Championship Season has begun, and it started off with a bang in Houghton, Michigan with the CCSA Conference Championships! Throughout the season, individuals and teams are competing for NCAA Qualifying Points, to gain a spot at Nationals in Bozeman, Montana this upcoming March. Based on the previous year’s CCSA performances at NCAAs, the men have 8 qualifying spots, and the women own 7 (each team is limited to only 3 athletes at NCAAs). As the season goes on, the points from each race are more heavily weighted, putting more pressure on these Championships races- this past weekend at Conference Championships, and next weekend at Regionals.
This weekend in Houghton saw the same format from all season (and the same we’ll see at NCAAs), with a 5k/10k skate race Saturday, and a 15k/20k classic race Sunday. On Saturday, Mathias Rolid (NMU) took his fourth CCSA win of the season in the men’s 10k, besting teammate Kjetil Bånerud by 13 seconds. “I got in a very solid training block after the races in Rhinelander so I was excited to see how my body felt after all of that volume” Rolid commented after the weekend, “The skate race was pretty hard. I started early in the A seed group and decided to go out fast, down and up the hairpin climb. I got some back splits that said it was a close race between Kjetil and me, so I had to push hard all the way in. I feel like I paced it well and overall it was a very good race”. Reid Goble (MTU) added onto his already strong season with another podium finish, finishing just a second in front of Xavier Mansfield (NMU).
In the women’s 5k, Nadine Matter (NMU) took her first-ever CCSA win and leading an NMU sweep on the podium, as Malin Börjesjö and Molly Molly finished within the same second. Amanda Kautzer (MTU) has been one of the most consistent forces out on the course this winter, finishing in 4th, “On Saturday, I wasn’t feeling very good before the races, but when I started and realized how fast my skis were, I knew it was going to be a good day. I was hoping to be on the podium, it didn’t quite have the gas on the last climb to quite get there”.
In Sunday’s 20k Classic Mass Start, Mathias Rolid (NMU) continued his reign with a dominating win. “The 20km mass start race was an interesting one. A cold day with some light snow coming down before the start. It stopped snowing right before the start, but the tracks were not skied in. Therefore, the first lap was very tactical, because no one wanted to take the lead. It was very difficult to ski away at that point. However, after we had raced one lap around the course the tracks became a lot faster.” Right before the last lap, Rolid took control and broke away, and ended up finishing a whopping minute and 11 seconds ahead of the field. Aleksi Leino (MTU) took 2nd, claiming his first CCSA podium after struggling with some injuries earlier in the year. “My strategy was just to keep myself in top positions, but not to lead because it was so much easier behind someone. I was feeling good from the beginning and first two laps, we were skiing pretty slowly. I lost my pole tip at 4k but thanks for Adam Witowski, I got a new one pretty soon. Then I was just hanging with the group until 2k before the finish, I put it all in and that was enough for second position”. Nick Matelich (CSS) scrambled for 3rd, also claiming his first CCSA podium, claiming credit to fast skis and having fun.
In the women’s 15k mass start race, the ladies had a competitive race, with the top 8 ladies striking out a competitive battle. “I felt very confident racing on our home course”, runner-up Kautzer said, “The race did not split up as much as I anticipated, but there was no one else really pushing the pace out front, so I ended up leading more in the race than I have in any other mass start. I felt really good going into the last lap, and even into the last hill but unfortunately got tangled with Malin [Börjesjö] and broke a binding, which is what cost me the win today”. “I felt good this entire weekend” commented Börjesjö, “But it was not a fair fight for the finish today, and I hope for a new fair fight with Amanda next weekend”. Molly Miller grabbed another 3rd place finish, wrapping up a very successful weekend after she returned from the Canadian World Junior Trials (where she qualified for World Juniors).
Next weekend is the final CCSA race in Ishpeming, Michigan. It looks to be a very warm weekend with highs of 38 degrees F both Saturday and Sunday.