It was a Blue and Gold day at the NCAA Central Region Championships as Alaska skiers took the top two spots in both the men’s individual start 10K classic as well as the women’s 5K event in Houghton, Mich. Freshman Michael Fehrehbach earned his first career CCSA win, finishing ahead of second-placed teammate Logan Hanneman, and the Nanooks’ Aly McPhetres won her second straight collegiate race, with Theresia Schnurr taking second, in what proved to be a tricky waxing day on the women’s side.
The results mean that the Nanooks hold a slender advantage (three points on the women’s side, five points on the men’s) over rivals Northern Michigan going into the final day of regionals tomorrow.
“It was a really good effort today,” head coach Scott Jerome said. “I’m proud of the team, and how people that needed to have a good classic race today, like Aly and Theresia, stepped up. You could feel it out there today, that these were important races.”
Any tension Fehrehbach was feeling ahead of the final NCAA qualifiers, however, did not show one bit, as the freshman produced arguably his best race of the season and cruised to a comprehensive 48-second victory.
“Michael’s been doing his thing all year,” Jerome said. “He’s really fun to coach and I’ve been really impressed with him. I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, but he looked like a legitimate NCAA skier out there today.”
Teammate Hanneman, who just rejoined the Nanooks after competing internationally in the World Junior championships, took second and Northern Michigan’s Erik Soderman landed the final podium spot in the men’s race, which, due to its earlier start time, largely avoided the waxing difficulties of the women’s event.
Northern Michigan’s Kyle Bratrud, fresh off being named the CCSA skier of the week last week, finished fourth with his time of 31:35.5., while Saint Scholastica’s Jeremy Hecker took fifth. In the closest result of the day, Alaska’s third scoring skier, Lex Treinen, edged Northern Michigan’s Chris Bowler for sixth by just a tenth of a second – a vital two point swing in the team standings.
Northern Michigan’s George Cartwright (eighth), Alaska’s Jonas Loffler (ninth) and Saint Scholastica’s Paul Schommer (10th) rounded out the top ten.
In the women’s race, however, the combination of sun and snow led to a waxing nightmare for coaches and student-athletes. McPhetres and Jerome’s decision to race on zero skis paid off, however, as the sophomore won her third event of the CCSA season by 13 seconds.
“I got really lucky,” McPhetres said afterward. “My skis were actually great – they iced up a little at one point but I was able to get through it.”
Schnurr, also racing on zeroes, turned in her best race of the season for Alaska as well, taking second among college skiers to score a vital 23 points.
“I’m really proud of Theresia – she came through for us today,” Jerome said. “She’s been one of our top skiers for a long time. But everyone feels important on this team – we never know who our three scorers will be on any given day.”
Northern Michigan’s Jordyn Ross, one of the region’s most consistent performers in 2013, landed the final CCSA podium spot, placing third, while fellow Wildcat Rosie Frankowski took fourth with her time of 17:59.7.
Michigan Tech’s Deedra Irwin, an NCAA competitor a year ago, took fifth among CCSA skiers with her time of 18:00.3. Northern Michigan’s third scoring skier, Mary Kate Cirelli, took sixth, finishing one spot ahead of Alaska’s final scorer, Crystal Pitney, in seventh.
Northern Michigan freshman Hannah Boyer, and a pair of Michigan Tech Huskies (Rachel Mason and Sarah Daniels) round out the top ten.
The region’s skiers return to the trails tomorrow for a pair of crucial mass start freestyle events: a men’s 15K and a 10K for women. The races will not only decide the 2013 regional champions, but, as the final NCAA qualifier, will determine who will represent the Central Region at the NCAA Championships next month.
“I’m excited to get out there,” McPhetres said. “I don’t like sitting around and waiting. My attitude has been to just love what I do, and not worry about the things I can’t control.”
“You can’t ask for a better way to finish the regionals than a mass start race,” Jerome echoed. “It’s so exciting and everyone’s skiers are going to be fast tomorrow. We’ll just do the best we can, give it our all and let the chips fall where they may.”