Kyle Bratrud of Northern Michigan University continued his excellent form on Thursday, taking third in the men’s 30 kilometer classic mass start race while St. Scholastica’s Anita Kirvesniemi took the top honors for the CCSA women by skiing to 17th overall in the 20 kilometer race.
In the men’s race, Bratrud led early on, with his teammates Fredrick Schwencke, Adam Martin, and Erik Soderman all skiing not far behind him in the lead pack. Northern Michigan Head Coach Sten Fjeldheim said the plan for Bratrud was for him to “go with the flow, and not lead to much.” Once in the race though, Bratrud found himself in a position to lead, and continued to through the first 20 kilometers, when NMU teammate Schwencke tried to break away from the pack with Kris Freeman in tow.
Freeman, a four time Olympian for the US, “really benefited from Freddy,” said Fjeldheim of Schwencke’s attack. “He’s an awesome classic skier.” Even if Schwencke’s bold move may have ultimately hurt his final placement, Fjeldheim said he likes to “see that attitude—to not be intimidated.”
The main pack soon caught up to Schwencke and Freeman, though Freeman would ultimately break away near the end of the race, leaving eight skiers including Bratrud to battle it out for the remaining podium places. In the end Bratrud had the strength to move into a good position as the race closed down. With a strong double pole finish to put him in third, Fjeldheim said, “Kyle’s upper body work this year really paid off.”
“Kyle had an incredible race,” said Fjeldheim. “He tends to be a decent classic skier, but today he was great.”
Schwencke, Martin, and Soderman placed 11th through 13th, respectively, for NMU followed by Michigan Tech’s Haakon Hjelstuen in 14th, and Logan Hanneman of Alaska Fairbanks in 18th. Paul Schommer of St. Scholastica was 31st and UAF’s Kenneth Brewer was 33rd along with teammate Jan Cech in 39th.
The junior men competed in a 10 kilometer race with NMU freshman Ian Torchia winning the race overall, with a time of 30:46.6, crushing the junior men’s field by over 28 seconds. “The kid’s got an engine,” said Fjeldheim of Torchia. Michigan Tech’s Tom Bye finished the day in 10th, another promising showing from the freshman.
The women’s 20 kilometer classic race was held under lightly snowing skies. Jordyn Ross of NMU was the leading CCSA woman at the halfway mark, in 22nd overall. Just behind her was Michigan Tech’s Ulrika Axelsson, St. Scholastica’s Anita Kirvesniemi, and Felicia Gresior of NMU. Chasing those women were Sophie Schimpl of NMU, Sharmila Ahmed of St. Scholastica, and Megan Edic of NMU.
Kirvesniemi, from Simpele, Finland, holds a FIS license as an international skier and not a USSA license. With few FIS races in the CCSA last season that she could use to gain a better ranking, she had to start the day with 65 women ahead of her. “She did a good job of weaving her way up,” said St. Scholastica Head Coach Chad Salmela. “After two kilometers she was in a good position. When I saw her she was already in 28th, and she ended up finishing in 17th.”
Salmela said that Kirvesniemi, who transferred from the University of New Mexico to St. Scholastica in 2013, has been “training, and racing, better than she has in years.”
“She’s a gifted classic skier,” said Salmela. “I guess she gets that from her parents.” Kirvesniemi comes from an illustrious ski family, her mother swept all the gold medals for Finland in the 1984 Olympics, and her father was a 1989 World Champion.
Kirvesniemi skied a solid second lap to move ahead of Axelsson and Ross to finish as the top CCSA woman in a time of 1:13:57.8. “To get a win in the CCSA for Anita [Kirvesniemi] is really great, and she skied so smart and determined,” said Salmela.
Following her a little over 25 seconds later Axelsson crossed the line for MTU, in 20th overall. Ross was 24th and Gresior was 25th for NMU, with Ahmed 26th for St. Scholastica. Ahmed, who finished 5th in the CCSA, started a little flat, said Salmela, but got steadily faster over the course of the race. “She was fighting the whole way; she skied the last four kilometers faster than Anita.”
NMU’s Schimpl finished 28th, and Edic 32nd, and Michigan Tech’s Deedra Irwin was 33rd, with teammate Alice Flanders 35th.
Leading the CCSA in the juniors 5 kilometer race was Vivian Hett for NMU in 6th, followed by her teammate Caroline Brisbois in 7th. Allison Ternes was 9th for St. Scholastica.
Overall it was great day for the Saints women, many of whom Salmela said had the best races of their season on Thursday. “The women shined,” he said. “It was a red letter day.”
Full results can be found at myresults.com