The Collegiate racing season will be underway this weekend for the teams of all three regions to begin vying for spots toward the March 11-16th NCAA Championships in Stowe, Vermont.
Here is a rundown of schedules and teams, with the spotlight on a couple of competitive teams from each region.
Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA)
Jan. 15,16 MSU Invite @ Bohart Ranch, MT 5/10 F, 15/20 mass CL
Jan. 21,22 UU Invite @ Soldier Hollow, UT 5/10 F, 15/20 mass Cl
Feb. 4,5 UNM invite @ Red River, NM 5/10 CL, 10/10 wave start F
Feb. 11,1 DU Invite @ Winter Park, CO 5/10 CL, 21/21 mass F
Feb 25,26 UU Regionals @ Soldier Hollow: 5/10 F, 15/20 mass CL
Comprised of the smallest number of teams, the RMISA region turns out the biggest results at the NCAA’s, taking 31 of the top 40 places in the nordic events at the 2010 NCAA’s, and it can be hard to name any one team as the obvious favorite. The team who racked up the most points in the nordic races through regionals last year was Colorado University (CU), followed by Denver University (DU) and the University of New Mexico (UNM), though the other three are not far behind.
CU lost NCAA champion Matt Gelso but retains three strong contenders on the men’s team. Norwegian seniors Jesper Ostensen and Vegard Kjoelhamar were ranked 3rd and 4th in the region last year, and Kjoelhamar picked up a 4th place at NCAA’s. Junior Reid Pletcher, who has specialized in sprints in the past, will make the push toward distance races this year. Pletcher qualified to sprint at the U23 Championships, but has elected instead to focus on the regional qualifying races. Alexa Turzian – 2nd at last year’s NCAA skate race – heads up the women’s team. Joining her is Joanne Reid (4th and 10th at NCAA) who will miss a weekend of racing due to a trip to the World Junior Championships. From the Czech Republic, junior Eliska Hajkova (3rd, 7th at NCAA) has already this year shown her speed with three top finishes at US Nationals.
CU’s head coach, Bruce Cranmer, thinks it will be a good challenge for his team to remain at the top of the region. “I’m anticipating that it’s gonna be tough, I mean, I think we’ve got a strong team, but I think a lot of other school have strong teams too.”
DU loses Antje Maempel – who won both women’s races at NCAA’s last year – as a racer but gains her as an assistant coach while she completes her studies. DU Coach Dave Stewart says, “We have a fun team this year that has just finished a quality fall of training. I think this is the most focused team I’ve had and I’m looking forward to helping them achieve their goals this season.”
Stepping up for DU on the women’s side are returning athletes Mari Elden and Kate Dolan; on the men’s side Andrew Dougherty (who recently qualified for World Juniors) and Kristian Soerlund head the team.
Stewart is excited to be hosting DU’s home meet in conjunction with the Aspen Supertour/Owl Creek Chase. For this reason both men and women will be racing 21km skate races on the second day of that race weekend.
On the UNM team coach Fredrik Landsted is looking at some strong returning athletes as well as four new recruits to the women’s side. Martin Kaas was the top ranked skier from the west last year and placed 2nd and 5th at NCAA’s. Joining him are Pierre Niess and Tor-Hakon Hellebostad, two more All-Americans. On the women’s side new recruits Martine Weng – a transfer from Norway who has raced strong in past Norwegian junior cup races; Christina Hellberg – the top junior skier in Sweden last year; and Terese Andersson – a former Swedish junior champion – will give the women’s team a boost.
“I think that we have a very good team this year and should be right in the mix for a NCAA title,” says Lansted.
And don’t count out UAA. After a rash of injuries and health issues nearly decimated his team last year, Flagstad added more numbers for this season and is happy with the way the fleshed-out team. “We are stronger than last year. We are deeper.”
Nearly half of the team are freshmen or new recruits, including Erik Bjornsen, who has high goals for racing Junior Worlds at the end of January, after which he will rejoin teammates Max Treinen and Sam Lindsey. On the women’s side, there are two new recruits from Norway, but Jaime Bronga is the strongest returning racer.
UAA coach Trond Flagstad points out that the RMISA region has an interesting dynamic, in that there are 17 NCAA slots available for men and 17 for women but there are six teams in the region that can each bring three men and three women. It doesn’t take a calculator to figure out that one man and one female from a certain team will be left behind. When asked if the competition is less fierce because the western teams get to almost automatically qualify a full team, Flagstad emphatically says “no”.
