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Northern Michigan in control after first day of NCAA Regionals

NCAA Regionals

Thu, Feb  23, 2012 - By CCSA

ISHPEMING, Mich. – Wins by Marie Helen Soderman and Erik Soderman propelled hosts Northern Michigan into sizable leads after the first day of the NCAA Regionals. The Wildcats landed placed all three of their scoring skiers in the top four in both the women’s 5K and men’s 10K events, giving them a 10-point lead on the women’s side and a 12-point lead on the men’s side.

Tensions were high prior to the individual start race, which serves as the last skate qualifier for the NCAA Championship spots.

Soderman, however, quickly shook off any nerves she was feeling to turn in a dominant performance on the Al Quaal Ski Trails. The junior cruised to a regional title in 15:14:00, a good 16 seconds better than her nearest competitor.

Michigan Tech’s Alice Flanders earned second spot with her time of 15:30.10, continuing the run of fine form for the Michigan Tech women. A pair of Northern skiers turned in the next best times, with Monica Markvardsen earning the final podium spot in 15:30.40, while Libby Ellis took fourth in 15:35.30.

Alaska’s top skier on the day, Raphaela Sieber finished fifth in 15:36.20, while Northern’s Molly Burger continued her push for an NCAA berth with a solid sixth place finish. Michigan Tech’s Deedra Irwin took seventh in 15:45.00, scoring 25 vital points for her team.

Saint Scholastica’s Sharmila Ahmed landed her team’s best finish of the event, taking eighth in 15:49.00, just over a second ahead of ninth-placed Marit Rjabov, from Alaska. Another Nanook, Crystal Pitney, rounded out the top ten.

On the men’s side, it was equally as comfortable a victory for Northern’s Erik Soderman. An NCAA qualifier in his first year with the Wildcats, the sophomore appears on track for a return to nationals, taking the top spot with a time of 24:30.50 – a good 51 seconds better than any other competitor.

Saint Scholastica’s Paul Schommer turned in an impressive performance of his own, taking second place with a time of 25:22.30. A freshman for the Saints, Schommer has now earned three podium finishes in his last four NCAA qualifying races.

A trio of Northern Michigan skiers followed Schommer, with the Wildcats’ own impressive freshman, Kjell-Christian Markset, taking third in 25:29.90. The hosts’ third scoring skier, Chris Bowler, took fourth, while teammate George Cartwright took fifth for good measure, demonstrating the depth of the NMU roster.

Alaska Tyler Kornfield took sixth in 25:53.70, finishing as the Nanooks’ top skier and, perhaps surprisingly, their only top ten finisher of the day. Northern Michigan’s Kyle Bratrud took seventh in 25:59.50, while Saint Scholastica’s second scoring skier, Jeremy Hecker, took eighth just under two seconds later.

A pair of Michigan Tech skiers, Mikko Harju (ninth) and Matt Wong (tenth) rounded out the top ten.

Heading into the final day of regionals, the NMU women currently hold 85 points, offering them a ten-point cushion over second-placed Michigan Tech’s 75 points. Alaska sits third with 71 points, while Saint Scholastica are fourth with 55.

On the men’s side, the Wildcats’ 85 points give them a 12-point edge over second-place Saint Scholastica – a team that has really impressed in the second half of the CCSA season. Michigan Tech sits third with 69 points, with Alaska just behind in fourth with 67 points.

The CCSA skiers return to the course tomorrow for the final NCAA qualifier of the season. The men’s 15K classic kicks off first, at 10 a.m. Eastern time, before the women wrap things up with a 10K classic at 12:30 p.m.