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Nationals-bound

ISHPEMING – Northern Michigan University swept – or more accurately skied – away the competition during the NCAA Central Region Championships at the Al Quaal Recreation Area in Ishpeming on Sunday.

The Wildcat nordic skiing men scored 129 points to 118 for runner-up Alaska-Fairbanks, while the Northern women had 123 to beat out Michigan Tech’s second-place total of 115.

“I am proud of the way our team skied during the championships,” NMU head coach Sten Fjeldheim said. “It’s great that we are going to be sending a full men’s and a full women’s team to the NCAA Championships.”

The Wildcats placed four skiers in the top five of men’s 20-kilometer classic race on Sunday. The effort was led by sophomore Fredrik Schwencke, who won the Central Region Classic Championship in 51 minutes, 30.0 seconds, 5.3 seconds ahead of runner-up Logan Hanneman of UAF.

Northern took the next three spots, with sophomore Adam Martin third in 51:36.2, senior Erik Soderman fourth two seconds back at 51:38.2, and freshman Ian Torcha fifth in 51:43.5. Soderman won the individual 10K freestyle on Saturday.

For the Wildcat women, who led after Saturday’s 5K freestyle, they had to hold off a hard-charging Michigan Tech team on Sunday. The Huskies claimed the the top two places in the second-day 15K classic as Ulricka Axelsson won in 45:12.9 and teammate Deedra Irwin was second in 45:13.7.

With three skiers scoring for each team, Northern reclaimed much of what it gave up at the top of the standings by placing four skiers before MTU’s next skier made it across the finish line.

NMU junior Felicia Gesior was third in 45:26.5, while sophomore Kristen Bourne came in fifth in 46:00.5 and senior Jordyn Ross seventh in 46:06.2. In addition, NMU’s Vivian Hett was 10th in 46:22.7, nearly a minute ahead of the 11th-place finisher from MTU.

Other team scores at the meet included, for the men, Michigan Tech in third with 93, St. Scholastica 89, St. Olaf 69 and Wisconsin-Green Bay 60. For the women, it was Alaska-Fairbanks in third with 103, St. Scholastica 99, UWGB 55, St. Olaf 43 and Gustavus Adolphus and St. Cloud State each with 28.

The Wildcats await their selections for the NCAA Skiing Championships to be held in Lake Placid, New York, on Thursday, March 12, and Saturday, March 14.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.