint.

Taylor Vignaroli placed 79th in the skate sprint.

Nathaniel Hough placed 79th in the 10 k classic.

Sindre Solvang placed 83rd in the skate sprint.

Patrick Rogers placed 86th in the 10 k classic.

Thomas, Schmidt, and Schroeter teamed up to place 12th in the 3 x 5 k relay (+13:04), which Russia won. Russia also won the men’s 4 x 5 k relay, where the U.S. team was lapped.

Canada did not send a cross country ski team, but biathlete Evan Girard hopped in the 30 k freestyle mass start after the biathlon competitions were over and placed 59th.

Jessica Yeaton (Alaska Pacific University) is competing for Australia and had a best finish of eighth in the freestyle sprint. Her finish was matched by teammate Phil Bellingham in the sprint – and was the highest ranking ever achieved by Australians at the World University Games.

Yeaton also teamed up with Bellingham to place 13th in the team sprint. She finished 24th in the 15 k skate and 36th in the 5 k classic.

University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Max Olex, skiing for his native Germany placed 15th in the skate sprint and 40th in the 10 k classic.

The University of Vermont’s Joergen Grav finished 17th in the 10 k classic and 18th in the skate sprint for Norway

Former University of New Mexico standout Aku Nikander, back in his native Finland, placed 19th in the 10 k classic.

University of Colorado’s Arnaud du Pasquier placed 17th in the 30 k freestyle mass start. He also placed 37th in the 10 k classic and was part of Switzerland’s relay team.

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By Evan Girard

OSRBLIE, Slovakia — Sunny skies for the first time at the 2015 World University Games in Osrblie, Slovakia, made for an ideal day for biathlon on Wednesday, with pursuit races that had racers start in the position they finished at Tuesday’s sprint in the hopes of catching the sprint winner.

After the Russian men swept the sprint podium, it was no surprise the 12.5-kilometer pursuit was yet again all about the Russians.

Shuffling up the order in which they finished, Russia’s Yuri Shopin, a two-time bronze medalist at the these Games, wouldn’t settle for anything less than gold for his third individual medal of the week. He started third and 15 seconds behind, then shot clean through all four stages, but didn’t take the lead until the final lap where he outsprinted his teammate Jaroslav Ivanov for the victory.

The sprint winner, Ivanov started first and pulled away from his competitors with each passing lap in the pursuit. His single shooting mistake came on his final trip to the range, but even after a penalty loop, Ivanov had a 12-second lead over Shopin. However, he couldn’t hold it on the final lap, and as he crossed the finish 1.5 seconds behind Shopin, Ivanov shook his head in disappointment.

Completing the Russian medal sweep for the second-consecutive day was Maksim Burtasov with three misses. He finished 42.6 seconds behind and was out of touch from first and second place, but had room to breathe over France’s Vincent Mathieu in fourth (+1:29.6).

Mathieu moved up from 11th to fourth and 1:29.6 with a single shooting error. Similarly Russia’s Oleg Kolodiichuk hit all but one of his targets and made the biggest improvement of the men’s pursuit, starting 18th and finishing fifth (+1:52.1) in a photo finish with another Russian, Stanislav Pershikov.

Pershikov ended up 0.1 second behind in sixth, giving Russia five out of the top six.

The Slovakian crowd was excited to see hometown hero Paulina Fialkova start the women’s 10 k pursuit first. Following her decisive win in Tuesday’s sprint race, Fialkova had nearly a 30-second margin on the second starter. Ultimately, three mistakes shooting would prove too much for Fialkova and she dropped to second behind Russia’s Evgeniia Pavlova, who only made two errors and started second to give Russia its first women’s gold.

Pavlova shot quickly and despite two misses, she held the edge over her competitors, finishing 38.2 seconds ahead of Fialkova. Russia put two on the podium with Kristina Smirnova placing third (+1:45.8) with two misses.

Anna Kistanova of Kazakhstan took fourth (+2:49.0), and Ukraine’s Iana Bondar finished fifth (+3:01.8). Finally, Russia’s Kristina Ilchenko had a fast final lap to move from 12th to sixth in less than 2 k, 3:16.7 behind Pavlova.

No North Americans completed the pursuit Wednesday.

