Michigan Tech’s Alice Flanders and Haakon Hjelstuen took the top honors in Sunday’s freestyle race at the Twin Cities Championships held at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis.
Hjelstuen was an early starter in the men’s 10 kilometer freestyle race, and he skied a fast first loop, lapping through the stadium just as Northern Michigan’s Adam Martin was starting his race. “He’s a savvy enough skier to be able to take advantage of that good fortune,” said Michigan Tech Head Coach Joe Haggenmiller. Hjelstuen used Martin’s quick opening pace to his benefit, skiing across the line with a time of 21:12.9 for the victory. Just behind him was Martin who had the strategic advantage of being a lap behind the Michigan Tech junior and with it the benefit of knowing his split time against Hjelstuen’s. Martin nearly closed down the gap on Hjelstuen as he came in across the line, five seconds behind the native of Trondheim, Norway.
In third was NMU’s Fredrik Schwencke less than 15 seconds behind Hjelstuen’s time, with teammate Erik Soderman in fourth. St. Scholastica’s Paul Schommer took fifth, while UW-Green Bay’s Kyle Marshall took 6th.
Green Bay Head Coach Steven Teclaw called Marshall’s race “really exciting. A consistent performance from Kyle shows that his results last week weren’t a fluke; he’s really coming into his own.” Marshall started the race strong and maintained his effort heading into the last lap. “He was pretty calm and composed skiing into his last lap, which was good to see,” said Teclaw. “It was really fast and we were encouraging him to leave everything out there with the results being so tight. He had enough left for the last lap to hold the place he had skied himself into, it was really great to see that kind of a strong finish from him.”
Reitler Hodgert of St. Scholastica took 7th, while St. Olaf’s Jake Brown skied to 8th. Rounding out the top 10 for the men were Kyle Hanson of MTU in 9th and Calvin Mehrhof of St. Scholastica in 10th.
It was another good day for the Saints at Wirth Park and St. Scholastica Head Coach Chad Salmela applauded their effort. “Overall, it was a weekend in which our men’s team came into race form in earnest,” said Salmela. “Reitler Hodgert threw his hat in the ring in earnest for an NCAA Championships bid, with a 5th and 8th this weekend, and Calvin Mehrhof continues to sparkle with his first top 10 in a CCSA event, in what is traditionally his weaker technique. Three in the top 10 is always great for us, and our depth was great today as a team. We had a very tight race against Michigan Tech both days and that’s always a good rivalry. I’m pleased with how the guys skied.”
In the women’s 5 kilometer freestyle race Alice Flanders set a blistering pace, winning with a time of 14:50.1. Haggenmiller said he was really impressed “by the way that she kept at it,” adding that she “really put the hammer down today.” Flanders won by an impressive 27.6 second margin ahead of second place Jordyn Ross of NMU.
Flanders, a senior at Michigan Tech, calls Crystal, Minnesota her hometown. “It’s Alice’s home course,” said Haggenmiller of the Wirth trails. “She grew up 5 miles away and did most of her high school training on the course. It fits her style well with lots of transitions.”
The MTU women were hungry for success on Sunday after difficult waxing conditions the day before hampered their races. “We struggled with skis a little bit on Saturday,” said Haggenmiller. “I think they wanted some payback for that today. It was good for them to come out and show what they needed to show.”
In second place in the women’s race was NMU’s Jordyn Ross with a time of 15:17.7. In third was Ross’s teammate Felicia Gesior. St. Scholastica’s Sharmila Ahmed skied a strong race to finish fourth, matching her place in Saturday’s classic race.
In fifth was Marit Sonnesyn of Gustavus, and in 6th was Anita Kirvesniemi of St. Scholastica, her best finish in a CCSA freestyle race. Salmela praised his team’s effort on Sunday saying, “overall, just a great weekend for our women’s team. Top to bottom, we skied really well this weekend, and we just want to keep that momentum into the rest of the season.”
Taking 7th was NMU’s Vera Gruber, with fellow teammates Sophie Schimpl in 8th and Megan Edic in 9th. Green Bay’s Bree Mucha took 10th. It was a good day for Bree Mucha who enjoys a sibling rivalry with her older sister and Green Bay teammate Kailey Mucha. “It’s an interesting dynamic” says Teclaw. “Kailey being older sort of has her little sister biting at her heels.”
The sisters from Soldotna, Alaska are both “strong, confidant athletes” says Teclaw. “They have a lot of experience racing with each other. It’s fun to see them race together and battle it out.”
“It was good to have Bree get one on the board against her sister,” said Teclaw. “I think it will sort of light the fire in Kailey. It’s fun to see them go back and forth.”
Full results can be found at www.endurancepromotions.com