The US National Cross Country Championships took place shortly after the new year in Craftsbury, VT. These world-class trails are located in the remote northern parts of Vermont. Home to many big events, the athletes competing here were in for some great racing.
While there were four races over the course of the week, the two important ones in relation to the CCSA were the individual classic and freestyle sprint races. These two events were the first of 10 NCAA qualifying races for the region. The other two races during the week were classic sprints and a freestyle mass start.
The first race of the week was the individual classic races. Starting things off with a bang, the NMU men went 1-2-5 in the college rankings (8th, 12th, and 17th overall). Zak Ketterson took the top spot in the collegiate podium, closely followed by teammate Ian Torchia. Kjetil Banerud was the third Wildcat to finish off the impressive start. On the women’s side of things, the NMU Wildcats swept the CCSA podium for the first time this season finishing 15th, 19th, and 20th in the collegiate field (40th, 48th, and 49th overall). Nicole Schneider got her week started off on the right foot with her fast time on the day. Teammates Julie Ensrud and Abigail Jarzin finished within seconds of each other to finish the CCSA sweep.
Only 1 day later was the 2nd of 4 races, being the classic sprints. It was a second strong day in a row for the NMU men with Keterson repeating as the fastest collegiate skier (6th overall). Just missing out on qualifying for the A-Final, Daniel Streinz (NMU) was the second collegiate skier (7th overall). Finishing the CCSA podium sweep (and nearly collegiate podium sweep) was Mathias Rolid (NMU) as the 4th collegiate skier (11th overall). On the women’s side, the lone qualifier from the CCSA was Sarah Bezdicek (NMU) as the 7th collegiate skier (28th overall). Nicole Schneider (NMU) was the 11th collegiate skier (37th overall) and Julie Ensrud was the 27th collegiate skier (66th overall).
All of the athletes were given a one day rest day before picking up on the 3rd day of racing. The longest event of the championships was the 20/30km freestyle mass start races. Once again it was the NMU Men’s team leading the CCSA field at the US National Championships. Kjetil Banerud led the CCSA field as the 3rd collegiate skier (18th overall). Only two seconds further behind was teammate Zak Ketterson finishing as the 4th collegiate skier (20th overall). Ian Torchia rounds out the NMU Wildcat CCSA podium sweep as the 5th collegiate skier (22nd overall). Schneider once again leads the CCSA field as the 6th collegiate skier (18th overall). Sarah Goble (MTU) makes her return to the CCSA podium as the 12th collegiate skier (28th overall). Julie Ensrud finished the CCSA podium as the 17th collegiate skier (34th overall).
The final day of racing was the second of the CCSA qualification races. This marks as the first time that a sprint race is used for an NCAA qualifier. NMU finished their stellar week on a high note with having two men qualify for the A-Final. Daniel Streinz finished as the 2nd collegiate skier (4th overall) and Zak Ketterson was 3rd collegiate skier (6th overall). Kjetil Banerud (NMU) once again finished on the CCSA podium as the 6th collegiate skier (16th overall). Three CCSA women were able to qualify for the senior heats. Nicole Schneider made it into the quarterfinals finishing as the third collegiate skier (14th overall). Teammate Sarah Bezdicek finished as the 5th collegiate skier (17th overall). Rounding out the CCSA podium was Amanda Kautzer finishing as the 6th collegiate skier (20th overall).
In the background of all the racing is the College Cup. This takes the results from only the college teams during the week of racing. NMU took top honors, topping the men’s events while the NMU women finished in third. Combined, NMU was the top scoring college in the country with 709 points, more than 40 points in front of the runner up. Zak Ketterson was also named as the Collegiate Grand Champion being the highest placed college skier through the entire week.
Another set of qualifiers that take place based on the results from the National Championships are team selections for the U23 and U20 World Championships. Three CCSA skiers qualified to be apart of these teams that will be traveling to Lahti, Finland for the championships. Zak Ketterson, Ian Torchia, and Daniel Streinz (NMU) all qualified for the championships at the end of the month.
The next set of races are back in the Midwest. All teams will meet at the Birkie Trail Head for a CCSA/CXC Cup on the 19th and 20th. There will be a classic sprint and a classic mass start race for the weekend.