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NCAA Central Regionals: NMU’s Soderman, Michigan Tech’s Flanders win Skate Races

(CCSA press release)

Northern Michigan’s Erik Soderman and Michigan Tech’s Alice Flanders were the victors in Saturday’s freestyle race at the NCCA Central Regional Championships, held at Al Quaal Park in Ishpeming, Michigan.

Soderman, the NMU senior from Njurunda, Sweden, had a terrific day at Regionals, winning the men’s 10 kilometer race by over 33 seconds with a time of 23:24. “It was a great day for Erik,” said NMU Head Coach Sten Fjeldheim. “He really lit it up on the second loop.”

“He skied out a little conservatively,” said Fjeldheim explaining Soderman’s racing strategy. “That’s kind of how he does it. I think he was only 6 seconds back at 3 k. Then he increases the pace gradually.”

Taking second behind Soderman was Alaska Fairbanks’ Logan Hanneman, with a time 23:57.3. “It was a solid day for Logan,” said UAF Interim Head Coach Christina Turman. “It was pretty surprising to see him ski so well getting right off the plane.”

Hanneman joined the UAF team in Marquette late on Thursday said Turman, opting to stay an extra couple of days in Fairbanks to catch up on missed school from his time away competing at the U23 World Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Taking third was Michigan Tech’s Haakon Hjelstuen. “Haakon was pretty fortunate to have Erik Soderman starting behind him,” said MTU Head Coach Joe Haggenmiller. When Soderman caught Hjelstuen a few kilometers into the race the Norwegian exchange student stayed with his pace. “He skied with Erik for about 5 k and lost six seconds on him [towards the end of the race].”

“He really put himself in the pain cave to ski with him,” Haggenmiller said. “He couldn’t remember the last 3 k.”

Taking fourth for St. Olaf’s was Jake Brown. Tom Jorgenson, Head Coach of St. Olaf said that Brown skied “a good race, a consistent race. I think it was his best result of the season so far.” Jorgenson added, “it’s coming in at the right part of the season, the right time.”

In 5th place was Fredrik Schwencke of NMU, “a solid day for Freddy,” said Fjeldheim. Finishing in 6th was St. Scholastica’s Paul Schommer. “I couldn’t really tell that Paul felt like it wasn’t going great, because I thought he looked great,” said St. Scholastica Head Coach Chad Salmela. “Sometimes … late in the season, when athletes are hanging on to their fitness, they might not feel awesome but they can still perform well. I think that’s what Paul’s experience was. It was arguably one of his best, if not best performance this year compared to the field.”

Taking 7th for NMU was Ian Torchia. “He’s an ambitious freshman,” said Fjeldheim. “He just got back from Kazakhstan and he’s been under the weather this week, he hasn’t been doing much training. He was so passionate about racing today, so I let him.”

Eighth went to Adam Martin of NMU, while 9th and 10th went to UAF’s Nick Lovett and Kenneth Brewer, respectively. “It was a huge day for those guys,” said Turman. It’s really exciting to see some other guys racing fast and stepping up.”

The women’s 5 k freestyle race was won by Flanders with a time of 15:09. It marked Flanders’ third-consecutive distance freestyle victory in the CCSA. “It’s a strong result,” said Haggenmiller. “Anytime you’re winning it’s a good day. We’re pretty proud of her.”

Taking second place was NMU’s Jordyn Ross. Ross had trailed Flanders by about 8 seconds halfway through the race before closing the time gap to just over three seconds at the finish line. “Jordyn was only 3 seconds out,” Fjeldheim said, “and she knows exactly how she lost that time so that’s okay.” Haggenmiller noted that, “Alice and Jordyn sort of have an ongoing battle on the race course.”

In third was St. Scholastica’s Sharmila Ahmed, while fourth went to NMU’s Felicia Gesior. In 5th was Anita Kirvesniemi of St. Scholastica. “It was the best single day in our program at regionals ever,” said Salmela. “We’ve never put two in the top five at regionals, and that’s just awesome. The whole team skied great and while we were second last year as well, we’ve never been closer to winning than today.”

“This goes such a long way to take the pressure off both Sharmila and Anita tomorrow because they will probably qualify [for the NCAA Championships] even if they didn’t race tomorrow. They obviously will race, and race the best they can, but it’s nice to not have to feel a lot riding on the race. They can just go out there and let it happen.”

In 6th and 7th place were NMU’s Sophie Schimpl and Kristen Bourne, respectively. In 8th was UAF’s Anne-Tine Markset. “Another solid race for her,” said Turman. “She’s becoming quite consistent. She was just a few seconds off of 6th place, so another close race there.”

In 9th was Deedra Irwin of MTU. “She’s starting to recover from her transatlantic travel,” said Haggenmiller of Irwin’s recent return from the U-23 World Championships in Kazakhstan. “It’s the best she’s felt since she’s been back,” he added. “She’s getting better and better.”

Taking 10th was NMU’s Vivian Hett. “The women did great,” said Fjeldheim. “I was happy with the results for the men and women on day one of regionals.”

Full results can be found at www.superiortiming.com

— Pasha Kahn

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