The CCSA skiers opened up the NCAA Championships in style, as the region’s athletes earned five All-American finishes in the interval start classic races at Soldier Hollow Resort in Midway, Utah. Alaska’s Nichole Bathe turned in a region-best fourth-place finish to collect first-team All-American honors, while Northern Michigan skiers landed a pair of second-team All-American spots in both the men’s 10K (Kyle Bratrud and Fredrik Schwencke) and the women’s 5K (Rosie Frankowski and Mary Kate Cirelli) events.
All told, CCSA skiers accounted for eight top-15 finishes and 10 top-20 spots in the two events — an important performance as the region looks to reclaim additional qualifying spots for its student-athletes in the future.
“It was a really good boost of confidence for everyone to have a day like today,” Northern Michigan head coach Sten Fjeldheim said. “Everyone in our region really communicates well and worked together. It’s a really unique situation – I didn’t see anyone else from the West or East regions doing that – and it paid off for us today.”
A combination of the high altitude of Soldier Hollow and warm temperatures approaching 50 degrees created a unusual scenario for coaches and athletes alike – the “complete opposite of anything we skied in this year,” as Fjeldheim put it.
None of it, however, appeared to faze Bathe. The freshman blistered through the course in 14:07.7 to capture fourth place despite drawing the No. 1 bib, meaning she wouldn’t having previous competitor’s times for motivation.
“I don’t think having splits would have mattered for her today,” Alaska head coach Scott Jerome said. “I think she was going to go out there and race the way she did no matter what. The conditions were really firm, but she has a good double pole, so that worked to her advantage.”
Northern Michigan’s Frankowski just missed out on a top-five place of her own, taking sixth in 14:23.5, while teammate Cirelli claimed her first All-American honor with a 10th-place finish, improving on her 15th-place performance in the same event a year ago.
St. Olaf’s Paige Schember turned in a solid performance in her first NCAAs as well, finishing in 15th with her time of 14:43.2. Northern Michigan’s Hannah Boyer placed 20th with her 14:48.7, while Michigan Tech’s Alice Flanders took 31st in 15:12.9.
On the men’s side, NMU’s Kyle Bratrud led the region with his sixth-place finish, collecting his second career All-American honor with his time of 25:24.4. Fellow Wildcat Fredrik Schwencke also earned second-team All-American status; the freshman taking 10th in 25:47.2.
“Kyle just skied an awesome race,” Fjeldheim said. “I think we really showed the depth of our team today – everyone was really rooting for one another, and to get four All-Americans is pretty incredible.”
Alaska’s Logan Hanneman turned in the CCSA’s fourth-best time on the men’s side – the Fairbanks native nearly cracking the top 10 himself after finishing less than three seconds behind Schwencke to place 11th. Northern Michigan’s Adam Martin took 13th overall in 25:52.3, while the Nanooks’ Michael Fehrenbach overcame a recurring illness to place 16th.
Likewise, an early fall and resulting busted knees didn’t stop Alaska’s Max Olex; the senior pressing on to take 21st in what Jerome labelled “the race of the day for our men’s team.” St. Scholastica’s Paul Schommer turned in a solid performance for the Saints as well, taking 25th overall in his return to nationals after competing in the 2012 NCAAs.
The CCSA skiers return to the Soldier Hollow course Saturday, for a men’s 20K mass start freestyle race at 10 a.m. Mountain time, followed by a women’s 15K at noon.
For complete results, please see http://www.barttiming.com/eisa/Results14/ncaa14.htm.