Skiers take honors at Championship: Three All-American titles declared for Nordic ski team in Vermont

Dustin Anand

Six skiers from the Northern Michigan University men’s and women’s Nordic ski team competed in the NCAA Championships last week, leaving with three athletes with All-American titles.

Thursday, March 6, marked the start of the NCAA Championships at Rikert Nordic Center in Middlebury, Vt. The Northern Michigan University men’s and women’s team placed 11th overall out of 21 teams with a total of 278 points. The University of Colorado took the gold with a total of 708 points.

Three skiers for the men’s and three for women’s  started the competition with the men’s 10-kilometer and the women’s 5-kilometer Classic Race.

Junior Erik Soderman for the men’s team finished in 10th place for the ’Cats with a time of 26:56.5.

In the 10-kilometer Classic Race, sophomore Kyle Bratrud finished in 23rd and junior George Cartwright in 33rd place.

“The NCAA championships are interesting,” Bratrud said. “There are only 40 guys and 40 girls racing so actually a much smaller field than most races we do all year, but everyone there is just as good as the next so you don’t really see huge gaps.”

Bratrud said his performance could have been better but is proud of the work his team from the NCAA Championships.

“I have definitely had better classic results this year,” Bratrud said.  “I was a little disappointed with that one. However, this is the national championships so I am racing the 40 best guys in the country so nothing to complain about.”

On the women’s side, Freshman Mary Kate Cirelli finished in 15th place for the ’Cats with a time of 16:22.9 in the 5-kilometer Classic Race. Junior Jordyn Ross finished in 23rd and Junior Rosie Frankowski placed 25th.

“I think I had two of my best performances of the season,” Cirelli said. “The NCAA’s are the races we work for all season.  The best competition in the country is there.”

Cirelli,  who is from Vermont, said she was comfortable at the races and thought she performed exceedingly well for her team.

“I think after our two races, we definitely left an impression on the other schools,” Cirelli said. “Our coaches are amazing and without their help I don’t think it would have been the same.”

Saturday, March 9 was the last of the NCAA Championships with the men’s 20-kilometer mass start race and the women’s 15-kilometer mass start race. Two ’Cats finished in the top 10 in the men’s 20-kilometer. Soderman placed in fourth with a time of 50:16.0. Bratrud also competed in the event, placing 10th, while Cartwright finished behind him in 28th. Bratrud and Soderman earned All-American statuses after finishing in the top 10 in the 20-kilometer mass start race.

Bratrud said being awarded All-American status and having the opportunity to be a part of the team has been riveting.

“Chris Bowler is a fifth year senior, so he has a ton of good knowledge,” Bratrud said. “George is one of the best skate skiers in the country in my mind and of course Erik was a national champ last year and had a very impressive fourth this year. We wouldn’t be successful if it wasn’t for each other.”

In the women’s 15-kilometer mass start race, Frankowski was named All-American placing in seventh with a time of 39.36.9 for the ’Cats. Cirelli placed in 14th along with Ross, who finished in 17th.

“It was all of our first time at NCAA Championships,” Frankowski said. “It was special to be experiencing all of the racing, the high competition level and the overall event for the first time.”

Frankowski said it was an honor to be a part of the competition and to represent her school.

“It is a huge accomplishment to even qualify for NCAAs and an honor to represent our Central region on a national scale. It takes 500 to 600 plus hours a year to get to the level of the best athletes on the women’s side. ”

Frankowski also said hard work and dedication from the team made this season most successful.

“What made our season successful is the same formula as always, hard work, dedication and commitment,” Frankowski said.  “We have the opportunity to be part of what I would say is the best ski program in the nation under Sten Fjeldheim.”

Overall, Frankowski said she appreciates the team’s effort and couldn’t complete this year without the help of her teammates and coaches.

“Without the program at Northern and the team support and commitment to hard work and challenging ourselves while learning from each other, we would not be where we are today,” Frankowski said. “We owe the most thanks to our coaches and our teammates.”