Nordic skiers Merli Richter, Kjetil Banerud gain victories at CCSA Championships


CROSSING THE FINISH LINE—Kjetil Banerud celebrates his victory in the 20K Freestyle race on Saturday afternoon in Ishpeming. Banerud and Merli Richter picked up wins for the Wildcats during the two-day CCSA Championships. Travis Nelson/NW

Travis Nelson, Sports Editor

The Northern Michigan University Nordic skiing teams took on the terrain at Al Quaal Recreation Area in the CCSA Championships on Saturday and Sunday. Three of the four races over the two days were won by Wildcat skiers with 27 competitors in the women’s races and 30 in the men’s races.

Merli Richter won the women’s 15k Freestyle on Saturday for the Wildcats, while Kjetil Banerud won both of the men’s races, taking home the 20k Freestyle on Saturday and the 10k Classic on Sunday. 

Richter took home the 15k title with a time of 54:26.2, and the Wildcats had a solid showing with three athletes in the top five and another in the top 10. Hilde Eide finished in third at 54:40.1, Katerina Hyncicove came in fifth at 54:47.1 and Pearl Harvey was in 10th with a time of 57:26.1. Rounding out NMU finishers were Savanna Fassio in 14th, Gretchen Haggenmiller in 15th and Nadine Matter in 23rd.

Michigan Tech also had four athletes finish in the top 10, including taking the other two spots in the top five. Annabel Needham came in second place at 54:33.0 and Henriette Simb finished in fourth at 54:44.1. Nea Katajala and Olivia Laven also finished in the top 10 at sixth and eighth respectively. 

Saint Cloud State and Saint Scholastica also had one competitor each finish in the top 10.

In Saturday’s second race, Banerud won the 20k with a time of 58:18.8, outlasting Michigan Tech’s Skylar Patten and Loppet Nordic Racing’s Adrik Kraftson by 3.8 seconds. NMU had one more top-10 finisher, and it was Xavier Mansfield in 10th place at 59:27.6. Tobias Moosman crossed the line in 13th place for Northern, Cooper Lennox finished in 18th and Matthew Bourne 28th.

The Huskies also had three more skiers placed in the top 10 after Patten. Colin Freed, Felix Cottet-Puinel and Henry Snider finished within 35.4 seconds of each other and placed fourth through sixth consecutively. 

Saint Scholastica and Wisconsin-Green Bay also claimed spots in the top 10.

Banerud followed up that performance with his 10k classic win at a time of 27:15.1, this time claiming a win of over 27 seconds. Patten finished in second place again. NMU’s team as a whole had a better showing in Sunday’s race, with Mansfield and Daniel Streinz finishing in fourth and fifth place for the ‘Cats. Mansfield crossed with a time of 27:44.3, and Streinz had a time of 28:10.2. Kristoffer Karsrud of NMU had to withdraw from the 20k, but responded in the 10k with a sixth place finish at 28:26.5. Moosman rounded off the top 10 with a 28:41.5 time.

Saint Scholastica had two skiers placed in the top 10, and Michigan Tech and Loppet Nordic Racing each had one.

Richter couldn’t repeat in the Women’s 5k Classic on Sunday, placing third with a time of 15:58.6. Katajala won this event for MTU in a time of 15:28.5, knocking off teammate Semb’s second place time of 15:39.8. Needham finished in fourth for the Huskies, while Eide finished in fifth for the Wildcats. Lauren McColler came in seventh place for NMU after dropping out of Saturday’s race, and Hyncicova finished in 10th.

The NMU women had one winner in Richter and a total of eight top 10 finishers in the two races, while the men had Banerud win both events and had a total of seven top 10 finishers combined.

Up next for the Wildcats are the NCAA Central Region Championships on Saturday and Sunday next weekend in Duluth.