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Flanders, Soderman Win Skate Races at CCSA Champs; St. Scholastica Takes Team Titles

Monday, February 16th, 2015

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

 

Northern Michigan’s Gesior, Schwencke Win Classic Mass Starts at CCSA Distance Champs

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

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

MTU’s Hjelstuen, Axelsson Victors at CCSA Championships Sprints

Monday, February 9th, 2015

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 

St. Scholastica Sweeps CCSA Relay Championships

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

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

NMU Coach Voted National Collegiate Ski Coach of the Year

Friday, June 6th, 2014

University of Northern Michigan head coach Sten Fjeldheim received the 2014 National Coach of the Year award from United States Collegiate Ski Coaches Association as a result of the receiving the highest number of votes from his coaching colleagues.

“It was truly an honor,” Fjeldheim said in a press release. “I’ve won awards in the past but never anything quite like national coach of the year, and when the award is voted on by other coaches across the country, it’s something special that you won’t ever forget.”

NMU finished seventh overall and second place in nordic skiing at the 2014 NCAA Championships at Soldier Hollow, Utah, led by senior Rosie Frankowski and junior Kyle Bratud. The result was one of the program’s top finishes at the championships.

The coaching award was celebrated by NMU skiers, who respect the knowledge that Fjeldheim has shared with them over the years.

“It wasn’t that big of a surprise to me that he won the award,” junior Felicia Gesior said in a press release. “He has a great amount of knowledge for the sport, and everyone knows about his dedication for it and his team, and his success over the years has shown that.”

Gustavus Skiing Becomes a Club Sport with the Possibility of NCAA Eligibility

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Gustavus Adolphus College announced in late March that the Minnesota school would no longer fund the its varsity nordic ski team. The move by the administration, which came as a shock to both participants in the program as well as onlookers, ended a program that had produced several NCAA competitors as well as many accomplished student-athletes.

While the varsity program lost its funding, the ski team will still be able to exist as a club program and possibly continue to compete in Central Collegiate Ski Association. To compete in NCAA races, members of the team would need to fundraise for travel and race entry. Another key factor in the allowance of Gustavus Adolphus to participate at the collegiate level will be its NCAA eligibility, which the school’s administration is currently debating.

Frankowski, Schwencke named Central Region Athletes of the Year; Jorgenson and Fjeldheim take coaching honors

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Northern Michigan’s Rosie Frankowski and Fredrik Schwencke have been voted the Central Region’s Women’s and Men’s Athlete of the Year, respectively, by the CCSA coaches, the conference announced Monday. In addition, St. Olaf coach Tom Jorgenson collected the Women’s Central Region Coach of the Year recognition, while NMU head coach Sten Fjeldheim earned the same honor on the men’s side.

Frankowski earned the region’s top honor after writing a magnificent final chapter to her Northern Michigan career. The one-time walk-on was the national runner-up in the 15K skate race at the NCAA Championships, earning first-team All-American status. Frankowski also took sixth in the 5K classic race at nationals (good for a second-team All-American trophy), and also landed the top spot in both the regional and CCSA Championship skate events.

Schwencke, meanwhile, exceeded all expectations with his stellar first season with the Green and Gold. Like Frankowski, the freshman also collected a pair of All-American spots at the NCAA Championships, taking 10th in the 10K classic before finishing sixth as part of a massive lead pack in the 20K freestyle race. Schwencke found his best form at the right time of the season, helping the Wildcats to both CCSA and regional team championships by landing podium places at both events at the CCSA Championships.

The region’s Women’s Coach of the Year, Jorgenson has overseen a steady growth in St. Olaf’s skiing programs over his two-year tenure at the helm, culminating in an NCAA berth (and subsequent All-American finish) for Paige Schember this season. Schember took seventh place in the 15K freestyle at the NCAA Championships, and finished the season as the region’s fourth-ranked skier on the CCSA points list.

“I’m surprised, honestly, to win this award,” Jorgenson said. “I’m very honored, and I’m grateful to the other coaches for recognizing the improvements our program has made, as well as grateful for the high standards they have set that I can follow and work towards as a coach.”

