Liebner captures second All-American title in rain-soaked NCAA classic race
Stowe, Vt. – Northern Michigan’s Andy Liebner made the most of a warm, wet day at the Trapp Family Lodge, earning his second straight All-American honor with an eighth -place finish in the NCAA Championships 20K classic race. The result earns the junior a spot on the All-American second team and one-ups his ninth-place finish in the national freestyle race on Wednesday.
Wildcat teammate Marie Helen Soderman turned in the CCSA’s top performance on the women’s side as well, taking 13th place in the 15K race and finishing just 11 seconds off of a top-ten finish herself.
“Andy’s feeling really good,” Northern Michigan head coach Sten Fjeldheim said. “He had decent skis, not great, but was able to hang with the lead pack most of the race. He didn’t use to like classic skiing, but something just clicked this fall and now he loves it. I think that’s given him a lot of confidence. His race today was awesome.”
“Marie had one of her best races of the year too. She got off to a really slow start, but just continued to pass people the whole way. If the race had been any longer, she would be an All-American too.”
Unpredictable weather conditions throughout the day made life hard on both skiers and coaches alike, as rain fell throughout most of the women’s race before stopping halfway through the men’s event.
“It was difficult to dial in the wax today,” Alaska head coach Scott Jerome said. “I think a lot of people had trouble with their skis today, and if you didn’t have the wax just right, it made for a tough day.”
Despite the weather, there was no slowing the in-form Liebner. The Alaska native hung with the lead pack much of the way, and nipped New Mexico’s Martin Kaas at the line by less than four seconds.
Alaska’s David Norris once again turned in the region’s second-best performance on the men’s side. The first-year skier turned it on over the final lap, hammering out a 14th-place finish by outsprinting Denver’s Trygve Markset to the line. Fellow Nanook Tyler Kornfield overcame a fall and a broken pole to take 17th in the race as well, a vast improvement from his 31st-place performance in the distance race a year ago.
“It was a good result for Dave,” Jerome said. “He said he felt fine physically, just had slow skis. And Tyler was able to salvage something out of the race as well.”
Michigan Tech’s Mikko Harju was the fourth CCSA skier across the line, the Finn earning a respectable 22nd-place result with his time 1:07:59.5. A pair of Central Region skiers soon followed, with Northern Michigan’s Martin Banerud and Gustavus’ Jens Brabbit taking 33rd and 34th place, respectively.
“It was heartbreaking to see Martin struggle today,” Fjeldheim said. “He’s been on antibiotics for a while now, and going up against 39 of the best skiers, it’s tough if you aren’t 100 percent. But he gave it his all, and I’ve never had a team captain do such an outstanding job as Martin has. Andy [Liebner] even came up to him after the race and thanked him. He said he wouldn’t be an All-American if it wasn’t for Martin’s help.”
Alaska’s third skier, Lex Treinen, battled bad skis while finishing 38th on the day, while Northern Michigan freshman Erik Soderman rounded out the CCSA field with his 39th-place finish.
On the women ‘s side, Marie Helen Soderman set the pace for the region, crossing the line in 55:20.7 for her 15K, good for a top-15 finish. Michigan Tech freshman Malin Eriksson earned the CCSA’s second-best women’s finish with a solid 21st-place result in 56:53.4: a sign of good things to come for the Huskies and the CCSA.
NMU’s Christina Turman finished 26th on the day with her time of 58:13.1, while Alaska’s Theresia Schnurr finished 31st, just ahead of the Wildcats’ Monica Markvardsen in 32nd.
Green Bay’s Carolyn Freeman and Raphaela Sieber, who led the CCSA throughout most of the season, both endured difficult races in the season finale. Freeman took 34th in 59:26.6, while Sieber was 36th in 1:00:14.6.
“Theresia and Raphaela had really slow skis today,” Jerome said. “It’s frustrating: it’s not a good feeling as a coach to know that you didn’t get the wax right. But that happens in ski racing, and everyone on the team was very professional about it.”
Colorado’s Eliska Hajkova won the women’s event, while teammate Reid Pletcher captured the men’s title.
For a complete list of results from the 2011 NCAA Championships, please visit http://www.barttiming.com/eisa/Results11/ncaa11.htm