NMU Nordic skiing: Wildcats lead after Day 1 of CCSA championships

ISHPEMING – The Northern Michigan University men’s and women’s Nordic ski teams both sit in first place after Day 1 of the Central Collegiate Ski Association Championship on Saturday at Al Quaal Recreation Area in Ishpeming.

“It was a great day,” head coach Sten Fjeldheim said. “Our men were really solid.”

The NMU men’s team leads with 66 points, followed by the University of Alaska Fairbanks with 62.

While UAF’s Logan Hanneman took first in the men’s 10-kilometer classic race in a time of 21 minutes, 22.4 seconds, the Wildcats claimed the next three spots.

Junior Kyle Bratrud finished second in 20:46.8, while freshman Fredrik Schwencke was third in 20:48.4 and senior George Cartwright fourth in 21:00.1.

The lady ‘Cats hold a comfortable lead after Saturday’s competition with 66 points over the College of Saint Scholastica’s 50.

In the 5K classic, NMU sophomore Mary Kate Cirelli won in 11:48.3, a little better than 20 seconds ahead of sophomore teammate Hannah Boyer, whose 12:09.6 result was good for second.

Junior Felicia Gesior also scored points for NMU as she finished sixth in 12:30.5.

Going into the weekend, Bratrud and Cirelli were ranked first in their respective lists in CCSA points. The top seven men and top six women in the CCSA at the conclusion of next week’s NCAA Regionals will qualify for the NCAA Championship in March.

With temperatures in the teens, very little wind and an abundance of sunshine, Fjeldheim and his athletes couldn’t have asked for better race conditions on Saturday.

“Today was just perfect,” Fjeldheim said. “It was great we didn’t have any wind because yesterday was really, really cold with the wind.”

The ‘Cats will attempt to carry their success into today’s competition at Al Quaal, beginning at 10 a.m. with the women’s 15K freestyle. The men follow at 12:30 p.m. and race a 20K freestyle.

Fjeldheim said today’s competition will be “a whole different animal.” The mass start means there will be more traffic for Northern skiers to maneuver through, but the team enters with confidence.

“We’ve got a good, solid team that can both skate and classic,” Fjeldheim said of the two skiing styles. “I think we’re going to be hard to beat (today).”

Delaney Lovett can be reached at 906-228-2500 or via email at sports@miningjournal.com