Not far removed from CCSA competition himself – he skied for the Oles before graduating in 2011 – Jorgenson believes that experience has helped shape and inform his coaching. “It helps me to connect with my skiers a little bit more, and understand what they are going through as students and athletes,” he said. “For example, I know Paige so well at this point that the NCAA Championships was almost easy; we both knew what we needed from each other.”

Fjeldheim, meanwhile, continues to add to his impressive trophy cabinet, guiding his men’s team to team titles at both the CCSA and NCAA Central Region championships this season. Fjeldheim sent a full compliment of three men to the NCAA Championships earlier this month, where he helped the team ring up a total of three All-American places.

In addition, Fjeldheim, who earned the region’s men’s and women’s Coach of the Year honors a year ago, was also named the CCSA’s Coach of the Year following the regional championships in February.

 

Source: CCSA

 

NMU’s Cartwright, St. Scholastica’s Ahmed earn Skier of the Week honors; Fjeldheim named CCSA Coach of the Year

Monday, February 24th, 2014
For their contributions at the NCAA Central Region Championships last weekend, Northern Michigan’s George Cartwright and the College of St. Scholastica’s Sharmila Ahmed have taken home the season’s final CCSA Skier of the Week honors, the conference announced Saturday.
A fifth-year senior for the Wildcats, Cartwright played a vital role in helping NMU to secure the men’s and overall team titles over the weekend. The Wyoming native opened his stay in Houghton with a fifth-place finish in the men’s classic race (second-best on the team) before finishing as the top collegiate skier the mass start skate race, topping the rest of the CCSA field by more than 21 seconds. Cartwright’s efforts helped Northern Michigan to overturn a three-point deficit heading into the final day of regionals, lifting the Wildcats to a comfortable seven-point team victory.Likewise, Ahmed contributed crucial points to her squad as well, helping the St. Scholastica women claim their best-ever finish at regionals, as the Saints took second just behind perennial powerhouse Northern Michigan. Ahmed saved her best race of the season for when it mattered most, taking second place in the women’s skate race to score 23 important points for her team. The junior also scored for her team in Saturday’s classic event as well, taking 11th place overall in the event. Her points helped St. Scholastica claim its first-ever podium in the NCAA Central Region Championships combined team scores; the Saints placing third for the weekend, behind just NMU and Alaska.Northern Michigan head coach Sten Fjeldheim, meanwhile, collected the CCSA Coach of the Year honors for both the men’s and women’s side. Now in his 25th year at the helm for the Wildcats, Fjeldheim guided his team to a clean sweep at both the CCSA Championships and the NCAA Central Region Championships as NMU claimed the men’s, women’s and overall team titles at both events.

“It is a real honor to receive the CCSA Coach of the year award for both the men’s and women’s team, especially since it is all of the CCSA coaches who vote on this award,” Fjeldheim said. “It’s a real be honor to be selected by a group of coaches who we compete against all season long.”

Fjeldheim, however, was quick to praise his student-athletes for the team’s success.

“Much of the credit goes to the NMU ski team athletes and the way that they have supported one another all season, not just with their racing, but also their fall dry-land training and respecting one another as individuals. The team has depth and talent and most of all a very competitive atmosphere exists within this group, they pushed one another during the intense training sessions all fall and were ready to train no matter what the weather was, rain, shine, sleet or storm”.

Source: CCSA

Northern Michigan sweep regional titles as Cartwright, Frankowski win freestyle events

Sunday, February 16th, 2014
It was a green and gold final day of the CCSA season, as Northern Michigan not only saw two of their skiers — George Cartwright and Rosie Frankowski — top the podium in both the men’s 15K and women’s 10K mass start freestyle events, but the Wildcats also swept the men’s, women’s and overall team titles at the NCAA Central Region Championships in Houghton, Mich.
“It was a great team effort,” Northern Michigan head coach Sten Fjeldheim said. “We’ve got everyone healthy, had good skis, so everything worked out. I think it says a lot about our team depth on both sides: everyone really pushes one another to get better.”There was plenty of pressure in the build-up to Sunday’s start, since the races represented the final chance for CCSA skiers to improve their standing in the regional points list and stake their claim for a coveted spot at the NCAA Championships next month.