Results: Men | Women

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By Evan Girard

OSRBLIE, Slovakia — Team Russia continued to dominate the biathlon events on Tuesday at the Winter University Games in Osrblie, Slovakia, sweeping the men’s podium in the 10-kilometer sprint. However, in the women’s race, Slovakia’s own Paulina Fialkova had the edge, taking gold in the 7.5 k sprint ahead of Russia’s Evgeniia Pavlova.

Not racing the men’s individual two days earlier proved to be the winning strategy for Russia’s Iaroslav Ivanov, who powered to the winning time of 23:17 with one penalty in the men’s sprint. Just 13.4 seconds behind, his teammates, Maksim Burtasov claimed second with one miss as well and Yuri Shopin took third (+14.9) with two penalties for his second bronze medal of the week.

Czech Republic national-team member Michal Krcmar missed Sunday’s individual to race the World Cup in Antholz, Italy. Krcmar ended up 24.5 seconds off Ivanov’s pace in fourth with two misses.

Clean shooting helped Ukraine’s Vasyl Potapenko finish less than half a second out of fourth in fifth, 24.9 seconds back from the winner. Fellow Ukrainian, Rusian Tkalenko followed in sixth position (+45.8).

Reagan Mills came in as the top Canadian man in 48th, 6:10.9 behind with two penalties. Evan Girard finished 51st (+7:09.8) with three misses, Sasha Eccleston came in 54th (+7:23.2) with four penalties, and Samuel West was 56th (+10:15.0) with four penalties.

The sprint race for the women was a day of incredible shooting with only three misses between the top seven women; all three came from Czech racers.

Fialkova gave the home crowd exactly what they wanted, with clean shooting and the second-fastest course time on route to Slovakia’s first gold medal at the Games.

Her winning time of 20:20.8 was just part of her perfect day, after holding the lead at every checkpoint and shooting without mistakes.

Not to be outdone by the Russian men, Pavlova also hit all 10 of her targets, though was no match for the Slovakian’s speed on course, finishing 29.5 seconds behind.

The Czech World Cup racers proved to be a significant threat for the women as well. Jitka Landova and Eva Puskarcikova took third and fourth, respectively. Landova finished 34.9 seconds out of the top position with one miss, and Puskarcikova was 51.4 seconds off the pace but had the second-fastest ski time to Fialkova with two penalties.

Two Kazakhstan athletes, Galina Vishnevskaya and Anna Kistanova, took fifth and sixth after having nearly identical races, skiing similar speeds and both hitting all of their targets.

Keely Macculloch was the top Canadian in 40th, 4:43.9 behind the winner with one shooting error in each of her two trips to the range. Jessica Paterson finished 43rd, 5:43.2 back after three penalty loops.

Results: Men | Women

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By Evan Girard

Paulina Fialkova, skied and shot to third in the World University games in front of a home crowd.

Paulina Fialkova, skied and shot to third place at the World University Games’ biathlon 15 k in front of a home crowd.

OSRBLIE, Slovakia — The 27th Winter University Games officially began on Saturday, welcoming the top university athletes from around the world to compete in five biathlon events; individual, sprint, pusuit, mixed relay, and mass start. Osrblie, Slovakia will be home for the biathletes for the 10 days of the games. Sunday began the competition with the individual race format, men racing 20k and women racing 15k.

Despite having no natural snow, staff at Osrblie made enough snow to cover the 4 k men’s loop, though above zero temperatures made skiing on the artificial snow very difficult.

The men were the first to race in front of the ecstatic crowd, skiing the 4 k course five times and entering the range four times to shoot between each loop. Racers alternated shooting in the prone and standing positions, and incurred a minute penalty to their time for each missed shot – a format unique to the individual race.

Dmytro Rusinov of Ukraine proved to be the best man of the day. Rusinov was only second racer of the day to complete his race and he would remain in the top position, as the remaining 52 racers came in behind him. Collecting only one miss during the day and completing his race in 49:52.8, he collected Ukraine’s first medal of the games.

Russia proved to have a strong team, claiming the next three finishing positions and the top three isolated ski times. Vadim Filimonov claimed the silver medal with two shooting errors, 22.6 seconds back. Bronze went to Yuri Shopin, who finished 1:25.2 behind with three misses. Oleg Kolodiichuk skied to fourth place, only making one mistake finishing 1:29.5 behind Rusinov.

