ISHPEMING, Michigan (December 8 - 9, 2018) - The 2018 - 2019 collegiate ski season is finally here, as three CCSA teams gathered at the Al Quaal Recreation Area for the Northern Michigan University Open (NMU) to shake out the early season race jitters. Michigan Tech University, Northern Michigan University and University of Wisconsin - Green Bay competed in a 10/5k freestyle race on Saturday and a 15/10k classic on Sunday, where a few St. Scholastica skiers joined in on the races. NMU's Zak Ketterson (Bloomington, MN) and MTU's Sarah Goble (Harbor Springs, MI) swept the men's and women's podium for both the 10/5k freestyle and 15/10k classic races.
"It was exciting to race in mid-winter like conditions this weekend!" Said, NMU's Sarah Bezdicek (Osseo, MN). "This was the first time in four years that this race was able to happen! We had two nice mid-20 degree days. Saturday's skate race provided us with a firm deck, and during Sunday's classic race we had to adjust to slightly softer and slower conditions. Since these were our first on-snow races, I was excited but a little nervous at the same time."
"These early races are always a lot of fun because they are the first time we get to put on a bib and do a real race," said Ketterson. "We have been doing lots of test races throughout the fall, so it is always fun to line up against other teams and do a more formal race. Still, the stakes are pretty low this early in the season so it is always interesting to see how the body is feeling."
The NMU Open kicked off with a 10/5k individual freestyle race. Ketterson commanded the men's race, finishing 31.7 seconds ahead of MTU's Gaspard Cuenot (Le Cerneux-Pequignot, Switzerland) who denied NMU a podium sweep finishing 36.5 seconds ahead of NMU's Kjetil Baanerud (Oslo, Norway) who was third. NMU's Mathias Rolid (Redalen, Norway) and MTU's Patrick Acton (Eagan, MN) rounded out the top five, finishing fourth and fifth respectively.
"The race was good and I was pleasantly surprised with the result," said Ketterson. "This is a very hilly course so I was going in expecting to struggle a bit being a slightly bigger guy. Was happy to see my teammates filling up the top 10."
Sarah Goble, who skis for MTU, snatched first in the women's 5k freestyle race by just 7.3, seconds ahead of NMU's Nicole Schneider (Plymouth, MN), while Sarah Bezdicek finished third. NMU rounded out the top five with freshman Abby Jarzin (Green Bay, WI) and Nadine Matter (Engelberg, Switzerland) finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.
"My main focus was to stay relaxed, ski with good technique and push my hardest in each race," explained Bezdicek. "Both races were individual start which gave everyone a good opportunity to dial in their pacing and technique before the head-to-head mass start races begin. Overall we had great efforts from the women's team! We captured team wins both days and Nicole earned her first win of the season in the 5K skate!"
The weekend concluded with a 10/15k individual classic race. Ketterson was the 37th skier to start the race, but consistently had the fastest time after each 5k lap. Once again, Ketterson dominated the race finishing nearly one minute ahead of teammates Mathias Rolid (Redalen, Norway) who finished second and Kjetil Baanerud (Oslo, Norway) who was third. The NMU Men's Team dominated the top five as Daniel Streinz (Hersey, ME) and Lars Sonsterud (Oslo, Norway) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
"The men were also impressive both days and had a notable first through fifth place sweep on Sunday's classic race," said Bezdicek. "It was great to see some CCSA camaraderie and fans out there cheering! I am excited for my team and look forward to the rest of the season. Go cats!"
For the second day in a row, MTU's Sarah Goble was first. Goble was the second to last woman to start but led the race throughout the 10k. Goble was able to edge NMU's Nadine Matter by just 4.4 seconds to claim first while Sarah Bezdicek finished third. MTU's Amanda Kautzer (Plymouth, MN) jumped into the top five finishing fourth while Abby Jarzin grabbed fifth. After finishing second in Saturday's 5k freestyle, NMU's Nicole Schneider elected not to race in Sunday's 10k classic because of illness.
