After a weekend off, the Central Collegiate Ski Association racing continued in the Twin Cities with the CCSA Conference Championships.
Races were combined with the Mayors Challenge, an open and Junior National Qualifier competition. In the open races, the top college skiers shared the podium with elite seniors from the likes of CXC (Kyle Bratrud), SMS T2 (Anne Hart and Erika Flowers), and APU (Rosie Frankowski, David Norris, and Tyler Kornfield).
Saturday featured men’s 15 k and women’s 10 k classic mass starts. Both men’s and women’s fields were faced with very cold conditions, causing the race start to be pushed back an hour in order to reach legal racing temperatures. The track at Theodore Wirth Park was hard and fast, creating exciting and fast paced racing all day.
With the men’s racing leading off on the 3.3 k loop, there was a large group until the half way point when the lead pack was whittled down to only six racers. By the end of the race the college field had been spread out with two Northern Michigan skiers out front. Adam Martin took top honors with a time of 36:56.4. He was followed three seconds later by teammate Ian Torchia. With these two spots Northern Michigan sits in first place after day one with 85 points.
Michael Fehrenbach of the University of Alaska Fairbanks took third, only 18 seconds from the win. Fehrenbach’s efforts led his team to a second place finish on the day with 72 total points.
Of his teams efforts today, UAF Coach Nick Crawford said, “Michael again showed that he is one of the top classic skiers in the CCSA! He skied with the leaders most of the race and ended up as the third CCSA skier. Behind him we had Jan Cech and Nick Lovett who have not been in our top three most of the season but had great races today and finished in 11th and 13th and scored for the Nanooks.”
Michigan Tech’s Thomas Kendrick had a strong showing today placing fourth and accrued some crucial points for his team. Kendrick was followed by his teammates Kyle Hanson in 12th and Didrik Elset 15th.
“I thought all our guys skied really well today,” said MTU Coach Joe Haggenmiller. “We are really excited for Tom Kendrick, he’s a fifth year senior and had the best result of his collegiate career today, so we’re excited to see what he can do in his last three races on the CCSA calendar.”
On the women’s side, the racing was just as fast and exciting over the the laps that they completed. The race was taken out hard and led by three Northern Michigan University skiers, who would also end up taking the top three spots on the podium. The timers had to rely on the photo finish to declare a winner.
Once the photo was reviewed it was Vivian Hett who came out on top with teammate Nicole Schneider taking second by less than .1 of a second. Twelve seconds later, Felicia Gesior rounded out the top three giving Northern Michigan the team lead with 87 points.
“I’m really happy to see our girls really pushing each other,” said Northern Michigan Coach Sten Fjeldheim. “They’ve been working really hard all year and none of them wants to lose to the other.”
The women of the University of Alaska Fairbanks followed in the footsteps of their mens team and took second in the team scores with 78 points. Fairbanks was led by Nicole Bathe in fourth. Anne-Tine Markset was close behind in fifth and Sarissa Lammers took seventh.
“We were really impressed with all of our women,” said Fairbanks Coach Nick Crawford “Nichole Bathe did an especially good job moving up from her 22nd seed position in the mass start to finish 6th overall.”
The women of Saint Scholastica just beat out the women of Michigan Tech by one point for third in the team scores. The Saints were led by Kelsey Dickinson in 11th, Elizabeth Evans 14th and Allison Ternes 19th.
Beneath the Minneapolis skyline at Theodore Wirth Park, racing resumed on Sunday with 5 and 10 k skate competitions – and the Northern Michigan University men and women continued their winning ways.
In the women’s 5km event, UAF’s Markset stole the show; she posted a time of 14:55.7, nearly five seconds in front of the second collegiate finisher, Northern Michigan’s Gesior. The win is Markset’s first of the season as well as the first Nanook individual win of 2016.
