HOUGHTON, Mich. -- The Michigan Tech Nordic skiing team kicked off the 2007 U.S. Cross Country Championships Wednesday by competing in the classic races at the Michigan Tech Nordic Training Center. Despite battling unseasonably mild weather conditions, two-time All-American Kristina Owen (East Wenatchee, Wash./Eastmont) led the women's squad with a 17th-place showing in the five-kilometer race and Jesse Lang (St. Louis Park, Minn.) paced the men's team with a 36th-place effort in his first-ever performance at the nationals.
"All in all, I thought we skied well today," said head coach and race director Joe Haggenmiller. "The conditions were very warm so that created pretty substantial challenges for all of the competitors. Waxing became a crucial element of the races and I think that made things a little tricky for some of our skiers. We responded pretty well though, and we can certainly build on our performances today for the rest of the week."
Owen, who finished 27th in last year's 10-kilometer race at the U.S. Championships in Soldier Hollow, Utah, turned in a time of 15:49.3 to capture the third-best time among Central Collegiate Ski Association (CCSA) participants. Elizabeth Quinley (Anchorage, Alaska/East) ranked 82nd with a time of 17:12.0 and Jenna Klein (Ely, Minn.) took 91st after recording a time of 17:19.1. Newcomers Hanna Stadem (Baxter, Minn./Brainerd) finished in 17:37.2 to take 111th, while Kristen Monahan (St. Louis Park, Minn./Eden Prairie) rounded out Tech's list of racers with a time of 18:01.7, good for 127th.
"Kristina had a pretty respectable day and she should do even better tomorrow," said Haggenmiller. "Elizabeth and Jenna were solid, but encountered some waxing issues in their races. Hanna and Kristen are skiing at the nationals for the first time this week so they will be learning a lot in the next few days."
"This is an eye-opening field to race against and it takes time to get the results you are looking for. Learning from races like this is all part of taking that next step in skiing at a higher level."
Lang laid to rest any doubt he would be nervous in his first appearance at the nationals, as he put together a time of 27:57.5, which was third among CCSA skiers -- both of whom were from Alaska Fairbanks. Assistant coach Karl Walczak (Brooklyn Park, Minn.) ranked 44th in the classic race, completing the five-kilometer course in 28:27.3. Adam Airoldi (Everson, Wash.) grabbed the 70th spot with a reading of 29:48.6 on the stop watch. Kevin Heglund (Andover, Minn.) clocked in at 30:50.5 to take 97th, Aaron Ditty (Brooklyn Park, Minn./Park Center) came in at 102nd with a time of 30:56.3 and Chris Harvey (Eden Prairie, Minn.) claimed 127th-place after amassing a time of 31:52.8. Nine other skiers finished the men's race for the Huskies.
"Jesse put together a very strong race in what could have been a daunting experience for him," said Haggenmiller. "He and Kristina Owen are both in excellent position on the USSA National Points List and performances like today will only help them move up the rankings."
"Most of the other men that skied this afternoon had pretty solid races.
They each could have skied a little bit better, but the conditions definitely didn't help us today."
Lindsay Weier from Mahtomedi, Minn., won the women's race, while Kris Freeman of Andover, N.H., took the men's competition. Both are members of the U.S. Ski Team and participated in the 2002 and 2006 Olympics.
The U.S. Cross Country Championships resume today with the women's 10-kilometer race and the men's 15-kilometer race on the schedule of events. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures are again expected to reach above 40.
After a training day on Friday, races will continue with the individual sprints slated to take place on Saturday. The team sprints set for Sunday will conclude the prestigious event.
To access a racing schedule with results and other pertinent information about the 2007 U.S. Cross Country Championships log on towww.seniornationals.org