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2009 Central Collegiate Ski Association preview, Part IV

Thu, Jan  15, 2009 - By Matias Saari

MICHIGAN SCHOOLS

NORTHERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY

2007-08 standings: Central Region: 1st; NCAA: 3rd

Location: Marquette, Michigan
Head coach: Sten Fjeldheim (21st season)
Assistant coach: Jennifer Ryan (8th season)

Top male returners: Jr. Martin Banerud, Sr. Phil Violett, Sr. Justin Singleton
Top female returners: Jr. Laura DeWitt, So. Ingrid Fjeldheim, So. Christina Gillis, Jr. Anna Berglund
Top newcomers: Jr. Sindre Stokke, Fr. Randi Vermelid, Fr. Marie-Helen Soderman
Key departed skiers: Morgan Smyth, Maria Stuber, Gus Kaeding, Bill Bowler

Web site: http://www.nmu.edu/sports

2008-09 outlook: After claiming the CCSA crown, the tradition-rich Wildcats again sent the maximum six skiers for the NCAAs and took third in the Nordic standings despite a disappointing race in the women’s classical event due to tricky waxing conditions.

They’re looking for continued success despite the loss of four standouts, including CCSA Female Skier of the Year Morgan Smyth, now a member of the U.S. Ski Team’s B team. 

Junior Laura DeWitt, who has redshirted one season as a freshman and another for medical reasons, paces the Wildcat women. She gained All-American honors by taking seventh in the NCAA freestyle race last season. 

DeWitt will be pushed by Swedish freshman Marie-Helen Soderman, who redshirted last year. At the Grand View XC Ski Challenge Dec. 13-14 in Ironwood, Mich., DeWitt and Soderman each won a race and placed second in another, but they competed as open class skiers instead of collegians. For the CCSA season, however, they’ll be suiting up for the Wildcats, 21st-year head coach Sten Fjeldheim said.

Anna Berglund and Christina Gillis should also contend for NCAA spots.

After NMU swept the Central Region Championships, the women placed fourth and the men were fifth at NCAAs. “I expect we will be strong in the men’s field and equally as strong on the women’s as last year,” said Fjeldheim, whose daughters Ingrid and Kirsten are also on the team.

For the men, junior Martin Banerud of Norway seeks a spot on the NCAA podium after taking fourth each of the last two seasons. 

Senior Phillip Violett, the only college skier to beat Alaska’s Marius Korthauer in a race last season, also returns. So does senior Justin Singleton, who didn’t get to ski at NCAAs last year despite tying for sixth in the CCSA rankings. Unfortunately for Singleton, he was fourth on NMU’s squad; only three per gender from each school can go to nationals. Junior Sindre Stokke from Norway has also joined the team.

The Wildcats are steeped in tradition, as under Fjeldheim they have produced 10 Olympians, five NCAA champions and more than 40 All-Americans. Among them is Pete Vordenberg, the current head coach of the U.S. Ski Team.

The goals for 2008-09 remain high, as the Wildcats want to again place in the top three at NCAAs for Nordic teams. They also strive for the highest GPA among NMU sports teams, something they have done 20 years in a row, according to Fjeldheim.

MICHIGAN TECH UNIVERSITY

2007-08 standings: Central Region: 3rd; NCAA: 14th 

Location: Houghton, Michigan
Head coach: Joe Haggenmiller (6th season)
Assistant coach: Jason Cork (1st season)
Graduate assistants: Karl Walczak (6th season), Adam Airoldi (1st season), Ryan Tervo (1st season)

Top male returners: Jr. Jesse Lang, Sr. Chris Harvey, Jr. Erik Mundahl, Sr. Andrew Joda, Fr. Jesse Smith
Top female returners: Jr. Jenna Klein, Jr. Liz Quinley, Sr. Laura Kangas, Fr. Christina Mishica, So. Kristen Monahan
Top newcomers: Petter Sjulstad, Oskar Karl Lund, Melanie Hoffman, Jackie Pribyl
Key departed skiers: Adam Airoldi, Kevin Heglund

Web site: www.athletics.mtu.com

2008-09 outlook: Despite a third-place finish in the CCSA and multiple individual successes last year, coach Joe Haggenmiller isn’t content.

