MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Northern Michigan University women’s Nordic ski team returns all three skiers who participated at last year’s NCAA Skiing Championships. Head coach Sten Fjeldheim returns to lead the Wildcats once again. He was the Central Collegiate Ski Association (CCSA) Women’s Coach of the Year last year. This year’s team is loaded once again as the Wildcats look to be one of the top teams in the country.
The men’s Nordic ski team will be lacking a little depth for the first time in a couple of years. NMU does not return any of the three skiers who participated in last year’s NCAA Skiing Championships. Martin Stuge Banerud, who participated in last year’s championships, has decided to redshirt this season. Banerud is a two-time NCAA All-American. Head coach Sten Fjeldheim will be looking to mix in a couple of the newcomers with the veterans for this year’s edition.
At last year’s NCAA Championships the ‘Cats were 12th with 195 points. A big disadvantage for NMU is that the championships combine men’s and women’s alpine and Nordic results. There is no title awarded specifically for Nordic. The ‘Cats were the top placing CCSA team. NMU won the women’s NCAA Central Regional Championship last year with 183 points.
Returning NCAA veterans include Laura DeWitt, Marie-Helen Soderman and Ingrid Fjeldheim. DeWitt was 17th
(15:04.6) in the 5K classic race and 17th in the 15K freestyle race (40:17.7). Soderman was 15th in the classic (14:56.6) and 20th in the freestyle (40:29.9). Fjeldheim placed 28th in the classic (15:26.3) and 32nd in the freestyle (42:1.1). DeWitt and Soderman were one-two at the NCAA Central Regional Championship in the 5K classic race. “Laura has been looking really good,” said S. Fjeldheim. “All three of these women have been looking great all fall.”
Christina Gillis leads a group of veterans returning to the squad. Gillis just missed a trip the NCAA Championships by 0.1 point. Each team is allowed three men and three women at the championships. According to Fjeldheim, Gillis could be the big surprise on the team. “Christina came back this fall in the shape of her life,” said S. Fjeldheim.
Anna Karin Berglund and Caitlin Cassidy also are back for the ‘Cats. S. Fjeldheim welcomes newcomers Molly Burger, Elizabeth Ellis, Kirsten Fjeldheim, Rose Frankowski, Katherine Holway, Monica Markvardsen and Karem Whitham. “The freshmen are pushing the upperclassmen,” said S. Fjeldheim. “We have a lot of depth on the women’s side.”
NMU placed five skiers on the All-CCSA Team last year. Named to the first team were Soderman, DeWitt, I. Fjeldheim and Berglund. Gillis was named to the second team.
S. Fjeldheim thinks that the women’s team is one of the top five teams in the nation.This year’s edition of the women’s Nordic ski team is ready to skate to a top finish at the NCAA Championships. S. Fjeldheim will have the team ready to go at the end.
At last year’s NCAA Championships the ‘Cats were 12th with 195 points. A big disadvantage for NMU is that the championships combine men’s and women’s alpine and Nordic results. There is no title awarded specifically for Nordic. The ‘Cats were the top placing CCSA team. NMU won the men’s NCAA Central Regional Championship last year with 181 points, just edging out Michigan Tech (178). The ‘Cats have 12 of the past 15 NCAA Central Regional Championships.
At last year’s NCAA event, Banerud was 15th in the 10K classic (25:16.5) and 11th in the 20K freestyle (44:45.3). Phil Violett was 25th in the classic (25:40.5) and 32nd in the freestyle (47:33.8). The third member of the group at last year’s NCAA Championships was Justin Singleton as he was 35th in the classic (26:28.6) and 38th in the freestyle (49:04.2).
Banerud, Tim Cook, Violett and Singleton were named to the All-Central Collegiate Ski Association Team as first team selections.
Cook and Sindre Stokke lead the upperclassmen along with Kevin Cutts. Newcomers to watch include Chris Bowler, George Cartwright, Ben Hugus and Thomas McFadden. “Tim Cook has come so far in four years it is hard to believe it is the same guy. He is the team leader in many respects,” said Fjeldheim. “Our men’s team will be almost as strong as last year.”
According to Fjeldheim the team will revolve around Bowler, Cook, Cutts and Cartwright. On the national stage Fjeldheim feels the men could be in the top eight. “They could be anywhere from fifth to eighth in that respect,” said Fjeldheim.
The men’s side of the NMU Nordic ski team might lack some depth and experience. But like any coached Fjeldheim group the men will be tested early and perform at the end of the season when it really counts.
The Wildcats opened the season at the Michigan Tech Challenge (Dec. 12-13). The ‘Cats will participate at the U.S. National Championships in Anchorage, Alaska in early January (Jan. 2-10). Two SuperTour races are on the schedule in Minneapolis, Minn. (Jan. 23-24) and in Cable, Wis. (Jan. 30-31). February finds the team at the CCSA Championships (Feb. 13-14) and at the NCAA Central Regional Championships (Feb. 20-21). NMU wraps up the season at the NCAA Championships which will be held in Steamboat Spring, Colo. (March 10-13).