The last weekend of CCSA racing in the Midwest proved to be just as competitive, as athletes fought for the last chance to compete at the NCAA National Championships, in Jackson, New Hampshire- March 11 through 13th. On Saturday, Anabel Needham (MTU) finished her strong season with a 6-second win in the Interval Classic 5k. “I was so happy with my classic race and definitely felt like it was the best classic skiing I’ve ever done,” said Needham, “I can’t thank all the coaches and volunteers enough for making this conference season possible. Being able to compete made life seem a little more normal, despite everything”. Molly Miller, making her first appearance on the CCSA circuit this season, showed up right on time to make an impact, placing 2nd in front of teammates Hilde Eide and Malin Börjesjö after competing at Junior Worlds in Vuokatti, Finland.
Zak Ketterson finished up his last season on the CCSA with a whopping win over teammate Kjetil Bånerud in the men’s 10k Classic. “Coming into this past weekend I was hoping for a couple of solid races”, said Bånerud,”I brought the good feeling from the race weekend in Duluth into the races in Houghton. I have been able to ski fast in Houghton in the past, and I knew that the course fits me well.” Emil Book Bratbak took 3rd.
Heavy snow shook up the longer distance races on Sunday, making it a grind to the finish- but the challenging conditions did not mess with the NMU women, who swept the top 5 with a perfect team score. “NMU’s women’s team has been really strong overall this year”, said captain Börjesjö. “I would say that there is no secret recipe. Everyone in the team, from athletes to coaches, puts in hard effort all year for this to be possible and the hard work has paid off. We always push each other at practice and, maybe most importantly, we always support each other outside practice, there is always someone to talk to and we are all very close.” Henriette Semb and Olivia Laven were next on the leaderboard for MTU, and Maj-Lis Helmer led the CSS women. “The season has overall been very inconsistent for me. I had a good first couple of races, with the CXC cup races here in Houghton and then the skate race in Cable, but after that I had a few extremely tough weeks. So it was nice to be able to end on a higher note this weekend. I still feel like I haven’t reached my full potential yet, so I’m really looking forward to give it all I have for the races in New Hampshire!” said Laven.
In the Men’s 20k Skate race, Kjetil Bånerud took advantage of Ketterson not racing and won with a dominating performance, 30 seconds over runner-up Patrick Acton (MTU). Tobias Moosman took third to round out his season, “The past conference season was different compared to my first one,” said Moosman, “Although corona had an immense impact on how we all had to adjust to racing, I was happy that we got chances to race and meet each other weekend after weekend. 20km individual racing is something most of us had never experienced before this season. I did enjoy the switch but hope that I will get the chance to race some more mass start races again.”
Because of covid- unlike other years, teams that send full teams to the NCAA Championships (full teams are three athletes), will not be able to bring alternates, so only the allotted amount of athletes will head out East in the next week. Each region sends a sum of athletes based on performance at previous NCAA National Championships. This season, the Central division will send 8 men and 7 women.