“We’re really pleased to have Anne-Tine Markset grab the win today!” said Nanook head coach Nick Crawford of Sunday’s race. “We’ve known all season that we have a couple of athletes on both the men’s and women’s side capable of winning CCSA races if everything lines up right for them and Anne-Tine put it all together today. Anne-Tine seems to be getting better every week so we’re excited to see what she can do at the Regional Championships and the NCAA Championships.”
Junior Bathe finished fourth, just eight seconds off the winning pace. Lammers placed ninth, rounding out the scoring for the Nanook women.
Gesior again led the Northern Michigan women, as she has in each five-kilometer contest of 2016. The senior captain was followed by freshman teammate Sarah Bezdicek in third, who finished 7.5 seconds back of Markset. Fellow freshman Sophie McDonald was the third scorer for the Wildcats in fifth. Both Gesior and Bezdicek are part of a large Northern Michigan contingent heading to Romania this week to race in the World Junior and U23 Nordic Ski Championships later this month.
The Michigan Tech Huskies’ top finisher was Andrea Lee in sixth with a time of 15:15.3. Lee won the 10 km mass start at the Telemark Chase earlier this season and continues to post strong freestyle results. Lee’s teammates Lisa Koenig and Sonja Hedblom finished seventh and sixteenth, respectively.
MTU head coach Joe Haggenmiller said he was pleased with how his women’s squad bounced back from a rough day in the 10 km classic one day earlier.
“Lisa Koenig had a top result today – that was great to see from her!”
Haggenmiller was also impressed with Lee, who V2-skated the entirety of the course’s longest climb on the first lap. Said Haggenmiller of the tactic, “Most of the guys weren’t even doing that so I think it shows how strong she is.”
On the men’s side it was deja-vu all over again. In fact, the top three collegiate finishers and the margins between them were nearly identical to the last CCSA 10 km freestyle race, which took place in Houghton, MI. Northern’s Torchia again “torched” the field, winning in a time of 20:11.8. Teammate Martin was second, 28-seconds behind. NMU’s Jake Brown finished third, just 0.8 seconds after Martin. Talk about consistency: in Houghton Torchia finished exactly 28-seconds in front of Martin and Martin 0.7 ahead of Brown.
“I was pleased with our team this weekend- both men and women,” noted Northern Michigan head coach Sten Fjeldheim. “Even with the cold it was a good weekend. I was glad that we got up to race-legal temperatures and were able to put on a good race, and a fair race.”
The Michigan Tech men had arguably their best CCSA performance of the year to-date. Huskies Gaspard Cuenot, Elset, and Hanson took fourth, fifth, and seventh, respectively. Not only did each performance set or match each skier’s CCSA season-best, but Sunday marked the first time this season that Michigan Tech has placed three in the top ten.
“I was pretty happy with how the guys performed; I thought we were pretty competitive with NMU,” said Haggenmiller, “but you have to give the NMU guys credit, they’ve been racing fast. So when we’re up there with NMU it’s a good day for us. Skate races seem to be good for us. I don’t know why, but they do!”
A mere 17 seconds separated the top three Alaska Fairbanks skiers, who collectively finished third as a team on Sunday and in the overall championship race. Freshmen Seji Takagi and Max Donaldson led the Nanook men in 10th and 11th, while veteran teammate Alexander Eckert finished just behind in 12th.
Unsurprisingly given the individual results, Northern Michigan took the team win on the weekend. UAF finished as runner-up in the conference, while Michigan Tech earned the final spot on the team podium with their strong Sunday performance.
Torchia and Markset were named the CCSA Athletes of the Week.
The CCSA ski teams will begin postseason NCAA competition next weekend in Ishpeming, MI, at the NCAA Regional Championships. Women are scheduled to race 5 km freestyle interval start at 10 am on Saturday, February 20 and 15 km classical mass start at 12:30 pm on Sunday, February 21. Men will race 10 km freestyle at 12:30 pm on Saturday and 20 km classic at 10 am on Sunday.