The CCSA will meet December 15 - 16 at the Michigan Tech Trails for the MTU CXC Cup.
A notable absence from the results was NMU's Ian Torchia (Rochester, MN). Torchia, last year's NCAA Champion, opted to compete in the Haywood NorAm/SuperTour races in Vernon, BC at Sovereign Lake Nordic Center. Torchia raced in the men's 15k freestyle where he finished sixth. Andy Newell edged Torchia out of the top five by just 4.3 seconds. NMU alumni, Kyle Bratrud (Eden Prairie, MN) who now skis for the SMS T2 team won first by a toe, beating out Ben Lustgarten of Craftsbury Green Racing Project by 3.8 seconds.
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (November 30 - December 1, 2018) - The CCSA teams were not the only ones getting a jump start on the season, the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) and the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) competed in their Annual Alaska Cup races on the Birch Hill trails in Fairbanks. Since daylight is sparse this time of year in Alaska, racers navigated the course at night under lit trails. For the second year in a row, UAA grabbed the Alaska Cup. This is UAA and UAF's only race before the 2018 U.S. National Championships in Craftsbury, Vt. January 3 - 8. The weekend kicked off with a 11.25/7.5k freestyle mass start on Friday and a classic sprint race on Saturday.
Midwest natives Michaela Keller-Miller (Plymouth, MN) and Hannah Rudd (Plymouth, MN) who ski for the University of Alaska Anchorage, along with Anja Maijala (Wrenshall, MN) who skis for the University of Alaska Fairbanks competed in the Alaska Cup races.
"Fairbanks has great snow compared to the ice in Anchorage right now," explained Keller-Miller. "The races made me excited for the season to come and I'm really looking forward to seeing how we stack up against Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) this year."
Keller-Miller kicked off her season with a nail-biting second place finish in the women's 7.5k freestyle mass start.
"In Friday's race, all five UAA girls racing finished within a few seconds which was awesome to see," said Keller-Miller. "We skied in a pack with a couple of UAF's skiers for the race, so it was a nice way to get into the swing of racing again."
Keller-Miller of UAA clinched second place by just four seconds ahead of her teammate Natalie Hynes. Kendall Kramer, a 16 year old from West Valley High School in Fairbanks, AK dominated the women's race by 47.1 seconds. Maijala of UAF grabbed a spot in the top five finishing fifth and Rudd of UAA finished in the top ten, snatching seventh.
"The skate mass start race was an interesting race as we raced in the dark on lit ski trails on a narrower race loop," explained Maijala. "The lead pack was tight the whole race and it was really good practice for me to ski aggressively and push myself with my past and present teammates!"
"I was pretty happy with how this race went and I think it was a great experience to get some fast skiing in before we approach the Besh Cup races and Senior Nationals," said Rudd.
The weekend of racing concluded with a classic sprint race. Hannah Rudd of UAA earned a spot in the top three finishing third in the 'A' sprint bracket. Rudd explained that she chose to double pole the qualifier and the heats since the course did not have too much elevation gain. Anja Maijala of UAF was not far behind Rudd, finishing fourth in the 'A' bracket. Michaela Keller-Miller finished first in the 'B' sprint bracket and ninth overall.
"I'm really excited for this season as I had a really productive summer of training training with the Alaska winter stars elite team," said Maijala. "Now that I have one year of experience racing in the RMISA I really hope to improve my results and help lead my team to a successful season."
The first RMISA race of the season kicks off right after US Nationals, with a race hosted by the University of Colorado, Bouler, January 12-13 in Steamboat, Colorado at the Howelsen Hill trails where the 2018 NCAA Championships were held.
Mary Kozloski is from Green Bay, WI and is a UW Green Bay Ski Team Alumni, where she skied and studied Communications and Business Administration for four years. Mary continues to love and stay connected to the sport through writing. She is a travel and outdoor enthusiast and enjoys exploring everything Colorado has to offer, which she has called her new home state since fall of 2016.