Skiers take third at U.S. Nationals

Brad Gicopoulos

As winter hits mid stride in the early weeks of the New Year, the NMU men’s and women’s ski teams are trying to find a stride of their own. After finishing the U.S. National Championships last week in Rumford, Maine, the teams set their sights on the NCAA qualifier.

In a field of 400 athletes from across the country the competition was fierce. NMU sophomore Tom McFadden was one of many to ski in the race.

“Racing against 400 athletes who are all so good at what we do made the whole weekend fun,” McFadden said.

The ’Cats had three skiers finish in the top 50 of the men’s 15k race. Martin Baanerud finished 22nd with a time of 45:50.8. Andy Liebner finished 31st with a time of 46:10.4 and Erik Soderman came in 12 seconds later in 34th .

In the women’s 10k race, NMU had three skiers in the top 50. Marie Helen Soderman was the first to be done, finishing 20th with a time of 35:08.5. Christina Turman was 33rd (35:47.4) and Monica Markvardsen was 49th (36:28.0).

NMU finished third with a team score of 521 behind the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (574) and Dartmouth College (565).

NMU made due with the less than optimal track conditions. Head Coach Sten Fjeldheim said there was barely any snow and the skis got destroyed. The competition crew had to shovel in snow from the parking lot onto the track.

“Waxing was tricky because the snow was sugary from being shoveled in instead of being man made or actual snow, “Fjeldheim said.

Fjeldheim said that the team needs to maintain their strength workouts as always and continue easy morning runs. The coaching staff feels it is important to make sure the athletes are training as hard as they can without being burned out for upcoming events.

“We’ve got to start fine tuning, and find the right happy medium of comfortability instead of fatiguing,” Fjeldheim said.

It is an important upcoming week because, to qualify for the NCAA championships in Stowe, Vermont, the athletes will need to place in the top 10 at qualifiers to individually move on.

“Intervals need to be done at the right pace and not too hard to the point where our athletes are tired for the weekends,” Fjeldheim said.

It is that time of year again where the flu bug is going around and NMU junior Kevin Cutts unfortunately was not able to participate in the race, but enjoyed watching his teammates. For Cutts to qualify for the NCAA championships for the second straight year, he knows it will take an extra effort.

“I have to prove to everyone that I’ve gotten fitter, stronger and that I am a bigger threat to contend with this year,” Cutts said.

Not only are the men doing well but the women skiers have also improved this year and some of the male athletes on the team are noticing their efforts.

“Watching the girls improve so much from last year is great Soderman was 20th in the 10k Classic and Turman killed it in the sprint like always,” Cutts said.

The NMU Nordic ski team travels to Minneapolis, Minn. this Saturday, Jan. 4 to compete in the NCAA qualifiers.