Déjà vu in Houghton as Banerud, Freeman win Michigan Tech SuperTour skate races
The second day of the distance races at the Michigan Tech SuperTour stop in Houghton yielded similar results to the first: CCSA victories for Martin Banerud and Carolyn Freeman, and Northern Michigan atop the men’s and women’s team standings.
A pair of Wildcat woman (Christina Turman and Monica Markvardsen) followed Freeman in the college standings in the 10K freestyle, and the NMU men once again swept the CCSA podium in their 15K skate, with Banerud, Andy Liebner and Erik Soderstrom all reclaiming their respective finishes from a day before.
“We are pretty happy with the results this weekend,” NMU head coach Sten Fjeldheim said afterwards. “We really have a dynamic group of athletes that are all pushing each other. It’s a healthy competition: everyone really feels that they are part of a machine here.”
For the women, Green Bay’s Freeman skated to her second victory in as many days, marking the third time this season she was topped the CCSA podium. The senior earned a third-place overall finish in the mass start event, crossing the line in 33:38.5.
Northern Michigan’s Turman just missed out a second consecutive spot on the event podium as well with her fourth-place finish, though the Fairbanks, Alaska native did take second collegiately with her 33:43.7.
Fellow Wildcat Monica Markvardsen wasn’t far behind, earning the top OJ result of the day on the women’s side with her 33:47.3: good enough for third in the CCSA and fifth overall.
“Christina is feeling better and better every week,” Fjeldheim said. “She wanted to do the sprints out here and I finally agreed, and then she went out and won them. I couldn’t believe it. And Monica’s fitness is really coming back. She has been the top junior in both the races this weekend, and I think that has given her a lot of confidence.”
A pair of other junior skiers were close behind Markvardsen, offering promising signs for the future of CCSA racing. Michigan Tech’s Lynn Duijndam turned in one of her best races of the season to grab eighth place overall, and fourth in the CCSA, while St. Cloud State’s Elizabeth Simak finished ninth overall, rounding out the region’s top five with a 34:03.3.
Northern’s third scoring skier, Marie Soderman, scored the conference’s sixth spot, and tenth overall with a time of 34:07.7. A close battle between Michigan Tech’s Kristen Monahan and NMU’s Ingrid Fjeldheim saw Monahan edge her Wildcat counterpart for seventh in the CCSA (11th overall) by exactly one second.
Saint Scholastica’s Julia Curry earned her team’s top finish with a ninth-place CCSA result in 34:41.0, while Northern’s Jordyn Ross completed the top ten with her 34:46.8.
College of Saint Benedict’s Megan Smith took 13th in the conference, while Erica Hett turned in Gustavus’ top performance with a 16th-place result in 35:21.5.
On the men’s side, it was a Wildcat day as four Northern skiers filled the top five conference spots, paced by Banerud’s 41:03.9. The reigning CCSA Skier of the Week, Banerud earned eighth place overall to go along with his second consecutive conference victory.
“Martin was a little fatigued at the end,” Fjeldheim said. “These trails are really tough courses, and while he was able to stay with the lead pack most of the day, he still doesn’t feel that he has found his race gear yet. Having next weekend off is perfect timing for him to get rid of a little bit of fatigue.”
For the second straight day, teammates Liebner and Soderman joined him on the podium as well. Liebner snagged second in the region and 12th place overall with his 41:29.4 as he continues his push for an NCAA berth, while freshman Soderman’s third-place finish (13th overall) will help keep him in the running as well.
“Erik is just a really solid freshman,” Fjeldheim said. “It’s pretty impressive what he has been able to do this year. He came in with a solid base, and has a great attitude, great work ethic.”
Michigan Tech’s Mikko Harju kept his solid first season with the Huskies going with a fourth-place finish, taking 15th overall with his 42:28.8. Northern’s Kevin Cutts rounded out the region’s top five with an 18th-place overall finish in 42:33.8.
Saint Scholastica enjoyed a solid outing on Sunday as well, placing a pair of skiers in the conference’s top ten. The Saints’ Waylon Manske took 20th overall (sixth CCSA) with his 42:41.5, while teammate Jeremy Hecker had the top OJ finish for the men, taking seventh in the CCSA and 21st overall.
Manske and Hecker’s impressive performances, combined with a 15th-place CCSA finish from teammate Kelin Dunfee, offers the region’s competition a timely reminder of the talent that exists on the CSS roster.
Michigan Tech’s Matt Dugan skated to eighth place in the conference with is 43:25.3, followed closely by Green Bay’s Edward Gurney, who took 25th overall and finished as the second best OJ skier. Northern’s Chris Bowler rounded out the top ten with a 43:47.3: good enough for 28th overall.
For the second straight day, Jared Sundstrom earned Saint John’s top finish with a 13th-place CCSA result, while Gogebic Community College’s Ben Noren took 25th in the region in 45:45.6.
After a month of non-stop competition, the CCSA skiers take a well-earned break before heading to the CCSA Championships, hosted by NMU in Ishpeming, Mich. on Feb. 18-19.