MARQUETTE - Northern Michigan University dominated the Central Region nordic ski postseason awards this winter.
Wildcat Erik Soderman has landed the men's Most Outstanding Athlete award, while teammate and sister Marie Helen Soderman earned the region's Most Outstanding Athlete honor.
In addition, NMU coach Sten Fjeldheim has claimed both the men's and women's Coach of the Year honor.
"I'm just really, really proud to win these awards," Fjeldheim said in a statement. "It's a great honor for all of us, and really, just caps off a great season with a great group of kids."
On the men's side, Erik Soderman found his best form when it mattered the most, with a late season surge culminating in a national championship at the NCAA skate race. Appearing in his second consecutive NCAA Championships, the sophomore dominated the field during the interval start freestyle, taking the top spot by more than 25 seconds over his nearest competitor.
Soderman also captured both the freestyle and classic titles at regionals, taking the skate race by a comfortable 51-second margin and outsprinting Alaska's Jonas Loeffler to take the classic crown by less than a second.
"Erik is just one of the easiest athletes I've ever coached," Fjeldheim said. "He listens and communicates really well. When he's skiing, he doesn't look like he's going fast. He just looks smooth and glides really well. He really lit it up in the skate race at regionals," Fjeldheim added.. "Though I didn't say anything to anyone because I didn't want to jinx it, I just had a feeling that if he had another race like that at nationals, he'd be tough to beat."
On the women's side, Marie Helen Soderman made the most of her senior season, capturing All-American honors in the skate race at the NCAA Championships, where she took 10th. The Sweden native was the CCSA's top finisher in the classic race at nationals as well, finishing 13th to just miss out on a second All-American spot.
"Marie ... has been really close to being an All-American before - it has been one of her goals," Fjeldheim said. "So it was really cool of her to finally get it in one of her last races. She just really turned it on in the last couple of kilometers, and went from 16th or so up to 10th."
Soderman also claimed a Central Regional crown in the 5K skate race, and placed third in the regional classic event, as well.