COLERAINE, Minn. – For the second consecutive day, a Northern Michigan man and an Alaska Fairbanks woman earned the conference crown at the CCSA Championships, as the Wildcats’ Erik Soderman again took top spot in the men’s 20K mass start freestyle and the Nanooks’ Aly McPhetres edged NMU’s Rosie Frankowski to win the women’s 15K event Sunday at Mount Itasca.
Despite a strong showing in both genders from Alaska, however, it was Northern Michigan’s day, as the Wildcats swept the men’s, women’s and overall team titles for the four-race CCSA Championships.
“Everyone’s really happy to have won,” NMU head coach Sten Fjeldheim said. “It was an interesting format this year, having the sprints and the relays involved. I think our team has really been firing on all cylinders this weekend, though, and we are happy with how things turned out.”
There was even more déjà vu about Sunday’s men’s race — Soderman and teammate Kyle Bratrud again took the top two spots, just as they did in Saturday’s classic race. According to Fjeldheim, however, it took every ounce of energy his racers had to hold on to the podium spots.
“UAF busted apart the pack right away,” he said. “They really pulled out at a really hard pace — them, our guys and [St. Scholastica’s] Jeremy Hecker put the hammer down from the start. It was great racing and awesome competition.”
While Soderman and Bratrud took the top two spots, Alaska’s Lex Treinen earned the bronze medal position, finishing just four seconds behind Bratrud. The Nanooks’ Michael Fehrenbach would take fourth, slightly behind the lead trio, while Northern Michigan’s third scoring skier, George Cartwright, took fifth, wrapping up the men’s title for the Wildcats.
Hecker, St. Scholastica’s top skier on the day, and one of the CCSA most consistent performers on the year, just missed out on a ninth consecutive top-five finish, as his time of 55:56.9 put him in sixth on the afternoon. A pair of Alaska skiers, Jonas Loffler and Max Olex, placed seventh and eighth, respectively, while NMU’s Chris Bowler and Michigan Tech’s Matt Dugan rounded out the top 10.
On the women’s side, the competition was equally as fast and furious — as McPhetres and Frankowski battled back and forth for most of the afternoon.
“Aly is really an excellent downhill skier — I was impressed with her downhill ability,” Fjeldheim said. “Every time Rosie would try and pull away , [McPhetres] would close that gap on the downhill.”
In the end, McPhetres would seize on a late stumble from Frankowski to earn her first CCSA title. Frankowski, forced to settle for second place, still finished nearly a full minute ahead of the third-placed skier, Alaska’s Crystal Pitney, who earned the final podium spot in 49:37.8.
Northern Michigan’s Jordyn Ross was next across the line, followed by a pair of Nanooks in Heather Edic (fifth) and Rebecca Koneieczny (sixth). NMU’s Mary Kate Cirelli took seventh overall to round out a solid weekend for the freshman, while Alaska’s Raphaela Sieber, Gustavus’ Erica Hett and St. Scholastica’s Sharmila Ahmed rounded out the top 10.
Northern Michigan captured the men’s title with 303 points, while St. Scholastica landed its best-ever CCSA Championship finish by taking second with 252 points. Alaska’s rounded out the podium by taking third on 242 points.
On the women’s side, the Wildcats were again on top, albeit by a slightly slimmer margin. NMU’s 292 points earned them the conference crown by 20 points versus Alaska’s 272 points. Michigan Tech took the bronze on the women’s side, finishing with 225 points.
Overall, NMU’s 595 total points gave them a comfortable victory against Alaska, who finished second with 514 points. Michigan Tech took third with its 454 points, just beating out St. Scholastica by a single point.
The CCSA skiers now head to their final NCAA qualifiers of the season, as Michigan Tech hosts the Central Region championships this weekend.