The 2011 National Collegiate Championship is slated to begin Wednesday, March 9th in Stowe, Vermont. Starting in December, athletes and teams from the Western, Central, and Eastern regions have been battling for hotly contested NCAA spots by competing in regional qualifying races, and this week those qualified athletes will get to see how they stack up against racers from other schools across the country.
Only 39 men and 39 women will have the honor of competing at the NCAA nordic championships. The Western Region (RMISA) will be traveling with 17 men and 17 women from six different teams. The Central Region (CCSA) brings 8 men and 7 women from 5 different teams, and the Eastern Region (EISA) will race with 14 men and 15 women from 10 teams. Only 6 teams qualified full nordic teams (3 men and 3 women): from the West: Colorado, Denver, New Mexico, Utah; from Central: Northern Michigan; from the East: Dartmouth and Vermont.
The race formats this year will be switched from last year: on Wednesday the individual 5 and 10k races will be in the skate technique and Friday’s mass start 15 and 20k races will be classic. Both races will be run on the 5k course at the Trapp Family Lodge, which has been redesigned by Morton Trails within the last couple years to meet the FIS homologation standards. The high point on the course sits right in the stadium, at 1358 feet and the low point rests around the 3.5k marker, at 1148 feet. It is a great spectator course, as the track touches the stadium three times before lapping through the stadium. For those that would like to get a flavor of the terrain, the Trapp Family Lodge has posted a 13 minute, interactive video to show you around the course.
Boasting two of the top athletes in the Region, the University of Utah (UU) has stepped up its game this year and earned the top points total for the RMISA region. Senior Maria Graefnings, who was 4th in the skate and 10th in the classic at last year’s NCAA’s, has dominated the regional qualifying races and taken first in seven out of eight races. She will be joined by another senior teammate, Zoe Roy, who finished the season fourth on the ranking list, despite not racing the last two weekends of the season.
The women at the University of Colorado (CU) look to be the top challenge for Utah. Eliska Hajkova, who was 3rd and 7th at last year’s NCAA’s has been the runner-up to Graefnings in five races this season and is likely hungry for a win. Her teammate Joanne Reid, twice an All-American at last year’s NCAA’s, finished her regional season strong with a Super Tour win at the DU invite. Alexa Turzian, who last year barely missed out on the NCAA title in the 15k skate, has had a couple podium finishes this season and is the leader of the RMISA second-team.
On the men’s side, Utah’s Miles Havlick scored four first place finishes in the RMISA qualifiers and finished as the top ranked skier in the West. A sophomore from Boulder, CO, this is Havlick’s second time to the NCAA’s, his top finish at last year’s championship being 8th place in the 10k classic. Vegard Kjoelhamar, a senior from CU, is also a competitive favorite. Though sick for several weekends this winter, Kjoelhamar finished the season with two wins under his belt, and was twice a close runner-up to Havlick.
Havlick is joined at the top ranks of the RMISA by teammate Didrik Smith, who notched a win at the UNM invite. University of New Mexico senior Martin Kaas, who earned a 2nd and 5th at last year’s NCAA’s, returns at the top of the pack as well, with one season victory and four total podiums. Jesper Ostenson and Reid Pletcher join teammate Kjoelhamar to round out a mean looking CU men’s team.
When asked if his top athletes were keeping an eye on the eastern or central results, CU coach Bruce Cranmer replied in an email, “I wouldn’t say we are worried. . . .but we are not looking past them either. UVM is ranked #1 for a good reason and I know they have a lot of talented skiers as does Dartmouth and many of the other schools. It’s the NCAA Championships so it is the best that college skiing has to offer. We are not taking anything for granted.”
The strength in the Central Region lies mainly in the teams of Northern Michigan (NMU) and Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), with several individuals from Green Bay and Michigan Tech in the competitive running. NMU senior Martin Banerud and junior Andy Liebner were at the top of the podium for many of the season’s races, but the results don’t tell it all. UAF competed for part of the season without their top scorers, as all three – Tyler Kornfield, David Norris, and Lex Treinen – had qualified to international competitions based on their US Nationals results.
In an email to fasterskier, UAF coach Scott Jerome wrote that though the team’s travel schedule was pretty tough, the past couple weeks between Regionals and NCAA’s have been important for training and rest, and he feels his team is back to full health and “ready to rock.”
“The men got blasted by NMU at regionals so they are out for redemption,” said Jerome. “We had three men kill it at US Nationals and we want to repeat that type of effort and intensity in Stowe.”
After red-shirting last year, UAF’s Raphaela Sieber finished her first regional season as the top scorer of the CCSA.
Her last weekend of racing was not as sharp, but Jerome maintains that the last two weeks of training at home have put Sieber back on her game.
“‘Ela’ just wants to race smart and let the chips fall,” said Jerome. “She is the smartest competitor we have on the team. She won’t be beat mentally. If her fitness it up, as I expect it is, she has a shot at the top 10.”
Other top women of the region include her teammate Theresia Schnurr, NMU’s Christina Turman, and Wisonsin Green Bay’s (UWGB) Carolyn Freeman.
For the EISA region, Dartmouth (DAR) and Vermont (UVM) posted the top results in every qualifying race.
The women’s side was dominated by UVM’s Caitlin Patterson, who won 7 out of 8 races that she competed in (note that this is the number of wins per races that her Western counterpart, Graefnings marked as well). Not only did Patterson win most of the races, but she usually took them by relatively large margins. She was one of the top competitors in the region last year as a sophomore but did not show her ability at NCAA’s. This year Patterson is much stronger, and on her home course with a hometown crowdic, she could be looking to challenge the podium. The only race Patterson lost in the EISA season was the Regional class race, where she lost to Dartmouth’s Rosie Brennan. Brennan, who was 2nd and 5th at last year’s championships, has been battling injuries since the end of last year and this season’s results have been up and down, but by winning the last EISA race she showed she may be able to vie for the NCAA podium again.
