It was an exciting last weekend of racing in the CCSA at the Central Regional Championships in Houghton, MI. Mother nature threw everything she could must at the athletes and made for an unforgettable weekend. Saturday was a perfect day for the interval start skate races, but things turned interesting on Sunday when the UP snow machine turned on and the winds started to crank up. Nearly 12 inches of snow and wind gusts above 50 mph made for a wild mass start classic race that took more mental strength and perseverance than physical to win the day.
The first race on Saturday was the men’s 10km interval start skate race. This race used the same 5km course that many of the athletes have raced earlier on in the season in December. During the first few kilometers of the race, it was any ones to win with only 20 seconds separating the top 11 men. As the race pushed on, a clear separation was made with Ian Torchia (NMU) taking a 30 second lead after 7km of racing over Patrick Acton (MTU). When everything was said and done, Torchia came home with the victory. Acton faded a little in the latter parts of the second lap and was passed by Xavier Mansfield (NMU). Acton was still able to hang onto third. The College of Saint Scholastica was led by Tamer Mische-Richter in 5th, University of Wisconsin – Green Bay was led by Jake Ajax in 13th, and Saint Olaf was led by Spencer Warejoncas in 32nd.
In the women’s race, it was pretty clear from the start that this was going to be a two women battle yet again to determine the winner of the day. Abigail Jarzin (NMU) and Nicole Schneider (NMU) were only separated by 3 seconds after the first two kilometers of the race, with the Sarah Goble (MTU) being the next competitor a further 10 seconds back. The day ended with Jarzin taking the win, only 5 seconds in front of teammate Schneider. Goble finished strong, keeping the third spot on the podium, 38 seconds behind Jarzin. The University of Wisconsin – Green Bay was led by Sadie Peterson in 5th, College of Saint Scholastica was led by Greta Jenkins in 14th, Saint Olaf was led by Rebecca Walton in 16th, and Saint Cloud State was led by Anna Stockinger in 23rd.
On day two, the women were the first to brave the snowy conditions that Houghton had to offer. The heavy snow and wind did nothing to keep the race from happening and it showed that true mental grit was needed to perform well. The race organizers decided to change from the standard 5km lap to a shorter 3.3 km lap to hopefully keep the track skied in more with the heavy snowfalls. The field stayed in a long single-file line for the first lap and a bit to take advantage of a skied in track. After lap two, things began to string out some with a fairly clear five women lead group. This lead group consisted of two MTU athletes, two CSS athletes, and one NMU athlete. As the race moved into the final stages it was NMU’s Julie Ensrud and MTU’s Amanda Kautzer that would duke it out for the top step on the podium. Kautzer came off victorious, 2.8 seconds in front of Ensrud. Sarah Goble (MTU) would end up staving off Greta Jenkins and Nicole Gilman (CSS) to nab the bronze medal on the day. University of Wisconsin – Green Bay was led by Sadie Peterson in 8th, and Saint Cloud State was led by Anna Stockinger in 19th.
Mother nature did not let up much for the men’s race, which led to another exciting affair. The men had to do six laps of the 3.3 km loop to complete the 20km race. With the conditions being so difficult, nearly the entire field stayed together through the first half of the race. It was not until halfway through that skiers started to push the pace string out the field. Kristoffer Vollset (MTU) took a big lead heading into the 4th lap stretching to nearly 30 seconds at one point. NMU teammates Mathias Rolid and Xavier Mansfield took the charge to try to reel him back in. While the time shrunk towards the end, it was not enough to overtake Vollset who took on the victory. Rolid finished 15 seconds back of Vollset while Mansfield faded back to 5th. It was Saint Scholastica’s Emil Book Bratbak that rounded out the podium, 30 seconds behind Vollset. The University of Wisconsin – Green Bay was led by Shad Kraftson in 16th.
This is the last official race of the CCSA season and the central region qualifiers will be released in the coming days. The athletes that qualify for the NCAA Championships will be competing in Stowe, VT next week on Wednesday (March 6th).