The CCSA traveled to Northern Minnesota this past weekend to race at Mt. Itasca in Coleraine- typically known for its cold weather and biathlon center. The weather did not disappoint, with cold temperatures threatening the possibility of racing the mass starts on Sunday, but in the end, it was just warm enough (above -4*F).
On Saturday, CCSA athletes took around the course in the skate individual start. With a bunch of fresh snow from the night before, the course was a bit soft, but it did not stop the skiers from racing fast. “The skate race went surprisingly well,” NMU’s Mathias Rolid said after placing 2nd behind teammate Kjetil Baanrud. “I’ve never been really good in soft conditions before, so that race was a pleasant surprise. I never felt that I was skiing particularly fast, but I guess that’s how it goes in conditions like that”. Reid Goble of MTU placed third, finishing the men’s podium. Emil Book Bratbak was the top athlete for the College of St Scholastica in 5th, followed closely by his teammate Tamer Mische-Richer in 8th. Sam Meyers was the top Green Bay Men’s team skier in 17th place, and Peter Carlen led the St Olaf team.
On the women’s side, MTU’s Sarah Goble topped the field. “I was pretty tired coming off of US Nationals so I made sure to do what my body needed to do to recover”. Goble said after taking the win 5k win, “My skate race felt really good, I skied the course smart and to my strengths”. NMU took the rest of the podium with Katerina Hyconovia in 2nd, and Nadine Matter grabbing her first podium of the season in 3rd. Samantha Benzing was the top CSS woman of the day in 14th, Lara Ketterer was the top Green Bay woman of the day in 19th, Stephanie Balas led the St. Olaf women in 21st, and Cheresa Bouley was the top finisher from St Cloud State.
Sunday, racers lined up with breathing masks and face tape to avoid frostbite for the mass start distance races. Both the men’s and the women’s races came down to dramatic finishes. In the men’s race, Mathias Rolid and Emil Book Bratbak pulled away from the field around the second lap, pushing each other for the last 10k. “It was a lot of fun to work with Mathias, although he had a faster gear in the end” Bratbak said. Rolid’s race was all about skiing relax and conserving energy, “I was confident that I would beat Bratbak in a sprint finish, so he did most of the pacing (I’m sorry Emil). Fun day!” wrote Mathias. He ended up edging Bratbak out by less than 3 seconds at the end. Sam Meyers once again led Green Bay with his top 20 finish, and Peter Carlen was the first across the line for St. Olaf in 21st.
In the women’s race, a larger pack of athletes pushed each other through the whole race. “It was really a tactical mass start, a lot of different women took the lead throughout the race, and it seemed like a lot of us were trying to race smart.” NMU’s Hilde Eide commented. On the last downhill, Eide was in a pack with teammates Molly Miller and Malin Bojesjoe, along with MTU skiers Sarah Goble and Henriette Semb. On the last uphill, Eide finally broke away, bringing Miller and Bojeseoe with her for an NMU podium sweep. “The Itasca races were tough! It was very cold weather and steep hills, but fun races all of the same. My favorite part of the weekend was sharing the classic podium with my two teammates” NMU freshman Miller wrote. Henriette Semb, Sarah Goble, and Oda Hovland took places 4, 5, and 6 for Michigan Tech, Lara Ketterer was the top woman for Green Bay in 10th, Samantha Benzing and Rana Kraftson led CSS in 13th and 15th places, Stephanie Balas finished in 17th, pulling the St Olaf women to a 4th place finish for the team. Cheresa Bouley finished her first 15k race in 23rd, first for the St Cloud team.
CCSA athletes get a week before racing in Cable, Wisconsin next weekend. Because the sprint races on Saturday do not count for NCAA qualifying, some teams are forgoing the race, and planning to only race on Sunday.