Cartwright, however, refused to be rattled and skied an intelligent, composed race, sticking within the lead pack for the first couple laps before teaming with the redshirting Erik Soderman to pull away in the final 5K. Cartwright would finish as the top collegiate skier with his time of 40:57.9 to successfully defend his NCAA Central Region skate title from last year.

“It takes a lot to rattle George’s cage,” Fjeldheim said. “He’s at his best when he can sit with the pack and then take off at the end. He’s always been a good skate skier and a good sprinter, so he’s tough to beat when he does that. It was really fun, as a coach, to watch a fifth-year senior go out and win regionals today.”

Fellow Wildcat Kyle Bratrud was next across the line, the in-form skier earning his second podium spot of the weekend with a second-place finish in 41:19.7. St. Scholastica junior Paul Schommer collected the bronze podium spot, finishing third in 41:21.0. A pair of Alaska skiers, Michael Fehrenbach and Logan Hanneman, were next across the line; Fehrenbach taking fourth in 41:22.5, while Hanneman just edged the Wildcats’ Fredrik Schwencke across the line by seven-tenths of a second.

Schwencke, Northern Michigan’s third scoring skier, took sixth in 41:24.3, followed closely by teammate Adam Martin in seventh. St. Olaf’s Jake Brown produced a solid performance to take eighth and boost his chances of NCAA qualification with his time of 41:28.8, while Michigan Tech’s Matt Dugan and Kyle Hanson rounded out the top ten.

On the women’s side, the rest of the CCSA field had no answer for Frankowski. The senior from Minneapolis, Minn. set the pace early, then pulled away on the second lap before eventually cruising to a 38-second victory. Frankowski has now won back-to-back mass start skate events since returning from the U23 World Championships last month.

“Having Rosie back has just given our whole team a boost of confidence — I think she decided to see just how fast she could ski in that second lap today,” Fjeldheim laughed.

St. Scholastica’s Sharmila Ahmed turned in one of her best performances of the season on Sunday, earning a regional silver medal with her time of 33:00.9 — good enough for second place. Northern Michigan’s Hannah Boyer wrapped up a solid weekend for herself as well, landing her second third place finish and second podium spot in as many days by taking third in 33:07.4.

St. Olaf’s Paige Schember strengthened her case for an NCAA berth with her fourth-place finish on Sunday, followed closely by Michigan Tech’s Alice Flanders, another skier who will be eyeing the points lists earnestly when the final standings are announced later this month. Northern Michigan’s Mary Kate Cirelli took sixth to wrap up the scoring for the Wildcats, and St. Scholastica’s Sarah Allen wrapped up a solid season for herself with a seventh-place finish. Alaska’s Nichole Bathe, Northern Michigan’s Kristen Bourne and Alaska’s Aly McPhetres complete the women’s top ten.

Sunday’s results mean that Northern Michigan successfully overturned the three-point deficit they faced on the men’s side after yesterday’s classic event. The Wildcats leapfrogged Alaska to claim the men’s team title by seven points, 129 to 122. St. Scholastica took third with 93 points.

It was a similar story on the women’s side, with the Wildcats’ women taking the crown with 128 total points for the weekend, topping second place St. Scholastica (109 points) and third-place Alaska (99 points) by a comfortable margin.

With the CCSA season now behind them, the region’s student-athletes now can do nothing but wait for the final points to be tallied and the official selections for next month’s NCAA Championships to be announced. The Central Region will send seven men and six women to this year’s national championships, to be held at Soldier Hollow Resort in Midway, Utah on March 6 and 8.

