The Gustavus men’s and women’s nordic ski teams each sent two participants to Rumford, Maine for the U.S. Nordic Skiing Championships that took place January 5-6. Jens Brabbit put himself in good position to qualify for the NCAA Championships with an 85th place finish in the 15 kilometer classic race and a 41st place showing in the 30 kilometer Freestyle event. Anders Bowman placed 119th and 59th, respectively, in the same races. Erica Hett paved the way on the women’s side with an 86th place finish in the 10 kilometer classic race and captured 45th place in the 20 kilometer Freestyle event while Danielle Burgmeier finished 141st and 52nd in the same races.
In Wednesday’s men’s 15K classic, Brabbit crossed the finish line with a time of 49:05.2 while Bowman finished in 50:27.0. The women raced in the 10K classic on the same day, with Hett logging a time of 37:41.4 and Burgmeier finishing in 40:27.7.
“It is so early that all we can ask for is that Jens is in the ballpark before we get closer to end of the season,” said Head Coach Jed Friedrich. “Considering that he wasn’t thrilled with his race and I wasn’t thrilled with the waxing, this result looks pretty good to us.”
Thursday’s results in the men’s 30K freestyle included a time of 1:16:57.8 for Brabbit and 1:20:44.4 for Bowman. Hett and Burgmeier finished the women’s 20K freestyle in 59:50.0 and 1:03:59.2, respectively.
“I was really proud of all four of them for the attitudes and toughness they showed in this race,” said Friedrich. “For these young skiers this early in the season, this race is a marathon to them. That last stretch is just a test of the mind. This might be the only time they ever ski a race like this in their lives, so it was a great experience for them that they’ll remember for a long time.”
The Freestyle races provided a unique challenge for participating skiers because low snow conditions and a shortened loop forced the scheduled mass start to be changed to an individual start with each athlete leaving 30 seconds apart. The Gustie skiers responded well to the challenge of competing without a visible opponent.
“For the most part each skier needed to ski on their own for a long period of time not knowing where they stacked up,” said Friedrich. “I tried giving them splits off of one or two main competitors throughout the race just to keep them informed of where they were sitting. That can be really challenging in a race that long to stay with it mentally, but they did a great job.”