Second-place finishes for both Alaska’s Max Olex and Northern Michigan’s Rosie Frankowski in the mass start freestyle races wrapped up a banner week for the CCSA at the NCAA Championships at Soldier Hollow Resort in Utah. In addition to the pair of silver medals, the region’s skiers also collected six more All-American places to bring its total to 11 for the championships. Olex, NMU’s Fredrik Schwencke (sixth) and St. Scholastica’s Paul Schommer (eighth) all cracked the top 10 on the men’s side while Frankowski, St. Olaf’s Paige Schember (seventh) and Michigan Tech’s Alice Flanders (10th) earned All-American status for the women.
Olex and Frankowski’s performances were especially poignant. Both seniors, the two skiers were in essence competing in their final collegiate event, and each marked the occasion with arguably the finest race of their careers.
On the bubble headed into regionals, Olex needed a big performance in Houghton to even make it to the NCAAs, and, having accomplished that goal, made the most of his chance Saturday. Around 15th place heading into the final lap of the 20K race, Olex refused to let a pair of Colorado skiers pull away from the lead pack, nailing the final downhill section to slingshot his way up to the top before hammering through the final uphill.
“Max didn’t just have the race of the day for our team, he had the race of his life,” Alaska head coach Scott Jerome joked afterwards. “On that last uphill, he was just out of his mind. It was an incredible finish.”
Schwencke and Schommer, meanwhile, helped make up a massive pack of skiers finishing just behind Olex, as less than three seconds separated third place from 12th. Schwencke worked his way through the traffic to claim sixth place, while Schommer ended in eighth, just two-tenths of a second behind. Both emerged from the melee with second-team All-American honors, the first such award for St. Scholastica’s young program.
“Even though we felt [Thursday's] classic race was a bit of a missed opportunity because of some waxing decisions, Paul told me he felt as good physically as he has all year, so we were confident going into today,” St. Scholastica head coach Chad Salmela said. “Mentally, Paul’s one of the strongest athletes I’ve ever worked with, so it’s really awesome to see him get to be an All-American. We’re really excited.”
Northern Michigan’s Kyle Bratrud turned in a solid race as well, finishing well within the top half of the competitive field with his 14th place finish. Likewise, Alaska’s Michael Fehrenbach and Logan Hanneman ended their days in the top 30 as well, at 23rd and 26th place, respectively.
Frankowski, meanwhile, ended her collegiate career in style as well. Described by her head coach, Sten Fjeldheim, as one of the fittest skiers he’s ever seen, Frankowski used that engine to her advantage, taking charge and setting a blistering pace early in the final lap to tire out the rest of the lead pack. Though New Mexico’s Eva Severrus would keep pace and eventually take the win, Frankowski finished comfortably in second place – an impressive final performance for the one-time walk-on.
“At one point in her freshman season, Rosie came in, looked me in the eye and told me I would be making a mistake if I didn’t keep her on the team – turns out she was right,” Fjeldheim laughed. “She skied a really smart race today and put the hammer down when she needed to. It was incredible to watch.”
After an impressive 15th place finish in the classic race earlier this week, St. Olaf skier Paige Schember did even better in the skate event, finishing her 15K in 41:23.1 to grab seventh place and second-team All-American status. So too did Michigan Tech’s Alice Flanders – one of the region’s best freestyle skiers, Flanders’ time of 41:40.2 earned her 10th place overall and the final All-American position on the women’s side.
Alaska’s Nichole Bathe, who earned first-team All-American accolades with her fourth-place finish on Thursday, was next across the line for the CCSA, taking 13th to wrap up a fantastic first season for the freshman. Northern Michigan’s Hannah Boyer and Mary Kate Cirelli turned in solid performances for the Wildcats as well, taking 16th and 22nd place, respectively.
Saturday’s outstanding results close the book on a satisfying 2014 season for the CCSA, and leaves the coaches proud of the region’s showing at this year’s national championships.
“I think we sent a message to the other regions with our performances this week,” Salmela said. “I think we’re showing everyone that our programs are getting good development out of our skiers. We are going to get more NCAA spots back now for our region, and we deserve it.”
“It was absolutely essential that we did well this week,” Jerome said. “We absolutely had to have a good NCAAs, and I’m really pleased and proud of this group.”
For full results, please visit http://www.barttiming.com/eisa/Results14/ncaa14.htm.