Impressive individual performances from Michigan Tech’s Alice Flanders and St. Scholastica’s Paul Schommer saw the two juniors top the podium in the women’s 5K freestyle and the men’s 10K freestyle, respectively, in bitterly cold conditions at Mt. Itasca in Coleraine, Minn. Flanders has now taken the top spot in the last two CCSA skate races – both by substantial margins as well – while Schommer earned the Saints’ second win of the weekend, following teammate Sarah Allen’s victory Friday.
After winning the freestyle event at the Telemark Chase last weekend by more than 37 seconds, Flanders fared even better on Saturday despite racing at sub-zero (-2 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures, crossing the line a full 42 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor.
“Alice has been skiing really well the last couple of weeks,” Michigan Tech head coach Joe Haggenmiller said afterwards. “She’s just a natural skater. She’s been on the bad side of the [NCAA qualifying] bubble a couple of times in her career already, so hopefully she can get to NCAAs this year and have a performance like this there.”
Northern Michigan’s Felicia Gesior turned in one of the best performances of her Wildcat career to date, capturing second place with her time of 15:19.6. Teammate Mary Kate Cirelli wasn’t far behind, earning her spot on the podium with a time of 15:22.6.
Michigan Tech’s second-scoring skier, Lynn Duijndam, just missed joining teammate Flanders on the podium, eventually settling for fourth place after crossing the line just eight-tenths of a second behind Cirelli.
“Lynn is another natural skater of ours,” Haggenmiller said. “She’s been battling some acid reflux issues this year, so we were excited she was able to hang in there and do well today.”
Gustavus Adolphus skier Marian Lund earned her school’s first top-five finish of the season, taking fifth after crossing the line in 15:23.7. Paige Schember turned in the top performance for the St. Olaf women by capturing sixth in 15:27.3, with St. Scholatica’s Sarah Allen not too far behind, in seventh. Gustavus’ Marit Sonnesyn, Northern Michigan’s Kristen Bourne and Green Bay’s Kailey Mucha rounded out the top ten.
On the men’s side, the consistent Schommer made it five straight podium finishes in a row with his win on Saturday. Like Flanders, the St. Scholastica skier enjoyed a comfortable margin of victory as well, finishing more than 24 seconds ahead of the next competitor.
Other than Schommer, Northern Michigan dominated the podium positions, with George Cartwright taking silver with his time of 25:17.6 and teammate Kyle Bratrud crossing the line soon after to earn his second podium spot of the weekend. St. Olaf’s Jake Brown continued his push for an NCAA berth this season; the junior finshed fourth at Mt. Itasca with his time of 25:41.1, while Northern Michigan freshman Fredrik Schwencke continued to impress as well, earning fifth place just a second and a half behind Brown.
Green Bay’s Matthew Nichols time of 26:41.2 meant the junior earned his team’s top spot and sixth place overall: his best finish of the young season. Michigan Tech’s Raphael Bechtiger took seventh place (also his team’s top finish), just ahead of St. Scholastica’s John Wessling in eighth. Bechtiger’s teammate, Matt Wong, continued his solid season for the Huskies with a ninth-place finish Saturday, while NMU’s Sam Elfstrom took tenth.
“Matt just continues to improve every year,” Haggenmiller said. “He’s made huge strides from where he started with us as a freshman. And its good to see Raphael working his way back into being competitive too [after being sick earlier in the year.]”
With Saturday’s results, Northern Michigan took home the overall team title for the weekend, finishing with 287 points, ahead of St. Scholastica (255 points) and Michigan Tech (247 points). The Wildcats earned both freestyle titles on Saturday as well, taking the men’s event with 74 points to top St. Scholastica (64 points) and Michigan Tech (58 points), and the women’s event with 70 points to edge Michigan Tech (68) and Gustavus Adolphus College (54).
The CCSA skiers now enjoy a well-earned weekend off before heading to the CCSA Championships on Feb. 8-9.
For complete results, please visit http://www.boreal.org/~durfee/mt_itasca_jnq_1_25_14.pdf.