On an afternoon with plenty of drama and excitement, it was Northern Michigan left celebrating in the end, as victories for George Cartwright in the men’s 20K freestyle and for Rosie Frankowski in the women’s 15K skate handed the Wildcats the overall team title at the Saints Invitational on Sunday.
Cartwright edged both College of Saint Scholastica’s Jeremy Hecker and teammate Erik Soderman in a photo finish to capture the title in the men’s 20K event – the trio all finishing within three-tenths of a second of one another to conclude one of the most exciting races in the CCSA this season. See photo of men’s 20K finish.
“It was a toss-up with about 100 meters to go,” Saint Scholastica head coach Chad Salmela said. “Jeremy really wanted to win this race, and there was a big crowd there cheering him on, but I knew George was a good sprinter as well and he just pulled ahead right at the end.”
Hecker’s consolation was his second silver medal finish of the weekend, and third in as many races – a string of results that should put the senior firmly in the running for one of the region’s NCAA berths come March.
“In the past four years, Jeremy’s struggled to have two good races back-to-back,” Salmela said. “So I think what we are seeing now is just a maturity thing, and it’s nice to see.”
Soderman settled for third, and his third podium spot of the weekend, after winning the 10K classic race on Saturday.
Green Bay’s Matt Nichols produced his best race of the season to date, taking fourth place after settling just behind the lead trio but comfortably ahead of Northern Michigan’s Chris Bowler, who took fifth in 54:41.5.
A pair of Saint Scholastica skiers, Scott Johanik and Jake Richards, were next across the line, earning sixth and seventh place, respectively.
“It’s great to see the depth of our team,” Salmela said. “It’s pretty cool to see guys like Scott and Jake stepping up. I think, on both the men’s and women’s side, we’ve got a more professional, more experienced team than we’ve ever had before.”
Gustavus Adolphus College’s Josh Blankenship took eighth, completing his 20K in 55:51.8, while Michigan Tech’s Kyle Hanson (ninth) and Jay Woodbeck (10th) rounded out the top ten.
Determining a winner on the women’s side was a little more straightforward, though, as Frankowski pulled away and never looked back, taking the top spot with a time of 48:38.9 – a full minute ahead of her nearest competition.
Michigan Tech’s Lynn Duijndam earned her second CCSA podium spot of the season, taking second place with a time of 49:43.2. Saint Scholastica’s Sharmila Ahmed crossed the line third in the CCSA, concluding an impressive weekend for the sophomore after she took second in Saturday’s classic event.
“We’ve found that Sharmila needs a lot of races to race well,” Salmela said. “This weekend was her seventh and eighth races, and things are starting to click. She’s coming into form right now and we just want to keep this trend going.”
Northern Michigan’s Jordyn Ross landed the CCSA’s fourth spot, crossing the line just ahead of teammate Hannah Boyer, who finished as the Wildcats’ third scoring skier in sixth place (fifth in the CCSA).
Michigan Tech’s Sarah Daniels earned the conference’s sixth spot (seventh overall) with her time of 50:38.8, while Kailey Mucha took seventh in the CCSA and eighth overall in 50:43.7.
Gustavus’ Erica Hett landed her second top ten in as many days, placing eighth in the CCSA and ninth overall. Green Bay’s Hanne Guthrie and St. Scholastica’s Kelsey Dickinson rounded out the conference’s top ten.
The combined scores for the weekend gave Northern Michigan a total of 299 points, earning them the team title over second-place Saint Scholastica, who earned 258 points this weekend. Michigan Tech earned third with 233 points.
The CCSA skiers now head to Al Quaal for the first round of the CCSA Championships next weekend, starting with a 1.5K freestyle sprint on Feb. 2.