Gusties hold own in competitive field

<em>Photo submitted</em>
Photo submitted

At Mount Itasca, MN, on Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009, Senior Kelly Chaudoin won the top spot in the NCAA freestyle skiing qualifier. From Ely, MN, Chaudoin is only the third woman from the Central Collegiate Ski Association (CCSA) to qualify for the NCAA tournament. She conquered the 10K hill in 31 minutes and 9.7 seconds, a staggering 56 seconds ahead of the second place finisher, Marie Helen Soderman of Northern Michigan University.

“After completing the best training regime this past summer and fall, I was hoping for some great results,” said Chaudoin. She has earned her results so far. After Chaudoin’s amazing win at Mt. Itasca and impressive finishes for the Gustavus Women’s Nordic team at the Telemark SuperTour in Cable, WI, as well as at Camp Ripley near Little Falls, MN, the team looks to be in good shape for the remainder of the season.

“I see [the season] going really well,” said Chaudoin. “We have a very strong team with three or four of us in the running for the NCAA [championship].”

Coach Jed Friedrich felt the same way about the last two meets of the season. “At the beginning of the season, my team goal was for our program to be the best Division III program in our region,” said Friedrich. “So far that has been true at every qualifying event. If [we] ski well at regionals, we should be able to hold that title.”

At the Telemark SuperTour, Gustavus finished fourth overall with 119 points, just behind Northern Michigan (184 pts), Alaska-Fairbanks (167 pts) and Michigan Tech (157 pts). Chaudoin finished tenth in the 5K classic race on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009, and Senior Allison Bohn finished just five seconds behind, gaining a twelfth place finish. Sunday, Feb. 1, Chaudoin was unable to finish the race, but Bohn finished number 16, and Junior Erin Eppler finished almost parallel in time for number 17.

At Camp Ripley near Little Falls, MN, the team again placed fourth. This time Eppler lead the way with a twelfth place finish and Chaudoin was right behind winning thirteenth place. Rounding out the top twenty with a twentieth place finish was Bohn.

The final two meets of the season are the NCAA Regional Championship in Houghton, MI, Feb. 27-28, and the NCAA National Championship in Rumsford, ME, March 10-14, 2009. Both upcoming meets are challenging in that they are a combination of Division I, II and III skiers, and the competition is tough.

“[Chaudoin] will certainly be an asset to our team, as she will certainly represent Gustavus at the NCAA National Championships. NCAA skiing combines all three divisions, so we’ll face schools such as Colorado, Denver, Dartmouth, Utah, Middlebury, etc.,” said Friedrich.

The Division I schools mentioned are among the top in the nation, but both Friedrich and the team have confidence in their ability to show the nation what they’ve got. “In order for our team to race well,” said Chaudoin, “we’ll just have to keep thinking positively. It is tough during this portion of the season, especially since there is no snow, but I think our team is doing a great job.”

Chaudoin already claimed fortieth in the U.S. National Championships at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, AK. Chaudoin competed among the top skiers in the U.S., including college students and Olympians from all over the world.

The men’s team has competed well so far this season as well. According to Friedrich, Sophomore Jens Brabbit is also on the bubble to compete in the NCAA National Championship and has qualified for the Junior National Championships, along with First-year Anders Bowman, Junior Andrew Tilman and Sophomore Andrew Poffenberger.