“I don’t think it matters at all really. . . . we don’t let up on the coaching and the recruiting, we always want to improve on our NCAA results.
“And for us,” Flagstad continues with a laugh, “if we can make it so that CU or DU doesn’t bring a full team, that is an advantage for everyone.”
University of Alaska Anchorage: Trond Flagstad, asst. Mandy Kaempf
Montana State University: Grethe-lis Hagensen, asst. Andrew Kastning
University of New Mexico: Fredrik Landsted, asst. Simon Reissmann
University of Utah: Abi Holt, asst.
Colorado University: Bruce Cranmer, asst. Jana Rehemaa
Denver University: Dave Stewart, asst. Hennie Kashiwa
Central Collegiate Skiing Association (CCSA)
Jan 4, 6: College Cup/US Nationals @ Black Mountain, ME: 10/15 CL and 20/30 mass F
Jan 15,16 CSS @ Duluth, MN: 5/10 F and 5/10 CL
Jan 22,23 USSA Super Tour @ Theodore Wirth Park, MN: 5,10 F and 10/15 mass CL
Jan 29,30: MTU invite @ MTU Training Center, MI: 5/10 CL and 10/15 F
Feb 12,13: NMU CCSA Conference Championships @ Al Quaal Ski Area, MI: 5/10 F and 15/20 mass CL
Feb 18,19: MTU CSSA Regionals @ MTU Training Center, MI: and 15/20 mass CL and 5/10 F
The CCSA, dominated for so long by the powerhouse of Northern Michigan University, has seen a new team grow in strength in the last couple years: the University of Fairbanks, where head coach Scott Jerome has brought the program from a regional placer to a national contender. NMU Coach Sten Fjeldheim welcomes the competition, pointing out that his team now has to “rise and meet them in order to beat them.”
UAF is headed by four strong men who represent each class: freshmen David Norris, sophomore Tyler Kornfield, Junior Lex Treinen, and senior John Parry. Racing fast at US Nationals, Kornfield has just qualified for world juniors and both Norris and Treinen have qualified for U23’s. Two Germans head the women’s team: Theresia Schurr, an All-American junior, did not get the results she wanted last year at NCAA’s, but was recently 14th at US Nationals and Jerome is excited about her fitness coming into this winter after a great summer and fall of training. Teammate Raphaela Sieber is a strong classic skier who recently took 9th and 13th at US nationals. A trio of younger women vies for the third team spot and Jerome is optimistic about their future.
Though UAF put forth a strong showing at the US Nationals College Cup, Jerome is cautious about counting on future wins, especially since he knows many of the NMU team was sick during the races.
Jerome put the warning out to his own team, “Don’t think that Northern is going to be out for the season, because they get better as the season goes along.”
Fjeldheim acknowledges the fact that his team is slow to start racing fast, and the early season sickness has not helped them “get their ski legs” yet.
“Our guys are inspired and looking forward to racing them this season,” says Fjeldheim of the NMU-UAF CCSA rivalry.
Martin Baanerud, a senior who has been a strong national competitor in the past, heads up the team for NMU. Andy Liebner (named Champion of College Cup for the combined distance classic and skate sprint at US Nationals), Kevin Cutts, George Cartwright (just qualified for Junior Worlds), and Erik Soderman, round out the team’s top five. The NMU women’s team will be led by Marie Soderman, Monica Markvardsen, and Christina Turman.
Though he says he hates making outcome goals, Fjeldheim is not shy to tell his team what he knows they are capable of.
“We can have a couple skiers in the top ten and finish in the top five in the nation,” Fjeldheim says.
Both Jerome and Fjeldheim point to individuals who are racing fast from other teams in the region. Carolyn Freeman of Green Bay raced well at US nationals, and her teammate Kelly Mucha looks like a freshman who could be an up-and-comer. Emma Lee and Sarah Flemming from St Olaf also stand out, as does Jens Brabbit from Gustavus.
Overall, says Fjeldheim, “The region looks stronger than it’s been in a while.”
