Nordic skiers cap victorious season

Katie Bultman

Anthony Viola/NW Graduating senior George Cartwright completed his final season at NMU. He finished fourth in the home CCSA Championship classic Saturday, Feb. 8, in Ishpeming behind third-place Schwencke and second-place Bratrud.
Anthony Viola/NW
Graduating senior George Cartwright completed his final season at NMU. He finished fourth in the home CCSA Championship classic Saturday, Feb. 8, in Ishpeming behind third-place Schwencke and second-place Bratrud

The men’s and women’s Nordic ski teams at Northern Michigan University competed at the highest levels of competition this season, including the U.S. National Championships and the NCAA National Championships.

The U.S. Nationals are divided into two sectors. In January, the races consist of middle distance and sprint events, where two NMU athletes qualified for World Championships: freshman Adam Martin in the Junior World Championships and senior Rosie Frankowski in the U23 World Championships.

Martin competed in the men’s 10km classic and Frankowski competed in the women’s skiathlon. Both athletes were the first Americans in their respective events with 26th place finishes.

“Europe was a lot more competitive in skiing, so you definitely go over there and it’s a little bit of a wake up call,” Frankowski said. “I got beat by a lot of people but…I learned so much…about racing, about what it truly takes to get to that next level.”

Frankowski finished her fifth and final season with the Wildcats this spring, and she plans to ski professionally.

The second sector of the U.S. Nationals competition is the U.S. Distance Nationals, held last weekend, Friday, March 28.

Frankowski finished 12th in the women’s 30km, an 18-mile race. Martin finished 13th in the men’s 50km, which is 32 miles.

This season, the Nordic ski team athletes won the conference championship, the regional championship and moved on to the NCAA Championships.

Head coach Sten Fjeldheim leads both the men’s and women’s teams, which are separate of each other, even though they compete together at the same meets.

“I think the athletes feel like it’s one team, but really it is two,” Fjeldheim said. “Men are from the moon and women are from Mars, or whatever they say. It’s totally different coaching strategies. It is definitely a challenge as a coach. They’re all student athletes, they’re all working hard and they’re different. It’s a challenge, but it’s definitely a challenge I like.”

The NCAA Championships were held at Soldier Hollow Resort in Midway, Utah on Thursday, March 6 and Saturday, March 8. Fjeldheim said the meet is unique because the men and women are scored as one team and all teams are scored by a combination of alpine, which is downhill, and Nordic skiing.

The ’Cats, who do not have an alpine team, finished seventh in the nation as a combination alpine and Nordic score. Looking at the Nordic scores only, NMU finished second, just behind Denver.

NMU placed before schools like Colorado, University of Utah, New Mexico, Alaska-Anchorage, Dartmouth and, according to Fjeldheim, a lot of the “traditionally super-strong teams.” Last year, the Wildcats were fifth overall as a Nordic team.

Fjeldheim said NMU also had four All-Americans at the NCAA Championships.

“To be an All-American, that’s just the top 10,” Fjeldheim said. “It’s really difficult to be an All-American.”

Sophomore Mary Kate Cirelli and senior Rosie Frankowski both finished All-American in the women’s 5km. In the men’s 10km classic, freshman Frederik Schwencke and junior Kyle Bratrud finished All-American. In the 20km skate, Schwencke again finished All-American, as well as Frankowski. Total, the Wildcats took home six top-10 finishes.

Earlier in the season, the ’Cats hosted the CCSA Championship on Saturday, Feb. 8 and Sunday, Feb. 9, in Ishpeming, Mich., where the men’s and women’s teams took home first place finishes in the classic and freestyle.

Top finishers for the women’s team consisted of Cirelli and sophomore Hannah Boyer, who finished first and second place, respectfully, in the classic event on Saturday. Frankowski jumped in to participate on Sunday after returning from competition at the FIS U23 World Ski Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, and finished first in the freestyle with a time of 36:15.1. Cirelli came in right behind her in a time of 36:17.1.

Junior Kyle Bratrud finished second for the men’s team in the home classic event, followed by Schwencke in third and senior George Cartwright in fourth. Bratrud and Schwencke finished second and third in the freestyle.

Now that the season is over, three Wildcats were awarded honors. Frankowski and Schwencke were voted the Central region female and male Athletes of the Year, and Fjeldheim was voted the Central Region Men’s Coach of the Year by the CCSA.

The ’Cats graduate Cartwright and Frankowski.

“I’ll definitely always look back on Northern fondly,” Frankowski said. “A lot of thanks needs to go out to…all the coaches I’ve had in the past five years and it comes down to your teammates and the atmosphere that you build as a team. If you can keep a positive atmosphere and hard work, it’s really that simple. You just go out and race.”

Senior Erik Soderman, the 2012 National Champion, will return to the ’Cats’ roster next season after redshirting this year.

Fjeldheim said he expects the men to return as a solid, competitive team. The women’s team is younger, which Fjeldheim said will take a couple of years of training, but they should come back strong under the leadership of senior Jordyn Ross, who was a redshirt this season, as well.

“I tell my athletes, as long as we try to do everything the best we can and we prepare the best we can and we race as hard as we can and we try to do everything else right, we’ve got to be happy with our effort,” Fjeldheim said. “I know my athletes give their best sincere effort, showing up every day ready to train, ready to race. I’m real proud of this group of kids.”