SUN VALLEY, Idaho --- The University of New Mexico Nordic squad might be done with the regular collegiate campaign, but there are still races to run. The team traveled to Sun Valley, Idaho competing this week in the U.S. Spring Series, a week-long set of Nordic events, featuring several collegiate teams.
The Series consists of four days of events, with the 10/15K Classic race on Saturday, the Freestyle Sprint on Sunday, the 4x5K Mixed Relay today, and the 30k/50k Freestyle on Thursday. UNM's Aku Nikander is the defending U.S. Open Champion in that event.
By far, head coach Fredrik Landstedt was happy with today's results, as UNM finish seventh overall, but second among collegiate teams.
The Lobos were only beaten collegiately by Utah. Emilie Cedervärn took UNM's opening leg. The first two 5K legs featured a female Classical and a male Classical skier, adn the back two legs were the same, but freestyle. Cedervärn sat in second after the opening leg, only behind U.S. Ski Team WOrld Cup skier Liz Stephens. She was ahead of Stephen's fellow World Cup skier Sadie Bjornsen of Alaska Pacific.
Cedervärn passed onto Aku Nikander, who kept UNM in second. Cedervärn won the NCAA classical title and Nikander was fourth. He passed to Eva Sever Rus, who tired late, dropping to sixth, and Aljaz Praznik, who missed the NCAAs with flu-like symptoms, anchored for UNM, and the team finished seventh.
"All the top club teams in the nation and the top college teams were here," said head coach Fredrik Landstedt. "This was officially the US National Championships for club teams, and we did very well. Eva tired a little at the end, but we competed well and had a very good showing."
Bjornsen, who Cedervärn was ahead of, won the 10K Classical race on Saturday. Cedervärn did not race in that one, and Sever Rus was 14th overall, but third among collegians. Anni Nord also competed, finishing 38th overall. Nord skied well for UNM, but a nasty illness early in the season doomer her NCAA hopes. Of the top NCAA collegians in the race, only Utah's Veronika Mayerhoffer started, with skiers like Cedervärn and Denver's Sylvia Nordskar not starting.
On the men's side Aljaz Praznik was UNM's top finisher with a 12th place showing, and Aku NIkander was right behind in 14th. Mats Resaland was 19th and Christian Otto was 40th. Praznik was the No. 3 finisher among collegians, and Nikander was fourth. Resaland was 6th.
UNM never really trains for the sprint races, which are just 1K, but the races had qualifying times, and then a quarterfinal, semi and championship round. For the men, both Praznik (21st) and Otto (30th) got through the 65 skier field to the quarterfinals, with Otto officially finishing 20th and Praznik 27th. On the women's side, Sever Rus was 36th, Cedervärn 39th and Nord 45th, all missing the quarterfinals.