For the CCSA’s 2013 season opener, the 2012 Central Region champions, Northern Michigan, picked up exactly where they left off last season, as the Wildcats’ Erik Soderman and Rosie Frankowski claimed the conference’s top finishes of the men’s 15K and women’s 10K interval start freestyle races at U.S. Nationals at Soldier Hollow in Utah.
Soderman, the reigning NCAA freestyle champion, turned in another outstanding performance Friday against arguably the most competitive field the skiers will see all season. Pacing himself early to combat the altitude (Soldier Hollow sits nearly 6,000 feet above sea level), Soderman’s late charge saw him rise to 19th overall and seventh collegiately.
“That’s Erik’s style,” Northern Michigan head coach Sten Fjeldheim said. “He always starts really relaxed, does a good job of pacing himself and just keeps getting faster and faster.”
Two of Soderman’s teammates, George Cartwright and Kyle Bratrud, weren’t far behind. Cartwright took 27th overall with his time of 39:39.8, while Bratrud finished 29th, just two seconds behind his summer training partner.
“George and Kyle did a great job training together this summer,” Fjeldheim said. “George came back in great shape, and can go hard for a long time – he’s got a lot of gas in the tank. And Kyle is super fit, super positive. I think that shows how helpful it is to have teammates motivating one another.”
Alaska’s Logan Hanneman took fourth among CCSA skiers, finishing just over a second behind Bratrud in 30th place overall, while fellow Nanook Tyler Kornfield finished 45th after completed his 15K in 40:10.7.
Another Alaska skier, Lex Treinen, took sixth in the CCSA (46th overall) in his first race back in action after redshirting the 2012 season. Northern’s Chris Bowler finished seventh in the conference with his 55th place overall finish in 40:36.0.
A trio of Alaska newcomers rounded out the CCSA top ten, as transfer Max Olex (67th overall) and freshmen Michael Fehrenbach (73rd overall) and Stefan Hajdukovich (80th overall) all turned in solid debut performances for the Nanooks.
On the women’s side, Frankowski took 30th place overall, with a time of 32:28.4, to cross the line as the CCSA top finisher. The Minneapolis native used a late charge of her own, climbing ten spots in the last few kilometers, to secure the top spot.
“It amazing to see how far Rosie has come,” Fjeldheim said. “She has worked as hard and as diligently as anyone. If there was an all-uphill race, I can’t think of anyone that could beat Rosie Frankowski. She’s that tough.”
Michigan Tech’s Lynn Duijndam finished second among CCSA skiers, and 36th overall, with her time a 32:42.9 – a fantastic performance for a senior earmarked by her head coach, Joe Haggenmiller, as a leading contender for an NCAA spot this season.
Alaska’s Heather Edic rounded out the CCSA podium, taking third in the conference and 41st overall with a time of 32:53.4. Teammate Aly McPhetres continued to impress as well, finishing just behind Edic in 42nd place overall.
The Nanooks’ third skier, Crystal Pitney, finished with the CCSA’s fifth-best time, clocking in at 33:03.1 – good for 44th overall. The College of Saint Scholastica’s Sharmila Ahmed came in sixth in the conference, and 53rd overall, with her 33:19.6.
NMU’s Jordyn Ross took seventh in the CCSA – her time of 33:34.5 good enough for 59th place overall, while a pair of Alaska skiers (Marit Rjabov, 68th overall, and Theresia Schurr, 70th overall) and Northern’s Elizabeth Simak (84th overall) rounded out the top ten.
The CCSA skiers now get a well-deserved day off before hitting the trails again on Sunday for the distance classic races – a 30K for men and a 20K for women.