The NCAA Skiing Championships got underway Wednesday in Lake Placid, New York, with the individual start freestyle race. With temperatures approaching 40 degrees under humid and overcast skies, ski selection proved to be a critical element in the race, favoring those who had a pair of skis with a structure suited to the warm and wet snow—unusual conditions for skiers from the central region.
NMU’s Kyle Bratrud led the CCSA men, skiing to 7th place in the 10 kilometer freestyle race with a time of 26:22.3. “Kyle had strong start,” said NMU Head Coach Sten Fjeldheim, “but he didn’t get the result he wanted.”
“He’s still a little fatigued from Europe,” Fjeldheim said. Bratrud’s season saw him compete at both the U-23 World Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan and the Nordic World Championships in Falun, Sweden. “It was a good race considering the traveling he’s done. It was a respectable race, got to be happy with it.”
Logan Hanneman of Alaska Fairbanks took 12th overall. “Logan had a good race,” said Alaska Fairbanks Interim Head Coach Christina Turman. “Sometimes you have a good race and you feel great, other times you have a good race and you have to fight, and Logan definitely fought today.”
Hanneman finished just 3.6 seconds out of tenth place. “It’s a little tough when you’re so close to making All-American,” Turman said, “but it was his best freestyle race at NCAA’s.”
Erik Soderman of NMU was 15th. “All-in-all Erik’s result is good,” said Fjeldheim. NMU’s Fredrik Schwencke, who “isn’t a 100%,” said Fjeldheim, finished 30th.
Paul Schommer of St. Scholastica finished 31st. “Paul told me ‘it could have been better, it could have been worse,’” said St. Scholastica Head Coach Chad Salmela.
“I think it’s hard to be happy with 31st when you’ve been 15th and 8th in the freestyle event historically, so I think Paul has handled that obvious disappointment well,” said Salmela. “But I think Paul gave his best today with where he is and he should feel no remorse for doing everything he could do today. He raced smart, listened to his body, and this was what he was capable of today.”
Tom Bye of Michigan Tech skied to 35th, a result that Michigan Tech Head Coach Joe Haggenmiller commended. “He was battling out there, and turned out something respectable,” said Haggenmiller. “For a freshman to come out here and beat a few people is great.”
Jake Brown of St. Olaf finished 36th. “He had a pretty high place in mind for today, so he started fast,” said St. Olaf Head Coach Tom Jorgenson. Brown skied through the stadium after his first 5 kilometer loop in 27th position. “Midway through his second lap he sort of blew up,” Jorgenson said. “He didn’t finish where he wanted to, but I’m really proud of the way he skied today, he left everything out there.”
Jonas Löffler of Alaska Fairbanks took 38th, and Haakon Hjelstuen of Michigan Tech finished 40th, his race hampered in part by the wrong choice in skis for the day.
Leading the CCSA women in the 5 kilometer freestyle race was Jordyn Ross of NMU in 12th. Ross skied the course in 14:54.7, a tantalizing 4.3 seconds away from tenth, and with it the title of All-American. “Jordyn’s a senior and she wanted to be an All-American so bad,” Fjeldheim said, “and this was the race she was really aiming for.”
Fjeldheim praised Ross’s skiing career at NMU, “to start skiing as a junior in high school, and to come from where she did as a freshman is a great accomplishment.”
NMU’s Felicia Gesior skied to 16th place. “Felicia gets the skier of the day award for our team,” said Fjeldheim, “she had a really solid race.”
Alice Flanders of Michigan Tech was 21st. “Alice left it all out on the course,” said Haggenmiller. “She raced really well through 2.5 or 3 k.” Flanders skied the first half of the race in the top ten before tiring late in the race.
Sharmila Ahmed of St. Scholastica was 23rd, while her teammate Anita Kirvesniemi finished in 29th. Salmela was pleased that both results were better than the school’s previous best result of 36th, set by Ahmed in 2013.
“Sharmila skied so well especially since she hadn’t skied for four straight days prior to yesterday, just because she was fighting low energy with cold symptoms. If you consider that, 23rd is amazing and I’m so proud of her. On the flip side, it only begs the question ‘what if,’ had she been fully 100% health wise. I think she managed the situation like a pro.”
“If I could come up with a course and conditions that would be the absolute worst for Anita [Kirvesniemi] in a 5 k skate,” said Salmela, “today was pretty close to it…When you take in all the factors, Anita’s 29th is alright with me. I’m very satisfied and think she is right where we want to be for Friday.”
Anne-Tine Markset of Alaska Fairbanks was 25th overall, and the fifth CCSA woman. “It was a solid result for her, I’m really happy for her,” said Turman. “It was one of her better races of the season.”
NMU’s Kristen Bourne took 35th. “Kristen faded a bit, she may be fatigued from Europe,” Fjeldheim said, referring to Bourne’s participation at the World Junior Championships in February.
Michigan Tech’s Deedra Irwin took 37th, skiing “relatively well through 2 or 3 k,” said Haggenmiller, before she tired late in the race.
The NCAA Skiing Championships continue on Friday March 13th at Mt. Van Hoevenberg Nordic Center in Lake Placid, New York. The women’s 15 kilometer classic mass start race will begin at 10:00 am EST, and the men’s 20 kilometer classic mass start will begin at noon EST. All races will be streamed live at NCAA.com
Full results at www.barttiming.com