Alaska continued to lead the pack in CCSA races, as the Nanooks’ Ray Sabo and Raphaela Sieber took the conference’s top spots in the men’s 10K and women’s 5K races at the Mayor’s Challenge SuperTour stop in Minneapolis, Minn.
Sabo and Sieber’s victories mean that an Alaska skier has finished atop the CCSA podium in nine of the season’s first ten events. Sieber now has two wins and a runner-up finish to her credit in the region, while the senior Sabo earned the first collegiate win of his career.
But perhaps the biggest story to come out of Theodore Wirth Park was the resurgence of traditional CCSA powerhouse Northern Michigan. The Wildcats, who always seem to get stronger as the year goes on, turned in an impressive team performance on Saturday, earning two podium spots and placing all three of their scoring skiers in the CCSA’s top five on the men’s side.
Not to be outdone, the NMU women likewise landed three inside the region’s top ten, paced by a fourth-place finish from Ingrid Fjeldheim.
“It’s always exciting to race against Northern,” Green Bay assistant coach Steve Teclaw said. “They make our region stronger – they challenge everyone else. Ingrid and Christina [Turman] skied phenomenal today.”
For the men, Sabo demonstrated the incredible depth of this year’s Alaska side, who were missing three of their top skiers to the World Junior and U-23 races in Estonia. Sabo, however, made sure they weren’t missed with a masterful performance, taking ninth place overall with a time of 24:45.5.
A pair of Northern skiers rounded out the CCSA podium, as Andy Liebner and Martin Banerud showed a return to the form that has earned them both previous NCAA berths. Liebner took 12th overall, with a 24:52.4, edging teammate Banerud (13th overall) by just 3.2 seconds.
Michigan Tech’s Mikko Harju took 14th overall and fourth in the CCSA with a 25:16.8; the Finnish import looking an astute signing for Joe Haggenmiller’s men. Northern’s third scoring skier, Erik Soderman, took 15th overall with his 25:20.0.
A quartet of Alaska skiers captured spots 6-9 on the CCSA leaderboards, led by Erik Soederstroem in 17th place overall. Already established as a dangerous classic skier, Soederstroem’s skate results have continued to improve this season.
The Nanooks’ Alex Morris, John Parry and Cody Preist followed their teammate, taking the 18th, 19th, and 20th spots overall, respectively. Northern’s Kevin Cutts rounded out the CCSA top ten with a 22nd-place finish, completing the course in 26:09.5.
St. Olaf’s Tom Jorgenson finished as his side’s top finisher, taking 24th overall, as did Green Bay’s Nick Maki, who took 30th.
On the women’s side, it was a pair of familiar names that led the way for the CCSA. Alaska’s Sieber continues to turn heads as she cruised to a third-place overall finish in 14:09.5, topping her nearest collegiate competitor by nearly 14 seconds.
Green Bay’s Carolyn Freeman took fourth overall and second in the CCSA: the talented freestyle racer finishing with a time of 14:23.1. Alaska’s Theresia Schnurr earned third-place in the region with a 14:41.4.
“Carolyn is exactly where she needs to be right now,” Teclaw said. “She is happy with the competition around her, and is confident about her points. It’s allowed her to be loose and race her own race. Right now we are just working on getting her routine nailed down so she’ll be ready for the big races in Vermont later this season.”
Finishing just seven-tenths of a second behind Schnurr, Northern’s Fjeldheim earned her best finish of the CCSA season with a seventh-place overall finish. Wildcat teammate Christina Turman completed the region’s top five with an eighth-place finish in 14:45.6.
A great race for Alaska’s Marit Rjabov saw her finish as her team’s third scoring skier, taking sixth in the CCSA as she continues to build off of a strong performance at last weekend’s Hilltop Invitational. Northern Michigan’s Marie Helen Soderman rounded out the scoring for her team as well, taking seventh in the region and 11th overall with a time of 15:16.9.
Michigan Tech’s Malin Eriksson turned in her team’s top performance, landing a top-fifteen overall finish with her 12th-place 15:19.1 (8th CCSA). Gustavus sophomore Erica Hett did the same, taking ninth in the CCSA and 14th overall with a 15:35.2.
Saint Scholastica’s Julia Curry completed the region’s top ten, taking 16th overall with a 15:41.5, just in front of teammate Christina Groulx (17th overall).
The Alaska women (68 pts) head into the second day of the Mayor’s Challenge SuperTour with a narrow two-point advantage over Northern Michigan (66 pts). Green Bay sits in third with 50 pts.
On the men’s side, Northern’s 77 points give them a ten-point lead over second-place Alaska (67) and a 19-point edge over third-place Michigan Tech (58). Northern also leads the combined scores with 143, with Alaska second on 135, and Michigan Tech third with 114.
The CCSA skiers return to the Theodore Wirth trails for a mass start classic event tomorrow: a 15K for the men and a 10K for the women. With a wider course, cold temperatures and a hard track on tap, the mass start should prove to be an exciting affair.
“I was super excited about the course today,” Teclaw said. “Especially after all the rain and everything last year, it’s good to have cold temperatures and an extremely hard track this time. It really helped the course hold up with all the skiers on it.”
For more information about the CCSA or its 11 member schools, please visit www.ccsaski.com
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