NMU’s Karsrurd wins classic sprint at nationals

Michigan Tech’s Anabel Needham works her way through a classic sprint race Wednesday during the U.S. Cross Country Ski National Championships at the Tech Trails in Houghton. (Photo courtesy of MIchigan Tech University)

HOUGHTON — While he may be far from his homeland of Sweden, Northern Michigan University’s Nordic skier Kristoffer Karsrud is no stranger to Michigan Tech’s cross country ski trails.

In fact, he says it played a role in his first-place finish in the men’s division of the classic sprint races on Wednesday at the 2023 U.S. Cross Country Ski Nationl Championships.

“I’ve been here many many times,” said the NMU economics major after stepping down from the top of podium with a big smile.

“This course and setting are quite familiar to me.”

Karsrud outpaced more than 240 competitors from around the nation and world striding it out on the 1.24-kilometer course with a time of 2:51:83.

“As usual, there were some strong skiers in this one,” he said. “I paced myself well in the first lap and then just game it my all in the second (and final) time around.”

Haley Swirbul was the winner of the women’s classic sprint with a time of 3:23:24. She also explained that she was also no stranger to the Houghton area. However, the Alaskan resident and member of the APU Nordic Ski Center based in Anchorage, said she had been here three times before since Anchorage is a little further away than Marquette.

“This course is great,” she stated. “The terrain fits my strengths well with a good balance of uphill and long stretches.”

She added that waxing (her skis) was a real challenge given the fact that the temperature was right around freezing at race time with a mix of snow and rain falling and presenting a difficult challenge.

“Luckily I was able to find skis that were well balanced when it came to race time,” Swirbul said. “That was key, and the fact that I was able to conserve energy for most of the race before turning it on at the end push.”

Locally, it was not as strong a day for the Michigan Tech nordic skiers. While the Huskies dominated the podium on Monday in both the men’s and women’s freestyle 10k distance races, the best they could do on Wednesday were Top 20 finishes.

Senior Husky Adam Witkowski placed 18th overall for the men. For the women, Houghton native Anabel Needham qualified in the quarterfinal with a fifth-place finish.

According to head coach of the Huskies nordic ski team, Tom Monahan Smith, such is the world of sports and competition.

“As with anything, some days are good and other days are not so good, and (Wednesday) was just not our day,” he said, “We had an amazing skate-day on Monday to start this week, and we are looking forward to a strong distance day on Friday.”

The men’s classic mass start (20k) will begin at 9:30 a.m. Friday morning, followed by the women’s mass start (20k) at 11:30 a.m.

The U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships will wrap up on Saturday with a men’s and women’s’ freestyle sprint competition.


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