Northern Michigan’s Erik Soderman grabbed his second All-American honor in as many years in the men’s 10K interval start classic, and Wildcat freshman Mary Kate Cirelli, in her first appearance at nationals, earned the region’s top finish in the women’s 5K as the CCSA took on the nation’s finest skiers at the NCAA Championships in Middlebury, Vt.
Though warming temperatures led to icy, fast conditions throughout both events, Soderman kept his cool early on in the race, gradually making his way through the field to grab 10th place and a second-team All-American spot, completing his 10K in 26:56.5. Soderman adds the accolade to his growing trophy cabinet – he was the individual national champion in the freestyle event at last year’s NCAAs.
“I’m really happy for Erik,” Northern Michigan head coach Sten Fjeldheim said. “He’s just so relaxed, and so cool and calm – he’s like Clint Eastwood out there. I think I’m more nervous than he is.
“It was a little bit of a tricky wax day, but I think everyone had solid skis. It was a little bit hectic in the wax room – I don’t know how many different wax combinations we tried – but I think we found something that worked.”
Teammate Cirelli turned in a solid performance of her own – the freshman taking 15th with a time of 16:22.9, just five seconds out from an All-American spot as well.
“I knew Mary Kate was going to have a good race when she came up to me beforehand and said, ‘I’m really not nervous at all, I just want to race,’” Fjeldheim said.
While Soderman led the CCSA men’s skiers, Alaska’s Logan Hanneman took 17th place: the 19-year old finishing as the Nanooks top skier with a time of 27:10.2.
Northern Michigan’s Kyle Bratrud wasn’t far behind, taking 23rd overall in his first NCAA event with a time of 27:36.6. Alaska’s Jonas Loffler (31st), Northern Michigan’s George Cartwright (33rd), the Nanooks’ Michael Fehrenbach (35th) and St. Scholastica’s Jeremy Hecker (39th) rounded out the CCSA skiers on the men’s side.
On the women’s side, Northern Michigan’s Jordyn Ross placed 23rd as well, finishing her 5K loop in 16:39.8, while teammate Rosie Frankowski skied her way to 25th place overall.
“Our women did a great job of picking their skis,” Fjeldheim said. “They all chose zeroes, which is probably only the second time we’ve raced on zeroes all year, and it worked out. Every one of them finished in the top 25.
“It was really tight competition all day, but that’s what we expect. For our young skiers to come and experience competition like this is invaluable.”
Alaska’s Aly McPhetres, who had battled some slight illness earlier in the week, came in 30th with a time of 16:53.6, while teammate Crystal Pitney (35th) and St. Scholastica’s Sharmila Ahmed (39th) completed the CCSA field.
Colorado’s Rune Oedegaard captured the men’s national championship with a time of 26:00.2 while the women’s title went to Anja Gruber, in 15:31.1.
The CCSA skiers now get a day to recover and prepare for the mass start freestyle events on Saturday. Given the fast conditions and narrow turns on the course, the races – a 15K for women scheduled for 10 a.m., followed by a 20K for men at noon – should prove to be quite exciting. Fans can follow the action live at www.ncaa.com.