Despite harsh weather conditions, the NMU Nordic ski team was still able to win three out of four races last weekend.
Due to a forecast of dangerously-low temperatures, the Central Collegiate Ski Association’s (CCSA) Supertour took place in Marquette at Noquemanon trails instead of the originally-scheduled location of Coleraine, Minn.
In Marquette, the weekend low was 10 degrees below zero but it didn’t cool the winning ways of the Wildcats.
“We deal with it quite a bit. These guys are out roller skiing in sleet and rain. We are just used to those conditions,” said head coach Sten Fjeldheim. “It’s an outdoor sport and we are just used to taking whatever weather comes our way.”
The ‘Cats used their superior depth and experience toward a better than expected finish, Fjeldheim said.
The only race the team lost this weekend was the men’s freestyle race — by seven points.
Top finishers for the ‘Cats were Phillip Violett, with a third place finish, Justin Singleton in sixth and Tim Cook, who came in 14th.
In Sunday’s classic race for the men, Violett once again placed well, with a second place finish, just one second behind Alaska’s Maruis Korthauer. Singleton finished seventh and Gus Kaeding finished ninth.
After the race, Fjeldheim said these were the best finishes he had seen from Violett and that he was impressed with how quickly his hard work started to pay off.
“I have been working on my technique a lot these last couple of weeks, and I have been trying to find a new rhythm,” Violett said. “I’m always happy to get on the podium in any race because it helps me and my team.”
The women’s team found help this weekend from Laura DeWitt and Morgan Smyth, with the pair taking two of the top three places in Saturday’s freestyle race, which the Wildcats won by eight points (85).
On Sunday in the classic race, Dewitt and Smyth took the top two spots to lead the women to another victory with 86 points.
“I’m really proud of this team. Everyone has good days and bad days, and when you put in as many hours as we do training all year, it can make the bad days really discouraging, but it also makes the good days really rewarding,” Dewitt said. “This team has done a good job of doing their best all season, and whether they have a good race or not, they still stay positive and support everyone else.”
Other supporting finishes in the women’s classic race were from Maria Stuber in ninth and Tayna Cook, who came in 11th.
In the skate race Stuber was sixth and Anna Berglund place 13th overall.
“I am really pleased with everybody’s performance. I couldn’t be happier as a coach it is just really satisfying,” Fjeldheim said. “We expected to win but we didn’t really think we could win without Martin [Banerud].”
Banerud is the men’s top skier and had the best finishes two weeks ago at the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships before missing last weekend’s race due to illness.
Banerud is expected to be back this weekend as the ‘Cats travel to Hayward, Wis. to ski in the conference championship on Saturday and Sunday. Fjeldheim said he expects another close race between University of Alaska-Fairbanks and NMU. With the recent success of the ‘Cats, they feel the momentum is certainly on their side.
“We are definitely a force to be reckoened with now,” Violett said. “We definitely should put fear into other teams.”