Nordic skiing looks to continue dominance

Laura Conway

The NMU Nordic skiing team had a successful weekend at the Mayor’s Challenge on Jan. 21-22 in Minneapolis.

The event had almost 200 racers per event consisting of junior athletes, collegiate athletes and professional ski team members, all competing against each other.

On Saturday, the Wildcats raced the Classic race; the men’s 10K had 194 racers and the women’s 5K had 172 racers.

Finishing high in the rankings were freshman Kjell-Christian Markset (23:04.1), sophomore Erik Soderman (23:22.9), junior Chris Bowler (23:43.0).

Also placing was junior Monica Markvardsen (17:59.6), sophomore Molly Burger (18:48.6), junior Libby Ellis (18:48.7), and junior Rosie Frankowski (18:49.1).

This race was important because it was a USSA National Team qualifying race as well as an NCAA qualifier; another name for this kind of race is a Super Tour race.

Bowler said it’s good to have that kind of competition to race against, both above and below your level.

“It was a really great experience to race against top guys up there at the next level; it’s showing how you get things done,” Bowler said. “Erik got to ski most of the race with Brian Gregg, a top ranked professional, and he got a lot of good experience from that.”

Taking the top collegiate spot both days was Markvardsen. She said she was very happy with her performance over the weekend.

“This race was pretty good race for me; we did three laps on a man-made course,” Markvardsen said. “The race winner passed me on the third lap, but I skied with her a majority of the race. It was exciting.”

Sunday’s race was the freestyle event; 203 men raced on a 15K track and 128 women skied on a 10K track.

The top placers were Soderman (34:04.9), Markset (35:02.1), Bowler (35:55.0), Markvardsen (23:42.7), and sophomore Burger (24:19.9).

Due to low snowfall all over the Midwest, a lot of the races have been on man-made courses. Burger said she was really happy with the course they had to ski on last weekend.

“I was super impressed with the course condition considering Minnesota had almost no snow fall,” Burger said. “They were fun, fast and good terrain. I couldn’t have asked for nicer skiing considering the conditions.”

Those conditions helped Burger place second on the collegiate freestyle course on Sunday. She said she wasn’t expecting to have done so well but was excited when she found out.

“I tried to ski my own race, beat my own time and keep myself in a good state of mind,” Burger said. “I was excited to be back competing, not nervous.”

Burger suffered from Lyme disease for four months and couldn’t train at all last season until November. Burger said it was hard to come back to training being so out of shape; she even questioned why she was still doing it.

“By the end of the season I remembered why I love skiing so much and continued to push myself,” Berger said. “This year it’s all coming together for me, finally, and it’s been so much fun.”

Bowler said one of the main reasons the athletes have been doing so well is because of their coaching and support staff.

“Sten and the assistants always get up so early to make sure we have great skis for the competition,” Bowler said. “We are so appreciative of our support system at NMU; they help us out so much.”

The Nordic men’s and women’s teams will travel to St. Paul, Minn. to compete in the Central Grand Prix on Saturday, Jan. 28 and Sunday, Jan. 29.