The EISA men’s results were a little more spread out, no individual winning more than 3 races. Last year’s top competitor, Franz Bernstein, returned to the scene with just one regional win, not showing the speed that put him on top of last year’s podium at NCAA’s. UVM coach Patrick Weaver assured that Bernstein, though taking a long time to get back to health after a sickness early in the season, is “getting stronger by the day” and hopes to be back in full form by Wednesday.
The Dartmouth men were led in the early season by sophomore Sam Tarling, but in the last two weekends his teammate Eric Packer stepped up for three-in-a-row victories, to end the season as the region’s highest scorer. UVM’s Scott Patterson, a freshman who qualified for World Juniors and did not compete in two weekends of racing, still notched two wins during the season and was named rookie of the year for the EISA. Dartmouth’s Nils Koons, who has been racing for his home country of New Zealand at the World Championships in Oslo this past week, has just returned home and, according to coach Cami Thompson, is joining the team a day late in Stowe in order to try to finish his school finals before the week of races.
When asked if hosting the NCAA”s was a blessing or a curse for his team, Weaver said that they were trying not to let the hype affect them negatively.
“There’s a lot of excitement here, but we are treating this race as just another race, we’re putting the same bibs on, racing the same course. There might be a lot more people watching the race, but we’re just trying to take care of the little things and you know, whatever happens, happens.
“Everybody on this team . . .seems to thrive when they race here. So, that extra energy I think is going to be applied in a positive direction, so I’m excited about that for sure.”
Meanwhile,CU Coach Cranmer added that he was excited to be back and racing at Stowe, as he spent 11 years coaching at UVM and retains fond memories of skiing at Trapps.
“It definitely is a special place for me,” wrote Cranmer, adding, “I noticed the weather is going from below zero to rain, so it is a fitting weather welcome.”
Wednesday, March 9
10:00 am Men’s 10km Freestyle, individual start
12:00 pm Women’s 5km Freestyle, individual start
1:00pm Men’s and Women’s Flower and Awards Ceremony
Friday, March 11
9:30am Women’s 15km Classic, mass start
11:30am Men’s 20km Classic, mass start
1:00 pm Men’s and Women’s Flower and Awards Ceremony
NCAA Athletes (listed in no particular order)
Jake Barton, Colby
Rosie Brennan, Dartmouth
Franz Bernstein, Vermont
Sophie Caldwell, Dartmouth
Wyatt Fereday, Colby
Clare Egan, New Hampshire
Harrison Harb, New Hampshire
Erika Flowers, Dartmouth
Alex Howe, Vermont
Lucy Garrec, Vermont
Keith Kantack, Williams
Kirsten Gill, Bates
Nils Koons, Dartmouth
Amy Glen, Vermont
Ben Lustgarten, Middlebury
Elizabeth Guiney, New Hampshire
Dimitri Luethi, Williams L
Leah Hart, St. Lawrence
Chase Marston, Middlebury
Natasha Kullas, New Hampshire
Eric Packer, Dartmouth
Caitlin Patterson, Vermont
Scott Patterson, Vermont
Corrine Prevot, Middlebury
Welly Ramsey, Maine-Presque Isle
Natalie Ruppertsberger, Bates
Sam Tarling, Dartmouth
Alena Tofte, Harvard
Sarah Tory, Williams
Martin Banerud, Northern Michigan
Malin Eriksson, Michigan Tech
Jens Brabbit, Gustavus Adolphus
Carolyn Freeman, Green Bay
Mikko Harju, Michigan Tech
Monica Markvardsen, Northern Michigan
Tyler Kornfield, Alaska Fairbanks
Theresia Schnurr, Alaska Fairbanks
Andy Liebner, Northern Michigan
Raphaela Sieber, Alaska Fairbanks
David Norris, Alaska Fairbanks
Marie Helen Soderman, Northern Michigan
Erik Soderman, Northern Michigan
Christina Turman, Northern Michigan
Alexander Treinen, Alaska Fairbanks
Erik Bjornsen, Alaska Anchorage
Jaime Bronga, Alaska Anchorage
Andrew Dougherty, Denver
Makayla Cappel, Denver
Lukas Ebner, Alaska Anchorage
Ase Carlson, Montana State
Tor-Hakon Hellebostad, New Mexico
Kate Dolan, Denver
Miles Havlick, Utah
Mari Elden, Denver
Martin Kaas, New Mexico
Maria Graefnings, Utah
Vegard Kjoelhamar, Colorado
Eliska Hajkova, Colorado
Trygve Markset, Denver
Christina Hellberg, New Mexico
Jesper Ostensen, Colorado
Steffi Hiemer, Alaska Anchorage
Christian Otto, New Mexico
Sofie Jonsson, New Mexico
Reid Pletcher, Colorado
Casey Kutz, Montana State
Tyler Reinking, Montana State
Marta Larsen, Utah
Bernhard Roenning, Montana State
Joanne Reid, Colorado
Ryan Scott, Montana State
Laura Rombach, Alaska Anchorage
Didrik Smith, Utah
Zoe Roy, Utah
Tom Smith, Utah
Alexa Turzian, Colorado
Kristian Soerlund, Denver
Martine Weng, New Mexico