Source: CCSA

Bathe, Bratrud crowned champs at NCAA Central Region Championships classic meet

Sunday, February 16th, 2014
Alaska’s Nichole Bathe and Northern Michigan’s Kyle Bratrud captured the Central Region crowns in the women’s 5K and men’s 10K individual start classic events, respectively, to kick off the regional championships in Houghton, Mich. In near perfect skiing conditions, the Nanooks and Wildcats combined to occupy all six podium spots (three apiece) on the afternoon, meaning that Alaska heads into final day of the NCAA Central Region Championships with a three-point lead on the men’s side, while the Northern Michigan women hold an eight-point edge heading into Sunday.
Having missed the CCSA Championships in order to represent the U.S. Ski Team at the World Junior Championships last month, Bathe showed her experience in Italy paid dividends, dominating the field at the Michigan Tech Nordic Training Center. Despite only seeing the course for the first time at 5 p.m. Friday evening, thanks to a cancelled flight and some misplaced equipment, the freshman kept her nerve and sailed to a 15-second victory, completing her 5K in 17:14.4.”Nichole had a long travel day yesterday, plus she’d never even raced here before, so that would have thrown a lot of people off,” Alaska head coach Scott Jerome said. “But she took it in stride, didn’t get stressed at all and performed really well.”

Though Bathe took the top spot, the other two podium positions went to Northern Michigan, as Rosie Frankowski took second with her time of 17:30.0 and Hannah Boyer staked her claim for an NCAA berth — an increasingly competitive appointment on the women’s side of the region — with her third-place finish.

St. Scholastica’s Sarah Allen continues to find her top form at the right time, impressing with a fourth-place finish on Saturday with her time of 17:56.9. St. Olaf’s Paige Schember collected her second straight top-five finish as well, placing less than a second behind Allen.

St. Scholastica’s second scoring skier, Anita Kirvesniemi, took sixth place, helping the Saints into second on the women’s side on the day, after just edging out Northern Michigan’s Felicia Gesior by seven-tenths of a second. Alice Flanders (Michigan Tech), Mary Kate Cirelli (NMU) and Ulrika Axelsson rounded out the women’s top ten.

On the men’s side, Bratrud ended Alaska’s Logan Hanneman’s two-race winning streak by collecting his third CCSA win of the season. Bratrud, currently the top-ranked men’s skier on the CCSA points list and looking a likely shoo-in for an NCAA berth next month, bested Hanneman by just 1.9 seconds in an intriguing battle between two of the region’s most in-form skiers.

Though forced to settle for second place, Hanneman would receive some consolation in seeing a pair of teammates finishing directly behind him in the standings. Alaska’s Michael Fehrenbach battled through an illness to take the bronze position with his time of 30:02.2, leading early in the race before eventually falling behind the top two. Max Olex then turned in arguably his most impressive race of the season, taking fourth in 30:37.8 in an impressive display of depth from the Nanooks.

“I was so proud of our men’s team today,” Jerome said. “Max really stepped up today, and even though he wasn’t feeling well, Michael fought for the good of the team as well. But it was more than just them – all of our guys (Kenneth Brewer, Isaac Lammers and Jonas Loffler) gave it all they had today.”

A trio of Northern Michigan skiers posted the next fastest times, with George Cartwright (5th), Adam Martin (6th) and Fredrik Schwencke (7th) all finishing within 2.3 seconds of one another. St. Scholastica’s Paul Schommer took eighth in 30:57.7., while his teammates John Wessling and Chris Parr rounded out the top ten.

The results mean that the Northern Michigan women finish the day with 63 points, eight points ahead of St. Scholastica (55 points) and 12 ahead of Alaska (51). Michigan Tech sits fourth on 45 points.

Things are even tighter on the men’s side, with Alaska’s 66 points giving them just a three-point cushion over Northern Michigan. St. Scholastica sits third with 51 points.

The CCSA skiers head back to the Nordic Training Center course tomorrow for a vital mass start skate event, with a 15K on tap for the men and a 10K scheduled for the women. Not only will the regional titles be decided, but the two races also represent the final NCAA qualifiers for the region’s competitors.

“It’s high pressure, but we just try to keep things as normal as possible,” Jerome said. “This is what you’ve been preparing for months and months. But its a lot of fun, regionals is one of my favorites events of the year. It really is a nice capstone to the season.”