MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – An impressive display of depth from the Northern Michigan skiers has given the Wildcats a slim two-point edge over Alaska after the first day of the Mayor’s XC Challenge in Minneapolis, Minn. Northern’s Kjell-Christian Markset topped the CCSA podium for the first time in his young career in the men’s 10K classic at Theodore Wirth Park, while teammate Monica Markvardsen took the conference’s top spot for the third time this season in the women’s 5K classic.
Weather conditions forced the race to be re-routed onto a 3K artificial snow loop, but the dizzying course did little to slow down Markset, who cruised to a top-ten overall finish in 23:04.1 – good enough for eighth place. Fellow CCSA competitor, Alaska’s Logan Hanneman, also landed a top-ten spot, taking ninth (second in the CCSA) with a time of 23:11.4.
A pair of Swedish skiers were next to cross the line among conference competitors, with Northern’s Erik Soderman taking third (15th overall) with his time of 23:22.9, followed by Alaska senior Erik Soderstrom, who took 19th overall at the event in 23:41.9.
Michigan Tech’s Jesse Smith turned in what may have been his best race of the season so far, grabbing a fifth-place finish and placing 20th overall. The Traverse City, Mich. Native was unfortunate not to place even higher – Smith finished just a tenth of a second behind Soderstrom.
Northern Michigan’s third scoring skier, Chris Bowler, took sixth and 21st overall in 23:43.0. Saint Scholastica’s Jeremy Hecker continued to build momentum for his season as well after a strong showing in the Hilltop Invitational last weekend: the junior took seventh place in the CCSA and 24th overall on Saturday.
Kyle Bratrud’s time of 23:51.8 gave the Wildcats’ their fourth skier in the CCSA top ten. Michigan Tech’s Mikko Harju and Alaska’s Tyler Kornfield (both NCAA qualifiers from a year ago) rounded out the conference’s top ten on the men’s side.
For the women’s side, it was all Northern Michigan and Alaska, with the former placing six skiers in the CCSA’s top ten, though the Nanooks placed all three of their scoring skiers in the top four.
It was no surprise, however, that Markvardsen earned the conference’s top finish. The junior has started the season in sizzling form for the Wildcats, and earned a top-five overall finish (fifth) with her time of 17:59.6.
Alaska’s Marit Rjabov, who has enjoyed a fine start to the season as well, landed an impressive seventh-place overall finish, taking the conference’s second spot in 18:32.4. Teammate Raphaela Sieber wasn’t far behind either, scoring a top-ten finish with her time of 18:36.2.
Crystal Pitney then rounded out the scoring for the Nanooks, placing fourth in the CCSA and 13th overall in 18:45.8.
From there, however, it was all Northern Michigan, as the Wildcats took the next five conference spots. Sophomore Molly Burger, fresh off a win in the skate race at the Hilltop Invitational last week, led the charge, taking fifth (14th overall) in 18:48.6. Teammate Libby Ellis wasn’t far behind, finishing a tenth of a second behind Burger to take 15th overall.
Just four-tenths of a second behind them, Northern’s Rosie Frankowski completed her race in 18:49.1 – good enough for seventh in the CCSA and 16th overall. Jordyn Ross (17th overall) and Marie Helen Soderman (19th overall) completed the flood of Wildcat skiers to cross the line, while Saint Scholastica’s Ahmed Sharmila rounded out the top ten, taking 22nd overall in 19:05.9.
Finishing the day with a combined total of 146 points, the Wildcats hold a two-point advantage over Alaska, who finished with 144 points. Michigan Tech sits in third with 108 points, while Saint Scholastica, in fourth, has 104.
The skiers return to the Wirth Park course bright and early tomorrow, with the women kicking off a 10K interval start skate at 9 a.m., followed by a 15K interval start freestyle race for the men at 10:35 a.m.