With the 2014/2015 season officially in the rearview, FasterSkier is excited to unveil its annual award winners for this past winter. Votes stem from the FS staff, scattered across the U.S. and Canada, and while not scientific, they are intended to reflect a broader sense of the season in review.
We kicked off the series Monday with awards for Junior Skiers of the Year (SOTY), Katharine Ogden and Sean Doherty. This second set of honors goes to outstanding male and female skiers on the U.S. NCAA collegiate circuit.
Kyle Bratrud, Northern Michigan University
For a 22-year-old, Kyle Bratrud had a momentous 2015 season.
The Northern Michigan University skier came out swinging at the 2015 U.S. Cross Country Championships, winning the 15 k freestyle individual start by 5o seconds over veteran Kris Freeman. The win and his subsequent bronze in the 30 k classic mass start started Bratrud on a whirlwind European adventure that would take him from competing at the U23 World Championships in Kazakhstan to being the second-youngest member of the American FIS Nordic World Ski Championships team in Sweden.
Entering the season, the Eden Prairie, Minnesota native told FasterSkier that his goals for the year were to qualify for the U23 World Championships and earn a podium at the NCAA Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y. After his successful week at U.S. Nationals it was clear that the NMU senior was well on his way to completing his goals. At the U23 World Championships, Bratrud’s best finish was 19th in the 15 k freestyle.
When the USST announced its World Championship team in late January many were surprised and pleased to see Bratrud’s name on the list. According to USST Head Coach Chris Grover, the decision to select Bratrud was an investment in the future.
For Bratrud, his selection was a major step in his career that offered valuable experience in the year before he jumped into professional racing. “This is a gigantic accomplishment for me and not necessarily something that I targeted going into this year. I really think this is a step in the right direction towards accomplishing my goal of making the USST,” he wrote in late January. “I am super stoked to see how the big boys race and hopefully I can contribute to the team in some way! It will be a great step in my ski career.”
At World Championships Bratrud raced the 15 k freestyle individual start and as the third leg of the men’s 4 x 10 k relay. The relay was significant for the 22-year-old as it provided him with international experience that is extremely rare for a collegiate skier.
“They asked me if I wanted to be in it and I said sure. I was flattered,” he said after the relay. “It’s another race on the international stage for me so I was all for it. I knew I was going to get my butt kicked around a little bit out there but that’s how you get better, racing these guys.”
Bratrud returned to the U.S. after what he called an exhausting European tour and arrived in Lake Placid for the NCAA Championships. He raced to seventh in both the 10 k freestyle and the 20 k classic. He was the first American in the mass start.
Bratrud will graduate from Northern Michigan University this spring. He plans to race for the CXC elite team in the 2015/2016 season.
Veronika Mayerhofer, University of Utah
It’s clear that Veronika Mayerhofer is an unassuming and good-natured person. If you meet her in a ski race, however, watch out – the University of Utah skier is always a threat and has the experience to back it up. Her achievements aren’t surprising, as the 22-year-old has competed for the Austrian National Team and raced at the 2013 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships and the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
In her first year as a Ute Mayhofer rose to the top a strong field of international and domestic collegiate women. She ended the regular season ranked second in the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) and earned the year’s Women’s Nordic MVP award for the region. She was the only skier to finish in the top five of all regular season races.
At the NCAA Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y. the Austrian won the 5 k freestyle individual start by a large 13.2 seconds and finished second in a sprint finish at the end of the 15 k classic mass start.
“It’s my first year of college racing and I was so happy that I could go to the NCAAs,” Mayerhofer said after her NCAA 5 k win. “I really enjoyed it so much because it is so much for the team and not just individual racing, because cross country skiing is so much on your own. It’s maybe less pressure and everyone is so happy for you.”
Mayerhofer’s impressive skiing led the University of Utah women – including Sloan Storey and Anna-lena Heynen – to earn the most team points in both of the NCAA women’s nordic races. Their strong performances contributed to a third-place finish for the Utes.
The Austrian’s season didn’t end there. She competed at the 2015 U.S. SuperTour Finals in Sun Valley, Idaho, skiing amongst the best American skiers throughout the entire week. Her strongest performance was perhaps in the mixed team relay where she brought her team from a far seventh to first. She posted the fastest third leg and overcame a charging and motivated Chelsea Holmes (APU) in the process.
In addition to FasterSkier’s Colliegiate Skier of the Year Award, the 22-year-old was also named the United States Collegiate Ski Association’s skier of the year. Mayehofer will return as a sophomore to the University of Utah in the upcoming season.
Patrick Caldwell, Dartmouth College
Caldwell also had a breakthrough season that rivaled Bratrud’s. The Vermont native raced to third in the 15 k freestyle at U.S. Nationals which was enough to earn him a spot on the U23 World Championships team. In Kazakhstan Caldwell finished 15th in the 15 k freestyle and 20th in the 30 k skiathlon. Throughout regular the season, Caldwell won all but one of the Eastern Collegiate Ski Association races at which he was present. At the NCAA Skiing Championships, Caldwell won the 10 k freestyle individual start to cap a largely dominant season. He finished 10th in the 20 k classic mass start.
Emilie Cedervaern, University of New Mexico
Cedervaern finished the 2015 season as the RMISA’s top-ranked woman. Over the course of the regular season the Lobo earned seven podiums, four of which were wins. She continued her dominance into NCAA’s where she placed third in the 5 k freestyle and won the 15 k classic in a sprint finish over Mayerhoffer.
See also: Junior SOTY