Teams safely traveled to Ishpeming, Michigan this past weekend for the 2021 NMU Invitational as the CCSA NCAA qualifying races continue. As we now enter February, there is less than a month left of regional racing, with three more races for athletes to prove their fitness and strength.
Without a doubt, the grueling courses of Al Quaal tested those abilities this past weekend; being known as one of the most grueling courses in the Midwest, athletes competed in 2 individual start distance races. One thing that turned heads this weekend was the return of Zak Ketterson, who has been at the top of the CCSA since his freshman year at NMU. Having red-shirted last year, Ketterson returns for his last season in the CCSA, ready to make an impact.
On Saturday, the women led the day with a 5k Classic Individual Start. Malin Börjesjö (NMU) continued her strong season with a win of 11 seconds. “I was unusually nervous coming into this weekend, probably since it was a home meet” said Börjesjö, “This weekend I tried to split the course into 6 different sections and I knew I could be fast if I skied my sections as I planned. I think that was a good tactic on this course because you need to be active all the time, especially in the transitions”. Anabel Needham led the MTU women’s team against the fierce battle against the NMU women’s team. The two teams took the top 13 places, with NMU squeaking out the day’s win by just 1 point. Samantha Benzing led the CSS team in 13th, and Maria Schoening led the UWGB team in 21st.
On the men’s side, NMU proved it was a force to be recokened with in the 10k Classic Individual Start, as they almost had a perfect score, just barely being thwarted by CSS’s John Schwinghamer in 5th. Kjetil Bånerud led the NMU charge in 1st, being supported by a standout performance by sophomore Matthew Bourne (who finished 29th in the CCSA Men’s End of Season Rankings last year) in 2nd, Zak Ketterson in 3rd, and Maurus Grond in 4th. Aleksi Leino led a deep MTU men’s team in 7th and Sam Myers led the Green Bay Team in 19th.
The men started first on Sunday, with a 20k Skate Individual start. Zak Ketterson showed up ready to roar, with a dominating performance over the field, winning by 49 seconds. Teammate Tobias Moosman took 2nd; 18 second’s ahead of MTU’s top man, Reid Goble. ” Saturday was a tougher race for me, coming off of the uncertainty of what are race season would be this year, I am just starting to get back into what it means to be racing and I think a lot of people feel that way, ” said Goble, “Sunday I tried to turn my results around and ended up having a good result and just focused on pacing the 20k well.” Shad Kraftson led a strong UWGB men’s team in 17th, showing that the team is rebounding well from a coaching change this season. “I was excited coming into the weekend. You never know what you’re going to get in Ishpeming. I hadn’t done a 20k skate since freshman year, and I knew that it could be a good race for me” said Kraftson, “Training this fall required some adjustments due to Covid and our new coach. However, I think we built a substantial training base. From here the plan is just to dial in skiing fast and taper a little before Conference and Regionals. Staying healthy is going to be super important. The little things”.
In the women’s 15k Skate Individual Start, Börjesjö took another win, 44 seconds in front of teammate Hilde Eide. Needham had another strong day, positioning herself in the storm of the NMU women’s team who took 5 of the top 6 spots. Maj-Lis Helmer of CSS took 15th, and Maria Schoening raced to 21 for UWGB.
Green Bay looks to host next weekend in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Competition continues to stay strong, and the teams are ready to throw down the last couple Regional competitions of this year.