University of Alaska Fairbanks : Scott Jerome, asst. Matt Dunlap
College of Saint Benedict: David Johnson, asst. Emily Ranta
College of Saint Scholastica: Chad Tomola, assts. Josh Tesch, Andre Watt, James Kyes
Gogebic Community College: Will Andresen
Gustavus Adolphus College: Jed Friedrich and Andy Rishavy
Northern Michigan University: Sten Fjeldheim, asst. Jenny Ryan
Michigan Tech: Joe Haggenmiller, assts. Andrew Joda, Karl Walczak
Saint Cloud State University: Jeremy Frost
Saint John’s University: David Johnson
Saint Olaf: Mark Skildum
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay: Nate Balk, asst. Steve Teclaw
Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA)
Jan 14-15 SLU invite @ Mt Van Hoevenburg, NY: 5/10 CL and 10/15 FS (both races also Super Tour races)
Jan 21-22 CBC invite @ Titcomb, ME: 15/20 mass CL and 3×5 F Relay
Feb 4-5 UVM invite @ Trapp Family Lodge, VT: 15/20 mass CL and 5/10 F (also Eastern Cup race)
Feb 11-12 DAR invite @ Oak Hill, NH: 5/10 F and 10/10 CL
Feb 18-19 MID invite @ Rikert Touring Center, VT: 10/10 F and Sprint Relay F
Feb 26-27 BAT Regionals @ Black Mountain, ME: 5/10 F and 15/20 mass CL
Dartmouth has been the powerhouse team on the East for many years, and last year was no different. They won most of the top nordic team scores throughout the season and qualified a full team of six to the NCAA’s. Their is a large amount of competition from the rest of the region as to who will be the next fastest team, and to knock Dartmouth off their throne on any given day is a concrete indicator. Last season saw a handful of men and women team wins as well as individual wins from Saint Lawrence, and Middlebury, and University of New Hampshire, but the University of Vermont was the strongest contender and looks to only increase in strength for this season.
The Dartmouth women’s team is led by Ida Sargent and Rosie Brennan. After being plagued by injury most of the season, Brennan blazed to a 2nd and 5th at the NCAA’s. Brennan had surgery on the knee in March and is looking to get stronger as this season progresses. Teammate Sargent, who took last year’s EISA overall leader bib in both techniques, has started this season by rocking some races on the World Cup circuit. She plans to take her current fitness and speed to the U23 Championships and see where the season goes from there [Editor’s Note: Since the writing of this article Sargent was named to the 2011 World Championship team. This may mean that she will not race at all for Dartmouth this season]. Trying to fill her spot will be returning Dartmouth women Sophie Caldwell, Erika Flowers, and Stephanie Crocker. Of course, says Coach Cami Thompson, you will have to also look out for Isabel Caldwell and Annie Hart. On the men’s side Dartmouth’s Nils Koons and Erik Packer, from the top pack of the region, are back, and Sam Tarling – who was fourth man on the team last year and just missed qualifying for NCAA’s – is looking very strong in the early season and may be gunning for a top position this year.
Patrick Weaver, new head coach of the University of Vermont (after being the assistant for three years), would like to give Dartmouth a run for their money. UVM had the second highest points in last year’s region races and is returning with some fast and seasoned veterans as well as new speed. Caitlin Patterson, the region’s second qualifier last year and one of the only racers to give Brennan and Sargent a run for their money last year, is joined by transfer Lucy Garrec and freshman Amy Glen. Franz Bernstein, who won last year’s NCAA skate race and took second in the classic, will head the men’s team. He is joined by Scott Patterson (brother of Caitlin) who is a freshman firepower. Fritz Horst, Alex Howe and Dylan Grald could all fill the third spot depending on the day, and this strength is what Weaver is happy to see.
“Franz and Scott I think they have the potential to go 1-2 on a good day, and if Alex, or Fritz or Dylan could have a good race then I think we could compete with the Dartmouth men,” says Weaver. Weaver thinks that if his women all have good races on the same day then they could compete with Dartmouth as well.
“We’re looking to be the best team on certain days – that’s our goal.”
Thompson, who is the head women’s coach for Dartmouth, points out, “It looks like there is more competition on the EISA circuit this year so we’ll have to stay on top of our game!”
Bates College: Becky Woods, asst. Martin Benes
Bowdoin College: Nathan Alsobrook
Colby College: Tracy Cote, asst. Nick Kline
Dartmouth College: Cami Thompson and Ruff Patterson
Harvard University: Chris City, asst. Sarah Cushman
Middlebury College: Andrew Gardener, asst. Patty Ross
Saint Lawrence University: Ethan Townsend, asst. Andrew Morehouse
Saint Michael’s College: Joe Connelly, asst. Lary Martel
University of Maine Presque Isle: Paul Stone
University of New Hampshire: Cory Schwartz, asst. Stephen Monsulick
University of Vermont: Patrick Weaver, asst. Andrew Johnson
Williams College: Bud Fisher, asst. Aubrey Smith