Houghton, Mich. - Two-time Olympian Lindsey Weier of Northern Michigan University came from behind Wednesday to win the opening race of the US Cross Country Championship, the 5-kilometer classic, on the Michigan Tech Nordic Training Center trails. Weier, a senior at NMU and a member of the US Ski Team, overcame a narrow deficit late in the race to finish in 14 minutes, 51 seconds, and edge Alaskan Kikkan Randall by eight seconds. The victory was Weier's first at US Nationals, though she had six previous podium finishes.
"I looked up on the scoreboard and I was like, 'No way,'" said Weier, a native of Mahtomedi, Minn. "I was like three to five seconds out of the lead at 3K and then I guess I must have picked it up a lot." The win was all the more impressive because NMU, as well as everyone in the Central Collegiate Ski Association except for Alaska Fairbanks, has spent little time skiing so far this seasons due to the lack of snow in the Midwest. "I didn't really have any expectations just because we've only had one weekend of racing so far," said Weier. "I just wanted to be in the top five or 10."
The CCSA registered the top five college women's racers. Following Weier was Lindsay Williams of NMU in seventh place at 15:27, Aurelia Korthauer of Alaska Fairbanks in eighth at 15:29, NMU senior Morgan Smyth in 16th and Michigan Tech's Kristina Owen in 17th.
In the men's race, Alaska Fairbanks' Marius Korthauer of Bonndort, Germany, had the third fastest college time, placing 13th in 26:46. "The place was good, nothing to complain about," said Marius. "The time could have been a little better, a minute behind (Kris) Freeman would have been awesome."
Kris Freeman of the US Ski Team dominated the race, winning by 42 seconds in 25:07. Vahur Teppan of Alaska Fairbanks was 34th while Michigan Tech's Jesse Lang took 36th in conditions that softened and slowed due to temperatures that rose to above 40 degrees by mid-afternoon.
Race officials and the Houghton community have worked long hours to bring the course into racing shape despite minimal snow, above-freezing temperatures and rain. About 200 dump truck loads of snow - filled by a front-end loader and scoured mostly from area sports fields - were hauled to the course and distributed to create a skiable cover.
Michigan Tech coach Joe Haggenmiller said on Tuesday that hosting the championships is a big boost for the CCSA. "It's really a huge bonus for our conference," said Haggenmiller. "It allows our programs to be racing at something that's somewhat home for us, and it allows us to probably have a few more athletes than we might normally have."
Full results can be found at www.seniornationals.org.