St. Scholastica senior Sarah Allen claimed a landmark win for her program in the women’s 5K classic, and Kyle Bratrud earned his second straight CCSA victory in the men’s 10K classic at Mt. Itasca to kick off the region’s third NCAA qualifier. Amazingly, Bratrud becomes just the first two-time winner for the CCSA this season, while Allen’s win was the first victory in Saints history in an event whose field included traditional powerhouses Northern Michigan or Alaska.
“[Former St. Scholastica skier] Jeremy [Hecker] won one before,” Saints head coach Chad Salmela said, “but neither UAF or Northern Michigan were in the field that day, so that gets an asterisk.”
A consistent and reliable skier for the Saints, Allen led by a full eight seconds at the 3.5K mark, and held on through the final downhill section to complete her 5K in 16:09.1: good for a 2.5 second victory and her first trip to the top of the podium.
“Sarah is supremely fit; I’d be surprised if there’s anyone in the CCSA with a better engine than she’s got,” Salmela said. “We’ve worked really hard on her technique and confidence, so I knew things like this were possible.”
St. Scholastica teammate Anita Kirvesniemi earned her first CCSA podium spot as well, finishing just behind Allen in 16:11.6. The one-two finish for the Saints’ teammates helped boost them to the top of the team standings for the event, besting Northern Michigan by four points.
“I think you’re always a little surprised to go one-two, but I knew both Sarah and Anita were capable of doing what they did today, so I wasn’t floored by it,” Salmela said. “It’s pretty exciting for our program.”
Michigan Tech skier Lisa König landed her first career podium spot as well, taking the bronze after completing her trip through the Mt. Itasca course in 16:18.7.
A pair of Northern Michigan Wildcats were next across the line, with Mary Kate Cirelli earning fourth place by just edging out teammate Felicia Gesior by three-tenths of a second.
St. Olaf’s top skier, Paige Schember, took sixth, with her 16:23.2, while Kailey Mucha’s time of 16:24.3 put her into seventh place. NMU’s Hannah Boyer, Michigan Tech’s Ulrika Axelsson and St. Scholastica’s third scoring skier, Sharmila Ahmed, rounded out the top 10.
On the men’s side, Bratrud looks likely to leap to the top of the CCSA points list with an impressive performance on Friday. The junior’s time of 26:46.0 handed him a 13.8 second margin of victory.
Teammate Fredrik Schwencke was second across the line, as the Wildcats went one-two on the men’s side. St. Scholastica’s Paul Schommer earned his fourth podium place in as many races, capturing bronze with his time of 27:10.3.
Schommer’s teammate, Chris Parr, had a breakout race of his own on Friday, taking fourth place in the event and just missing out on his first ever podium spot with his time of 27:15.8.
“Chris Parr had the race of the day for us on the men’s side,” Salmela said. “He’s was on fire for the last 2K of that race. He’s always been a fast starter, so it was good to see him use his energy intelligently and tactically race the 10K.”
Northern Michigan’s George Cartwright completed the scoring for the Wildcats, taking fifth in 27:17.5, while Matt Wong earned sixth place and the top men’s finish for his Michigan Tech team.
St. Scholastica’s third skier, John Wessling, placed seventh with his time of 27:43.8, and Jay Woodbeck (Michigan Tech), Matthew Nichols (Green Bay) and Kyle Hanson (Michigan Tech) completed the region’s top ten.
With Friday’s results on the women’s side, the team scores saw St. Scholastica finish with 77 points, just ahead of Northern Michigan’s 73 points, while Michigan Tech was third with 67. On the men’s side, Northern Michigan’s 84 points gives them a five-point advantage over the Saints, on 79 points, with Michigan Tech again third with 66.
The CCSA student-athletes finish their stay at Mt. Itasca on Saturday, with a 5K/10K freestyle event.