The CCSA skiers begin their national championship adventure in earnest tomorrow, as they line up against the nation’s top collegiate skiers at the NCAA Championships in Middlebury, Vt. Of the thirteen skiers, representing three schools (Northern Michigan, Alaska and St. Scholastica), eight will be making their first appearance at nationals.
The event kicks off bright and early Thursday morning with a 10K men’s interval start classic race, beginning at 10 a.m. EST, followed by a 5K classic ski for women at noon. The distances, and the chaos level, only increase on Saturday, with a 15K mass start women’s freestyle event scheduled for 10 a.m., followed by a mass start 20K skate for men at noon.
For those unable to make the trip to Vermont, all events at this year’s NCAA Championships will be streamed online at www.ncaa.com/liveschedule.
“Making it to NCAAs is certainly never anything that we take for granted,” Alaska head coach Scott Jerome said. “It’s always a big accomplishment, and I think every athlete is very grateful to have the opportunity to race on this big stage. It’s very satisfying.”
In addition to individual championships and coveted All-American postions – the top five skiers all gain first-team All-American status, while the rest of the top 10 finishers collect second-team honors – there’s plenty more at stake when the CCSA skiers toe the line this week. Each year, the NCAA evaluates each region’s performance at nationals, and adjusts the number of berths for each region accordingly. Do well at NCAA, and your region will be able to send more skiers to next year’s championships. Each skier, therefore, has the opportunity to benefit not only themselves, but the entire region with a good performance.
Despite that added pressure, CCSA coaches, such as St. Scholastica’s Chad Samela, focus on keeping their athletes grounded.
“We are here to win, and to go about our business but, at the same time, I want our athletes to be able to relax,” Salmela said. “I think when they are relaxed and enjoying themselves, but also focused, that’s when they ski their best.”
Having arrived at the Rikert Nordic Center last week, the CCSA skiers have had a chance to get a number of practice runs in on what looks to be a fair but challenging course.
“There’s a really good mix on this course,” Salmela said. “There are some very challenging downhills with some tight turns – you are going to have to get into a nice rhythm to get through it. It’s a great course – it’s hard enough to be an NCAA championship race, but easy enough that it’s still enough about ski racing.”
This year’s NCAA Championships has added sentiment for Salmela – hosts Middlebury College is his alma mater.
In addition to the live broadcast at the NCAA website, fans of CCSA skiing can also follow live results at http://www.barttiming.com/eisa/Results13/ncaa13.htm.