Nor is he hesitant to publicize the goals for 2008-09. They are:

  1. Move into a position where MTU is clearly in the same class as NMU and UAF with multiple skiers at the top of the Central Region.
  2. Qualify a full team of six for NCAAs for the first time in program history.
  3. Perform well on both days at the NCAA Championships and come home with multiple All-American results.

Last year MTU qualified Jenna Klein, Jesse Lang and Adam Airoldi but had no result higher than 22nd at NCAAs. “We had a horrendous day at the NCAA Championships in the men’s freestyle race,” Haggenmiller said.

Lang and Klein each return while Airoldi is now a graduate assistant coach. The men’s depth is evident as former all-region performers Chris Harvey and Erik Mundahl, senior Andrew Joda and Norwegian freshman Petter Sjulstad join Lang.

A year ago, three of MTU’s top women redshirted. But this season 2007 NCAA qualifier Liz Quinley, senior Laura Kangas and Wisconsin-Green Bay transfer Jackie Pribyl, among others, join Klein.

The Huskies have gotten off to a strong start this season, taking the combined team title over a shorthanded NMU and other CCSA schools at the Grand View XC Ski Challenge Dec. 13-14. A week earlier, the MTU women also claimed the NMU Invitational.

“Pretty cool to step up and race at another level and win the team title at this race series,” Haggenmiller told the MTU sports information department after the Grand View races. “But at the same time we can’t rest on our laurels as Northern Michigan and the other teams in our league will not sit back.”

The Huskies will seek to ride the momentum Jan. 3-8 at the U.S. Nationals in Anchorage, Alaska. MTU successfully hosted the same major event at its campus Nordic Training Center in 2007 and 2008. 

After U.S. Nationals, MTU will stay in Anchorage for the UAA Invite Jan. 10-11 before returning to the Midwest to begin NCAA qualifying races.

ALASKA SCHOOL

ALASKA (Fairbanks)

2007-08 standings: Central Region: 2nd; NCAA: 7th

Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
Head coach: Scott Jerome, 5th season
Assistant coach: Ingrid Olson, 5th season

Top male returners: So. John Parry, So. Ray Sabo, Jr. Einar Often, So. Robert Pakk
Top female returners: Jr. Anna Coulter, Jr. Julia Pierson, Jr. Elisabeth Habermann
Top newcomers: Jr. Oyvind Watterdal, Fr. Erik Soderstrom, Fr. Theresia Schnurr
Key departed skiers: Marius Korthauer, Vahur Teppan, Aurelia Korthauer (redshirting)

Web site: www.alaskananooks.com

2008-09 outlook: The Nanooks have lost two guys who are impossible to replace in 2008 NCAA national classical champion Marius Korthauer and current Estonia National B Team member Vahur Teppan - but that doesn’t mean they’re no longer a force.

“We not going to cry about it and rest on our laurels,” coach Scott Jerome said. “We’ve got young guys that are developing. It’s good for them to get their chance.”

Six men will be competing for a maximum three NCAA spots, and none are American. They are Canadians Ray Sabo and John Parry, Norwegians Einar Often and Oyvind Watterdal, Swede Erik Soderstrom and Estonian Robert Pakk. Only Sabo skied at NCAAs last season.

“We’re really fortunate because on any given day any of the five or six of us can be on top,” Parry said. “No one’s got a safe spot. We’re all planning on helping each other.”

Nowhere was that teamwork more evident than at the final NCAA-qualifying race last season, when Often - who had an outside chance to make nationals - handed a ski pole to Sabo, who had broken one of his. Sabo went on to clinch his NCAA spot and Often was later honored with an NCAA sportsmanship award.

The team’s goal is to again send a full complement of six skiers to nationals, and it got a training headstart this season. While the competition was rollerskiing and doing dryland training, the Nanooks were already skiing at the end of September.

For the women, the quartet of Aurelia Korthauer, Anna Coulter, Julia Pierson and Elisabeth Habermann (all juniors) have rotated redshirting in recent years. Despite winning several early-season races as an open class skier, this year is Aurelia Korthauer’s turn to sit out. The native of Germany was an all-CCSA first team selection last season.

The newly-married Pierson, however, has completed her redshirt season, and rejoins twin sister Coulter, a 2008 freestyle All-American as well as Habermann, who qualified a year ago. Freshman Theresia Schnurr, the team’s top cross country runner this fall, also is looking to break through.

The Nanooks are seeking to challenge Northern Michigan for CCSA supremacy after their women took third in the conference and the men’s were second last season.