Wildcats win College Cup at US Cross Country Skiing Nationals

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CRAFTSBURY, Vt. Northern Michigan University Nordic Skiing wrapped up the 2019 U.S. Nationals on Tuesday after a week of events in Craftsbury, Vermont. The Wildcats were named the top combined collegiate program with a combined 709 points between the men's and women's programs.

The event began on January 3 with the men's 15-kilometer classic interval start. Junior Zak Ketterson (Bloomington, Minnesota) was the top finishing collegiate skier in the event when he crossed the finish line in 42 minutes, 57.50 seconds. He finished in eighth-place while two other Wildcats turned in top-20 performances. Senior Ian Torchia (Rochester, Minnesota) was 12th with a time of 43:17.30 while sophomore Kjetil Baanerud (Oslo, Norway) was 17th finishing in 43:31.90.

Three Wildcats finished in the top-50 of the women's 10-kilometer classic race with senior Nicole Schneider (Plymouth, Minnesota) leading the way. She finished in 40th with a time of 34:09.70. Junior Julie Ensrud (Saltnes, Norway) and freshman Abigail Jarzin (Green Bay, Wisconsin) finished back-to-back in 48th and 49th. Ensrud crossed the finish line in 34:30.90 with Jarzin recording a time of 34:33.50.

The lone women to advance past the classic sprints qualifier was senior Sarah Bezdicek (Osseo, Minnesota) who advanced to the quarterfinals. She turned in a 28th-place performance to lead the Wildcats.

A pair of Wildcats recorded top-10 finishes in the men's classic sprints, including Ketterson who advanced to the final heat. Ketterson finished the event in sixth-place as the top collegiate skier while sophomore Daniel Streinz (Hersey, Maine) fell just short of the finals with a seventh-place finish. Two more Wildcats advanced past the qualifier with junior Mathias Aas-Rolid (Redalen, Norway) finishing 11th in the semifinal round and Baanerud placing 24th in the quarterfinals.

Schneider again led the Wildcat women in the 20-kilometer freestyle mass start with a top-20 performance. She crossed the finish line in 18th with a time of 1:02:52.70. Two more skiers competed in the race for NMU with Ensrud finishing 34th and Bezdicek placing 55th. Ensrud crossed the finish line in 1:05:52:20 while Bezdicek finished with a time of 1:08:34.80.

In the men's 30-kilometer freestyle mass start, Baanerud added another top-20 finish for the week when he crossed the finish line in 18th with a time of 1:20:59.60. Ketterson also turned-in a top-20 performance with a time of 1:21:13.70. He placed 20th while Torchia was not far behind with a 22nd-place finish and time of 1:21:13.70. Sophomore Xavier Mansfield (Minneapolis, Minnesota) was the final Wildcat competitor in the race with a 61st-place finish and a time of 1:28:29.90.

A pair of NMU women's skiers advanced to the quarterfinals of the freestyle sprints on the final day. Schneider turned-in her second top-20 finish of the week with an 14th-place performance while Bezdicek was not far behind with a 17th-place finish.

Two Wildcat men advanced to the finals of the freestyle sprints, led by Streinz who finished fourth overall. He was joined in the final heat by Ketterson who finished sixth while two more NMU skiers advanced out of the qualifier. Baanerud advanced to the semifinal heat before finishing 12th and Aas-Rolid advanced to the quarterfinal round placing 16th.

The Wildcats topped the standings among collegiate teams in men's events while the women finished third. Combined, NMU was the top finishing collegiate squad with 709 points, 40 points more than the runner up program. Ketterson was also named the collegiate Grand Champion after his performances in the classic distance and sprint races where he was the top collegiate finisher in both.

NMU will now get more than a week off before they travel to Hayward, Wisconsin for the CCSA/CXC Cup on January 19-20.