Vincent Mathieu of France took fifth position, 1:32.9 behind and Maksim Ramanouski of Belarus, who shot a perfect twenty-for-twenty to claim the sixth position.

Among 54 men in the field, two Canadians Evan Girard of the University of Saskatchewan and Sasha Eccleston of the University of Alberta Augustana Campus completed the 20k individual.

Girard, top Canadian of the day, made six errors, shooting to finish 14:58.0 off the pace in 46th position. Eccleston took 52nd after missing 10 shots and finishing 20:58.8 back.

The 47 women saw even more challenging ski conditions in their 15 k individual, having followed the men’s race.

Kazakhstan claimed their first gold of the games on the opening day of competition with Alina Raikova only making one shooting mistake and narrowly claiming the winning time of 47:29.4 over Russia’s Ekaterina Avvakumova.

Avvakumova shot perfectly, hitting each of her twenty targets, but missed the top step of the podium by just 9.0 seconds.

“I’m satisfied with the results of a race. I haven’t hoped of so good results before start of the competition. At first race I obtained golden medal, and that’s why I hope that I will succeed in another races.” Raikova said to the Slovak press following her race.

Racing in her home country, Paulina Fialkova gave the fans what they came for, claiming the bronze medal for Slovakia. Fialkova dominated on the skis, setting the fastest course time by over a minute. Despite four minutes of added time due to missed shooting, she finished 41.7 seconds off the winning time.

56.9 second back, Galina Vishnevskaya of Kazakhstan clawed back into the race with a jump from 17th to fourth. Evgenila Pavlova and Kristina Smirnova, both of Russia finished fifth and sixth, 1:30.5 and 2:47.8 behind respectively.

Keely Macculloch from the University of Alberta Augustana Campus and Jessica Paterson of the University of Alberta represented Canada in the women’s race. Macculloch and Paterson skied nearly identical lap times but Macculloch only made four shooting mistakes to finish 37th, 10:56.8 back. Paterson, who missed five, was 12:25.1 behind in 39th.

Paterson told FasterSkier after her race, “Things went okay for me. It was really tough out there, the corners were so soft and the climbs weren’t much better.”

Men’s Results

Women’s Results

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Jessica Yeaton racing in the 2013 NCAA Championships in Middlebury, Vermont.

Jessica Yeaton racing in the 2013 NCAA Championships in Middlebury, Vermont.

Jessica Yeaton (Alaska Pacific University) finished eighth in the freestyle sprint at World University Games. Held Sunday, it was the opening competition of the weeklong event, which is being held in Strbske Pleso, Slovakia. An Australian native, Yeaton graduated from Montana State University and is training with APU while shooting for the 2018 Olympics.

The sprint was won by Anastassiya Slonova of Kazakhstan, a 2014 Olympian who bested Poland’s Ewelina Marcisz by 0.18 seconds in the final. Svetlana Nikolaeva of Russia placed third.

Representing the United States, Sierra Jech and Elise Sulser placed 41st and 43rd. Catherine Schmidt and Yara Thomas followed in 49th and 50th.

In the men’s sprint Russia swept the podium with Andrey Larkov, Anton Gafarov, and Raul Shkirzianov. Larkov recently had two top-10’s in Tour de Ski stages; Gafarov was 12th in the sprint at the 2014 Olympics and has two World Cup sprint podiums. They were rivaled by Poland’s Maciej Starega, the only Pole to score World Cup points so far this season and a top-ten sprinter himself.

University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Max Olex, skiing for his native Germany, placed 15th after just missing the semifinals. The University of Vermont’s Joergen Grav finished 18th for Norway. University of Colorado’s Arnaud du Pasquier, who made his World Cup debut for Switzerland in Davos earlier this season, placed 43rd and is no doubt looking forward to distance racing. Former University of New Mexico standout Aku Nikander, back in his native Finland, placed 61st.

Kyle Bochanski led the U.S. contingent, placing 71st. His teammates Benjamin Noren, Taylor Vignaroli, Samuel Wiswell, and Sindre Solvang placed 74th, 79th, 80th, and 84th, respectively. All attend the University of Wyoming.

Results: women / men

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