The NMU ski team is coming off its biggest win of the season. Over the weekend the ‘Cats placed eight skiers, out of a possible 12, on the podium in the USSA Telemark SuperTour. NMU won the team competition with 375 points to Alaska’s 312 and Michigan Tech’s 310.
Head coach Sten Fjeldheim said this victory has brought a new level of confidence to his team, which he hopes they can build off for the rest of the season.
“It is just incredible right now, and they are just a very professional group to work with,” he said. “And I feel lucky to have to work with them every day.”
The men’s team led the way for NMU, sweeping the podium in the freestyle race, with junior Martin Banerud first, senior Phil Violett second and freshman Kevin Cutts third. Other top finishers in the freestyle men’s race were senior Justin Singleton in ninth and junior Sindre Stokke 11th.
In the classic race, the men’s team was just two seconds away from sweeping the podium once more, after Violett took first, Banerud finished second and Cutts ended in fourth.
Fjeldheim said this was a breakthrough weekend for the men and they showed their true potential.
“I think it shows that the team has a lot of depth. We got upperclassmen that have been exceptional since they’ve been here,” he said. “And so we have experience and high fitness levels on the team.”
Not to be outdone, the women’s team also had two top finishers in the freestyle race, with freshman Marie Soderman first and Laura DeWitt third. Junior Anna Berglund and sophomores Ingrid Fjeldheim and Christina Gillis also finished in the top 10.
In the classic race, DeWitt took home first and Soderman would continue a strong pace and end in fourth.
Fjeldheim said it was good to see the younger women on the team doing well because it shows a solid future. He added it was nice for Soderman to get a first place finish.
“I think it was a confidence builder for her, and I think she’s been so close so many times. But after she had a smile that was ear to ear,” he said.
DeWitt said it was good to see her teammates finishing strong along with her, and she added this will help further down the road in the season.
“It is good because no one is by any means relaxed as to their spots on the team,” she said. “There is always someone else there pushing you, which is really fun to have on the team.”
Fjeldheim echoed this when he said having a team that is competitive will only improve every individual as they ready for Regionals and Nationals.
“It is kind of the power of the team, and they know that on any given day that if they’re not on the top of their game they can have a teammate replace them,” he said. “So it builds confidence and it also builds a real healthy competitive attitude on our team.
“There is not a woman or a man on this team that can call themselves No.1 right now.”
Banerud said because of last week’s races and this week’s practices the future looks bright for the entire team.
“I expect all of us just to ski better than we have so far. I’m confident that we will have better results than that and now we just have to prove it,” he said.
The ski team has a week off before it travels to Brainerd Minn. for the St. Cloud Invitational on Feb. 14 and 15.