For the second straight year, Northern Michigan University is the College Cup ski champion.
The College Cup is a tabulation of the classic and freestyle college results from the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships currently being held in Houghton, Mich.
The Wildcats scored 909 points to top runner-up Middlebury (877) and third-place Dartmouth (857) among 27 teams.
Dartmouth actually had the highest women’s score (483 to NMU’s 466) but the Wildcats more than offset that deficit by tallying the highest men’s score (NMU had 443, with Alaska second at 421).
NMU coach Sten Fjeldheim said he believed the men’s title was their first.
â€œIt’s inspiring for some of our athletes that have been on the team now for their third or fourth year to win it for the men,â€ Fjeldheim said. â€œThey’ve come a long way. It reflects well on what they could potentially do this year.â€
Fellow Central Collegiate Ski Association program Alaska (from Fairbanks) finished fourth with 823 points while host Michigan Tech tied for seventh with 696.
NMU used superior depth to claim the Cup, as four skiers placed well in both the freestyle and classic events. Martin Banerud was third among collegians in each race, while Morgan Smyth and Maria Stuber both placed in the top 10 twice and Laura DeWitt landed both times in the top 15.
Marius Korthauer paced Alaska by finishing as the top college skier in each race; he also finished fifth overall in the freestyle and sixth in the classic against a field that included most of the top skiers in the U.S.
With the U.S. Nationals being held in the Midwest for the second straight year, all 11 CCSA schools participated. Wisconsin-Green Bay, led by Santi Ocariz, took 12th; Gustavus Adolphus was 14th; second-year program St. Scholastica took 17th; St. Olaf was 19th; St. Benedict, with only a women’s team, placed 21st; and St. Cloud State (22nd), St. John’s (23rd) and Northland (26th) rounded out the conference.
While happy with the win, Fjeldheim, expects tougher competition at the NCAA Championships in March, when all the best college skiers will be present. Some of them were absent in Houghton.
â€œThere’s probably quite a few good racers, especially foreigners, that are on Christmas break,â€ Fjeldheim said, adding that his team’s goal remains a Top 5 result at NCAAs.
Matias Saari writes for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and is the Sports Information Director for the Central Collegiate Ski Association
The Cup was scored in the NCAA format, with results from each school’s top three skiers in each gender comprising an overall score.