STOWE, Vermont - On opening day of the 2019 NCAA Ski Championships, four Midwest natives who ski for Northern Michigan University grabbed All-American titles. These athletes finished in the top ten, including one podium finish by Ian Torchia (Rochester, MN; NMU) who skated his way an outstanding third place finish in the Men’s 10k individual freestyle. Abby Jarzin (Green Bay, WI) led the Midwest women in the 5k individual freestyle, landing in seventh place and Nicole Schneider (Plymouth, MN) finished close behind in ninth. Zak Ketterson (Bloomington, MN) was the fourth skier to land an All-American title finishing tenth overall. After today’s efforts, NMU is currently fourth in the overall combined team standings, second for the men and fifth for the women. The NCAA Champions for the men and women are both powerhouse freshman claiming their first NCAA titles of their career. Erik Olsvik Dengerud (Oslo, Norway; University of Colorado - Boulder) dominated the men’s 10k, while Julia Richter (Sayda, Germany; University of Utah) snatched first by seconds in the women’s 5k.
"I’m really happy with my race today as it was the best I’ve felt all year," explained Torchia. "A good day to have a good day! Four All-Americans for NMU today, super proud to be a part of this team and more to come on Friday!"
The first day of NCAA competition kicked off with an individual freestyle event. In the men’s 10k, Dengerud charged from the start gate and kept the momentum going until the finish. After 5k, Dengerud began to lead the race and continued to widen the gap between him and the other competitors. He skied to a convincing first place finish, over 19 and a half seconds ahead with a time of 24:25.5. Dengerud had one other win this season in a RMISA regional race. The battle for second place between Kornelius Groev (Trondheim, Norway; University of New Mexico) and Torchia was fierce. After the 5k split, Torchia started his climb to the podium and was ahead of Groev. With three kilometers to go Torchia had moved into third place and was still ahead of Groev, but in the final kilometer of the race, Groev made his move and jumped from fourth to second in the final stretch of the race. He edge Torchia by 0.3 seconds with a time 24:45.1 while Torchia finished third in 24:45.4 and was the first American skier overall.
"The track was fast despite the cold weather and I planned to go out more controlled and really try and push the second lap," said Torchia. "I executed that plan but didn’t have enough in the final 2k to fight for the win today."
This is Torchia’s second NCAA podium of his career, he won the 2018 NCAA Champion title in the men’s 20k freestyle mass start. Ketterson was strong in the first five kilometers of the race but then dropped back to tenth, which was his best finish at NCAAs. Ketterson was the fifth American overall. Patrick Acton (Eagan, MN; Michigan Tech University) who is competing in his first NCAAs finished 34th overall.
"Today was a good day because I got my first All-American finish at NCAAs," said Ketterson. "10th place was all I had to give today! I really struggled in the 2nd lap and lost a lot of time there. Certainly not the best I’ve felt in a race this year, but that’s the way skiing is sometimes. Happy to see Ian on the podium and two of our girls all American. I am really excited to fight again on Friday."
The women’s 5k winner was not as predictable as the men’s race, as the top three women finished within 1.1 seconds of each other. University of Vermont’s Lina Sutro (Carbondale, CO) led the race until the final kilometers when Richter, who was the last athlete to start, began to dig deep at the end and fight her way to the top. Richter claimed the NCAA title with a time of 13:28.3, just one second over Jasmi Joensuu (Kuortane, Finland; University of Denver) who finished second with a time of 13:29.3 and Sutro who was 0.1 seconds behind Joensuu, with a time of 13:29.4. Jarzin, who is a freshman competing at her first NCAA Championships, grabbed an outstanding seventh place finish, earning an All-American title. Jarzin was also the third American overall, just behind Sutro and Katharine Ogden (Landgrove, VT; Dartmouth). NMU teammate Schneider also had a very strong race and grabbed a spot in the top ten finishing ninth, which also earned her an All-American title. Schneider was the fourth American woman overall. Margie Freed (Apple Valley, MN; UVM) had her best NCAA finish, landing in 11th, just 0.1 seconds out of the top ten. Anja Maijala (Wrenshall, MN; UAF), Michaela Keller-Miller (Plymouth, MN; UAA) and Sarah Goble (Harbor Springs, MTU) each secured spots in the top 20, finishing 16th, 17th and 20th, respectively. Amanda Kautzer (Plymouth, MN; MTU), was 29th, Renae Anderson (Golden Valley, MN; Bowdoin College) 31st and Sadie Peterson (Mora, MN; UWGB) finished 38th.
Nicole Schneider recapped her race: "As usual, the 5km was a fast race. The first 1.5km was all downhill so I focused on skiing fast and big until I came to the first climb. Then I kept up a good pace up until the final 2km, which is almost all uphill. I was able to save a little bit of energy to keep the speed up until the finish line!"
Utah who has a combined team score of 142, is currently in the lead over Vermont who has 141 points, while Colorado is in third with 120 points. Northern Michigan is in fourth place with 117 points, Denver is fifth with 92 points, Dartmouth sixth (91), New Mexico seventh (74), University of Alaska Anchorage eighth (60), Montana State ninth (37), and Middlebury 10th (35).
Men’s Team Scores: CU 77, NMU 70, UNM 68, UU 60, UVM 60, DU 31, MID 30, CBC 25, DAR 23, UAA 18
Women’s Team Scores: UU 82, UVM 81, DAR 68, DU 61, NMU 47, CU 43, UAA 42, UAF 27, MSU 23, MTU 13
Racers have one day of rest before the final day of competition for the 2019 NCAA Championships, which takes place on Friday with a 15/20k classic mass start.
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.