It was a green and gold final day of the CCSA season, as Northern Michigan not only saw two of their skiers — George Cartwright and Rosie Frankowski — top the podium in both the men’s 15K and women’s 10K mass start freestyle events, but the Wildcats also swept the men’s, women’s and overall team titles at the NCAA Central Region Championships in Houghton, Mich.
“It was a great team effort,” Northern Michigan head coach Sten Fjeldheim said. “We’ve got everyone healthy, had good skis, so everything worked out. I think it says a lot about our team depth on both sides: everyone really pushes one another to get better.”
There was plenty of pressure in the build-up to Sunday’s start, since the races represented the final chance for CCSA skiers to improve their standing in the regional points list and stake their claim for a coveted spot at the NCAA Championships next month.
Cartwright, however, refused to be rattled and skied an intelligent, composed race, sticking within the lead pack for the first couple laps before teaming with the redshirting Erik Soderman to pull away in the final 5K. Cartwright would finish as the top collegiate skier with his time of 40:57.9 to successfully defend his NCAA Central Region skate title from last year.
“It takes a lot to rattle George’s cage,” Fjeldheim said. “He’s at his best when he can sit with the pack and then take off at the end. He’s always been a good skate skier and a good sprinter, so he’s tough to beat when he does that. It was really fun, as a coach, to watch a fifth-year senior go out and win regionals today.”
Fellow Wildcat Kyle Bratrud was next across the line, the in-form skier earning his second podium spot of the weekend with a second-place finish in 41:19.7. St. Scholastica junior Paul Schommer collected the bronze podium spot, finishing third in 41:21.0. A pair of Alaska skiers, Michael Fehrenbach and Logan Hanneman, were next across the line; Fehrenbach taking fourth in 41:22.5, while Hanneman just edged the Wildcats’ Fredrik Schwencke across the line by seven-tenths of a second.
Schwencke, Northern Michigan’s third scoring skier, took sixth in 41:24.3, followed closely by teammate Adam Martin in seventh. St. Olaf’s Jake Brown produced a solid performance to take eighth and boost his chances of NCAA qualification with his time of 41:28.8, while Michigan Tech’s Matt Dugan and Kyle Hanson rounded out the top ten.
On the women’s side, the rest of the CCSA field had no answer for Frankowski. The senior from Minneapolis, Minn. set the pace early, then pulled away on the second lap before eventually cruising to a 38-second victory. Frankowski has now won back-to-back mass start skate events since returning from the U23 World Championships last month.
“Having Rosie back has just given our whole team a boost of confidence — I think she decided to see just how fast she could ski in that second lap today,” Fjeldheim laughed.
St. Scholastica’s Sharmila Ahmed turned in one of her best performances of the season on Sunday, earning a regional silver medal with her time of 33:00.9 — good enough for second place. Northern Michigan’s Hannah Boyer wrapped up a solid weekend for herself as well, landing her second third place finish and second podium spot in as many days by taking third in 33:07.4.
St. Olaf’s Paige Schember strengthened her case for an NCAA berth with her fourth-place finish on Sunday, followed closely by Michigan Tech’s Alice Flanders, another skier who will be eyeing the points lists earnestly when the final standings are announced later this month. Northern Michigan’s Mary Kate Cirelli took sixth to wrap up the scoring for the Wildcats, and St. Scholastica’s Sarah Allen wrapped up a solid season for herself with a seventh-place finish. Alaska’s Nichole Bathe, Northern Michigan’s Kristen Bourne and Alaska’s Aly McPhetres complete the women’s top ten.
Sunday’s results mean that Northern Michigan successfully overturned the three-point deficit they faced on the men’s side after yesterday’s classic event. The Wildcats leapfrogged Alaska to claim the men’s team title by seven points, 129 to 122. St. Scholastica took third with 93 points.
It was a similar story on the women’s side, with the Wildcats’ women taking the crown with 128 total points for the weekend, topping second place St. Scholastica (109 points) and third-place Alaska (99 points) by a comfortable margin.
With the CCSA season now behind them, the region’s student-athletes now can do nothing but wait for the final points to be tallied and the official selections for next month’s NCAA Championships to be announced. The Central Region will send seven men and six women to this year’s national championships, to be held at Soldier Hollow Resort in Midway, Utah on March 6 and 8.
For complete results from today’s events, including team scores, please visit www.superiortiming.com.