HOUGHTON, Mich. – Alaska University Fairbanks’s (UAF) Tyler Kornfield and Northern Michigan’s Monica Markvardsen both overcame challenging conditions as well as a field of more than 50 skiers to capture conference titles in the CCSA Championships mass start classic races at the Michigan Tech Nordic Training Center.
Kornfield and teammate Erik Soderstrom took the top two spots in the men’s 20K to give the Nanooks a three-point edge on the men’s side, but Northern Michigan swept the podium in the women’s 15K, giving the Wildcats a 12-point advantage over hosts Michigan Tech on the women’s side.
The day, however, was more about grit than glamour, as an already challenging course was made all the more difficult by heavy snow and high winds.
“It was already snowing during the men’s race, and then during the women’s race, it just started coming down hard,” UAF head coach Scott Jerome said. “It’s a really hard course, and then the fresh snow in the tracks and the headwind coming into the stadium made it even slower. It was one of the toughest days for classic races that we’ve had in a long time.”
“But,” Jerome added, “that’s what we need – hard courses and a tough race. After this, we go to regionals and NCAA’s, so it’s not going to get any easier. [The student-athletes] need that challenge.”
Kornfield, who has already tied up his spot at next month’s NCAA Championships by qualifying for the World Junior Championships in January, was more than ready for that challenge, taking the top spot in the mass start event with a time of 1:02:36.2.
Fellow Nanook Soderstrom placed just four seconds behind the Anchorage native, taking second in a time of 1:02:40.2.
“Erik skied a great race today – a very smart race,” Jerome said. “He’s a senior, so he’s extremely motivated to make it to the NCAA’s this year.”
A trio of Wildcats were next across the line, with Northern’s freshman Kjell-Christian Markset continuing a fantastic first season with a third-place finish in 1:02:44.6. Teammate Kyle Bratrud just missed out on a podium spot, taking fourth in 1:03:04.5, while Chris Bowler finish fifth as the Wildcats’ third scoring skier on the day.
UAF’s Jonas Loeffler produced one of his best races of the season, earning sixth place and 25 points for the Nanooks in 1:03:08.6. Nanooks’ Ludwig Schott, who remains very much in contention for an NCAA berth in his first CCSA campaign, and Ian Wilkinson took seventh and eighth, respectively.
“[Ludwig] certainly helped his cause today,” Jerome said. “He’s kind of a quiet guy, but he’s always right there in the mix with the top skiers. That’s just his style.”
A fourth Northern skier, Erik Soderman, and Saint Scholastica’s Paul Schommer, fresh off of two podium finishes at the Green Acres SuperTour stop two weeks ago, rounded out the top ten.
On the women’s side, it was all NMU, as the Wildcats’ led the pack despite the increasing snow. Markvardsen, earned her fifth CCSA win of a stellar junior season, cruising to a five-second victory in 58:36.7.
Teammate Rosie Frankowski was next across the line, taking second in 58:41.6, before a third Wildcat, Libby Ellis rounded out the podium in third with her 58:45.4.
UAF’s Raphaela Sieber, who has continued to show signs of regaining the form that earned her an NCAA berth a year ago, finished fourth in 59:05.4, and Michigan Tech’s Sarah Daniels grabbed fifth place with her time of 59:11.2.
Marie Helen Soderman earned sixth place, giving Northern Michigan four of the top six skiers in the mass start event. Michigan Tech’s Deedra Irwin, a winner in the skate race at the Green Acres SuperTour stop, took seventh, just four seconds ahead of teammate Christina Mishica.
Mishica, the Huskies third scoring skier on the day, placed eighth to bump Michigan Tech past Alaska and into second place on the women’s team leaderboard
The Nanooks’ Heather Edic took ninth with her time of 59:27.2., while NMU’s Molly Burger rounded out the top ten, crossing the line just ahead of St. Olaf senior Emma Lee.
The CCSA skiers return to the course tomorrow for a 3x5K freestyle relay event, which kicks off for the women at 10:30 a.m., followed by the men at 12:30 p.m.