Northern Michigan Athletics

Dominant performances from Northern Michigan’s Martin Banerud and Andy Liebner helped lift Northern Michigan to both the men’s and overall team titles at the Mayor’s Challenge SuperTour classic races, while Raphaela Sieber secured the women’s title for Alaska with a silver medal performance.

Banerud became the first non-Alaska skier to take the CCSA’s top spot in a men’s event this season, zipping through the 15K classic course in 39:43.9: good enough for eighth-place overall. Sieber, meanwhile, earned her fifth collegiate win of the season with an outstanding second-place overall performance, beating the mass start field with a 30:54.4 for her 10K.

“I thought we had a solid performance today,” Northern Michigan head coach Sten Fjeldheim said. “Everyone is feeling pretty good and starting to feel comfortable racing. I was pleased with the result today and I think we are only going to get faster.”

On the men’s side, Banerud wasn’t the only Wildcat skier setting the course alight. Northern’s Andy Liebner finished right on his teammate’s heels, earning a top-10 finish as his 39:54.0 put him ninth overall. The talented Alaskan may be sad to leave Theodore Wirth Park behind: Liebner also finished second in the CCSA in Saturday’s skate race as well.

Alaska senior John Parry rounded out the CCSA podium, taking tenth overall with a time of 40:08.6. Michigan Tech’s Mikko Harju crossed the line just under 12 seconds later, taking fourth collegiately and 11th overall as he continues his push for an NCAA berth.

Northern Michigan’s third-scoring skier, Erik Soderman, finished 13th overall and fifth collegiately with his time of 40:36.7, marking the second consecutive day that the Wildcat placed all three scorers in the CCSA’s top five.

“I think the competition within the team is really healthy,” Fjeldheim said. “We have five men and five women that all ski pretty close to one another. It’s so competitive that no one can really sit back. Everyone knows they have to stay on top of their game and train hard.”

A trio of Alaska Nanooks filled positions six, seven, and eight for the region. Senior Ray Sabo followed up his win on Saturday with a 16th-place overall finish Sunday in 40:52.2, nipping teammate Erik Soederstroem (13th overall) by just 5.2 seconds. Junior Alex Morris placed 18th in 40:58.2.

Two more Wildcats, Christopher Bowler (9th CCSA, 19th overall) and Kevin Cutts (10th CCSA, 20th overall) rounded out the regional top-10.

Green Bay’s Edward Gurney finished as his team’s top scorer, taking 25th overall, as did Gustavus’ Anders Bowman, who was 31st.

On the women’s side, Sieber set a blistering pace as she sailed to a silver place finish in 30:54.4. The German native, who seems a likely candidate for one of the CCSA’s seven NCAA women’s bids, was bested only by CXC’s Caitlin Compton, and topped her nearest collegiate competitor by a good 48 seconds.

Second place in the CCSA went to Northern’s Christina Turman, who produced an impressive performance of her own, taking fourth place overall in 31:42.9. Alaska’s Theresia Schnurr earned third place collegiately, completing the course in 31:56.2: good enough for sixth-place overall.

The in-form Carolyn Freeman landed Green Bay’s top finish of the afternoon, skiing her 10K in 31:59.4 for seventh place overall. Michigan Tech’s Malin Eriksson completed an excellent weekend for herself by nabbing fifth place in the CCSA and eighth overall in 32:06.2.

Green Bay’s Kailey Mucha continued her outstanding freshman campaign with a top-10 overall finish; her 32:18.8 was the top OJ finisher of the event and earned her sixth in the conference and ninth overall. Wildcat teammates Libby Ellis and Monica Markvardsen were next to cross the line, taking seventh and eighth in the region to round out the scoring for NMU. Northern’s Ingrid Fjeldheim took ninth in the CCSA with her 32:45.0.

St. Olaf’s top skier of the day, Paige Schember, rounded out the women’s top-10 with an 13th place overall finish. Gustavus sophomore Erica Hett took her team’s top spot with a 24th place finish, while St. Cloud State’s top finisher, Elizabeth Simak, placed 28th.

Behind Sieber and Schnurr’s performances, Alaska took the women’s classic title with 70 points, edging Northern Michigan, who finished with 67. Michigan Tech took third with 56 points, followed by Green Bay (52), St. Olaf’s (41), Gustavus (36), Saint Scholastica (26), St. Cloud State (24), and College of Saint Benedict (6).

For the men, NMU finished with 76 points, topping the 68 points scored by Alaska. Michigan Tech again took third with 62 points, followed by Gustavus with 43, Green Bay with 39, Saint Scholastica with 34, St. Olaf’s with 30, St. John’s with 18 and Gogebic Community College with eight.

With Northern taking the team title with 143 points to Alaska 138, Fjeldheim was pleased with his team’s result on Sunday. “Our team is about where we want to be for the season,” he said. “There are some technical things each skier needs to work on individually, but I think by the regional, we will be ready to go.”

The CCSA skiers now prepare for the Michigan Tech SuperTour stop next weekend in Houghton, Mich on Jan. 29-30. The event will open with a 5/10K individual start classic race on Saturday, followed by a 10/15K individual start skate race on Sunday.