Mark Bedics, NCAA.com

Northern Michigan put in notice that they are going to be a force to be reckoned with at the Central Collegiate Ski Association (CCSA) Championships. The Huskies pulled away from the field in both the men’s and women’s competition Jan. 29-30 at the USSA Michigan Tech Super Tour competition in Houghton, Mich.

“I think we are getting in better shape every weekend and skiing faster,” said Northern Michigan head coach Sten Fjeldheim. “Some of our skiers are feeling very good while a few others are ready for a slight taper in their training. Overall the team is progressing well.”

In the men’s competition, Northern Michigan compiled 156 points to 131 for Michigan Tech, 120 for St. Scholastica and 106 for Green Bay. In the men’s 10K classic, the Huskies had the top three collegiate finishers with Martin Banerud winning the event in 29:44.9, Andy Liebner in second (29:58) and Erik Soderman in third (30:50). In the 15K freestyle, the same three finished in the same order with Banerud winning the race by 26 seconds.

“Martin is progressing well,” Fjeldheim said. “I know he has another gear and he agrees, how we get him to find it is a balancing act of training just enough and at the same time staying on top of his final semester in school, as he is an excellent student as well. I know that if he is healthy during the NCAAs he will be ready for challenge.”

In the women’s competition, NMU once again had the highest point total with 144, although Michigan Tech was close behind with 132, Green Bay had 112, St. Scholastica was fourth with 97 and St. Cloud State rounded out the top five with 87. In the 5K classic, Northern Michigan’s Christina Turman was second, only four seconds behind Green Bay’s Carolyn Freeman. Michigan Tech’s Malin Eriksson was third (17:56), NMU’s Monica Markvardsen was fourth (18:03) and MTU’s Sarah Daniels was fifth (18:26). In the 10K freestyle, NMU had the second, third and sixth place finishers with Turman and Markvardsen finishing right behind Freeman. Marie Soderman finished sixth overall for the Huskies.

Depth has been a key to the success so far for the Huskies.

“The top 6 women and top 5 men are skiing close to one another and pushing each other in a positive way,” Fjeldheim said. “It is a very healthy situation to have so many skiers racing so close to one another, the team chemistry is awesome, captains Martin Banerud, Kevin Cutts, Ingrid Fjeldheim and Christina Turman have been great leaders. We have some young skiers moving up challenging the upper classmen, this looks good for the future.”

The long awaited showdown between Northern Michigan and Alaska-Fairbanks, who was not at the event this past weekend, is set for Feb. 12-13 at the CCSA Championships in Ishpeming, Mich. Both teams will be at full strength as each team had individuals competing for the United States Junior and U-23 World Championships teams.

Need to Know
• Numerous collegiate skiers competed for the United States at the U-23 and Junior World Championships in Otepea, Estonia which was completed this week. In the U-23 competition, Vermont junior Caitlin Patterson had a solid finish as she placed 20 of 38 competitors in the women’s 15K pursuit event. In the men’s 30K pursuit event, David Norris of Alaska-Fairbanks placed 28th of 64 skiers, while his collegiate teammate Lex Treinen was 48th.

In the Junior competition, Colorado sophomore Joanne Reid placed 24th of 78 competitors and Vermont’s Amy Glen was 40th in the women’s 10K pursuit. In the men’s 20k pursuit, Vermont freshman Scott Patterson was 35th of 88 competitors, while Alaska Fairbanks sophomore Tyler Kornfield was 56th.

Quick Hits
• Green-Bay’s Freeman continues to impress as she has now won three of her last four races.

• All CCSA teams will be out of action this weekend to prepare for the conference championships.

• The Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) is back in action Feb. 4-5 at Stowe Mountain Resort and Trapp Family Lodge for the Vermont Carnival, which will also serve as a tune-up for the NCAA Championships which will be held at the same venues March 9-12.

• The Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) is back in action at the University of New Mexico Invitational Feb. 4-5 in Red River, N.M.