A weekend sweep by Northern Michigan sophomore Erik Soderman in the freestyle and classic races capped off a perfect weekend for the NMU Nordic program, as both the men??s and women??s teams captured the NCAA Central Regional at the Al Quaal Ski Area over Feb. 17-18.
"I can??t say enough about how impressed I am with the team," said head coach Sten Fjeldheim. "This was a total team effort and to sweep all four races over the weekend is amazing."
The men began the final day of competition with the 15-kilometer classic mass start race. ??Cat skiers captured four of the top five positions, capped off by a thrilling finish. Trailing the University of Alaska Fairbanks?? Jonas Loeffler entering the final turn, NMU??s Soderman overtook Loeffer exiting the turn to edge the Nanook skier at the line. Soderman finished with a time of 40:48.2, while Loeffer came home in second place, clocking in at 40:48.9.
NMU freshmen Kyle Bratrud and Kjell-Christian Markset crossed the line in third and fourth place, finishing with times of 40:49.1 and 40:49.3 respectively. Rounding out the top five for the ??Cats was junior Chris Bowler, who crossed the line at 40:49.8.
"Erik (Soderman) has improved so much over the past season and it shows," Fjeldheim said. "That??s quite an accomplishment to sweep both races."
The ??Cats finished with 170 total points over the weekend. UAF finished in second with 147 points, with Michigan Tech in third with 138 points. The College of St. Scholastica was fourth with 132 points and rounding out the top five was the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay with 99 points.
The women??s 10k classic mass start race closed out the weekend in equally exciting fashion, as NMU skiers swept the podium. NMU junior Monica Markvardsen continued her impressive season, capturing first place with a time of 32:50.0. Right behind Markvardsen was sophomore Molly Burger and senior Marie Helen Soderman, crossing the line in second and third place respectively.
"Sweeping the top three positions was awesome," Fjeldheim said. "Those three paced the field for most of the race."
Rounding out the top five, were UAF??s Marit Rjabov in fourth place with a time of 33:03.5 and NMU??s junior Libby Ellis, clocking in at 33:04.4.
"We had some pleasant surprises this weekend," Fjeldheim said. "Marie (Soderman) and Molly (Burger) both had fantastic races over the two days and Molly has improved so much each season."
NMU finished with 172 points over the two day event. UAF was second with 149 and MTU third with 143 points. CSS came home in fourth place with 112 points, while Gustavus Adolphus College rounded out the top five with 98 points.
Next up for teams in the region is the NCAA Championships in Bozeman, Mont. over March 7-9.