St. Scholastica’s Anita Kirvesniemi and Michigan Tech’s Haakon Hjelstuen have been named the CCSA skiers of the week for their performances at the Twin Cities Championships on January 24th and 25th at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis.
Anita Kirvesniemi of St. Scholastica skied to a dramatic victory in the women’s 10 kilometer classic mass start race, chasing down Northern Michigan’s Felicia Gesior in the final kilometers of the race. Gesior broke away early, enjoying a nearly 30 second advantage over Kirvesniemi and the chasing pack with 3 kilometers left in the race. Kirvesniemi attacked and caught Gesior one kilometer from the finish line and went on to win the race by 10.5 seconds. It was Kirvesniemi’s second victory in the CCSA this season after she took the top honors in the 20 kilometer classic mass start event at US Nationals in Houghton, Michigan in early January. A native of Simpele, Finland, Kirvesniemi is a particularly talented classic skier and she has proven unbeatable in classic mass start events so far this year. Kirvesniemi also skied to sixth in the 5 kilometer freestyle race at Wirth Park, the best freestyle result of her collegiate career.
Haakon Hjelstuen, an exchange student at Michigan Tech from NTNU in Trondheim, Norway, had an excellent weekend at the Twin Cities Championships, notching his first victory in the CCSA in the men’s 10 kilometer freestyle race. Hjelstuen’s victory came the day after he made a bold attempt to win the men’s 15 kilometer classic mass start race by double poling the entire race on skate skis. Hjelstuen was hampered in that attempt by losing the baskets of both his poles, forcing him to change poles several times during the race. Nevertheless, he managed to ski to fourth place. Hjelstuen also enjoyed an impressive set of sprint races at US Nationals earlier in January. Although not eligible to compete for Michigan Tech at the time, Hjelstuen led the CCSA in both sprint events, making his way to the final heat of each race and finishing third overall in the classic sprint and sixth in the freestyle sprint. As one of the fastest sprinters in the country, Hjelstuen will certainly remain a top contender in the CCSA.
CCSA racing will resume on February 7th and 8th at Spirit Mountain in Duluth, Minnesota.