The second of a back-to-back qualifier weekend took place on the first weekend in February. Skiers traveled to Ishpeming for the NMU invite. While the temperatures finally decided to warm-up, mother nature forced the organizers to switch the classic and skate days for a second straight weekend. Warmer conditions and the threat of freezing rain on Sunday made it an easy decision for the coaches to move the classic event to Saturday with cooler forecasted temperatures to make waxing slightly easier. Even with the switches, the weekend of racing was pulled off by the tireless efforts put in by the NMU organizing crew.
Saturday was now the 15/20 km mass start classic races. The men were the first up on the grueling five km course. After the first of four laps, Zak Ketterson, Kjetil Banerud, Mathias Rolid (NMU) and Reid Goble (MTU) had started a break on the rest of the field. On the 3rd lap, it was Ketterson and Banerud that made an attack and worked together for the last 10 km of the race. On the penultimate climb, Ketterson made his move and cemented another victory for himself. Banerud followed shortly after for 2nd, and it was Goble that was able to keep pushing forward to round out the men’s podium. It was a similar affair on the women’s side with a 4-person break happening after the first of 3 laps. Julie Ensrud, Abigail Jarzin, Nicole Schneider (NMU), and Amanda Kautzer (MTU) distanced the rest of the field on the first lap. The four stayed together as a group until midway through the last lap where Jarzin put in a big effort to break the rest of the pack. Jarzin was able to hang on for the win, while Kautzer was the best of the rest finishing in 2nd place. Schneider managed to keep her streak of podium finishes alive by taking the final step of the podium.
The second day of racing brought on another double podium sweep for the NMU Wildcats. In the men’s race, Ketterson returned as the champion of the day, besting NCAA National Champion and teammate Ian Torchia by a full 28 seconds. It was another 48 seconds to get to our 3rd place finisher on the day Kjetil Banerud. In the women’s event, it was much closer to decide the women’s winner. Nicole Schneider proved once again why she is the regions highest ranked skier, beating teammate Abigail Jarzin by five seconds in the 5 km skate race. Julie Ensrud also made a return to the podium with her 3rd place finish.
NMU was able to win their home event on both the men’s (219 pts) and women’s (216pts) side. Michigan Tech was able to finish in second in both of the categories, while the College of St. Scholastica held on for third overall.
All of the teams will be looking forward to a well-deserved break with the next set of races not taking place until Valentines weekend. The CCSA will be traveling to Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota to compete at a combined JNQ/SuperTour event. It will be another exciting event with the Classic Mass Start and Freestyle Individual Start races.