Skiers from Northern Michigan University and the Alaska Nanooks (from Fairbanks) again paced the Central Collegiate Ski Association on day two of the U.S. Cross Country Skiing National Championships Thursday at the Michigan Tech Trails in Houghton, Mich. NMU, a day after Lindsey Weier won her first national championship in Wednesday's classic race, put four Wildcats in the top 15 of the women's 10-kilometer freestyle.
In a race won surprisingly by 18-year-old high schooler Alexa Turzian of Hailey, Idaho (27 minutes, 49 seconds), Weier was the top collegian and placed fifth overall in 28:19. Weier's US Ski Team teammate, Lindsay Williams, was next in ninth place, followed by NMU's Maria Stuber in 11th and Morgan Smyth in 15th.
Alaska Fairbanks, meanwhile, had Aurelia Korthauer in 16th, while the Coulter twins of Traverse City, Mich., Julia and Anna, rebounded from tough races Wednesday to place 19th and 28th, respectively, among 171 finishers. Kristina Owen of Michigan Tech placed 37th and Laura Edlund of Gustavus Adolphus College led the Minnesota schools in 58th.
The temperature on Thursday was again well above freezing, which slowed down the racers as the course softened throughout the day. The US Nationals are being contested in Houghton, which will also host the 2008 championships, for the first time ever. They have not been held in Michigan since 1956 or in the Midwest since the early 1990s.
In the men's race, Marius Korthauer of Alaska was again the top performer by placing 17th in 42:17, just 2.5 seconds behind Rene Reisshauer of Denver University, the fastest collegian on the day. Kris Freeman of the US Ski Team won his second title in as many days by skating through the 15K in 39:35.
Other top CCSA results included three NMU skiers, Martin Banerud (27th), Bill Bowler (30th) and Phillip Violett (33rd); Jesse Lang of Michigan Tech in 35th; and Tyler Kjorstad of St. Scholastica, 57th.
NMU coach Sten Fjeldheim is pleased with his team's performance the first two days. "We're really really happy with how we've done overall with everyone, considering we've only had a week on snow and one weekend of racing," said Fjeldheim. "We came here with the attitude of just going as hard as we could and not making excuses of not being on snow and a crummy winter. I'm more proud of my team's attitude than ever."
Having a CCSA school host the championships is a bonus, he added. "I think it means a lot," said Fjeldheim. "There's a lot of local midwestern high school skiers that can see the colleges and see how competitive we are. To showcase our region, it's a good thing."
More than 400 racers enjoyed a day off Friday before competing in the individual sprints on Saturday and the team sprints on Sunday. The break gave organizers time to haul extra snow to parts of the course that have been compromised by all the traffic and warm weather.