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NCAA Championships Freestyle Recap

by Mary Kozloski
March 10, 2018

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colorado (March 10, 2018) - On the final day of NCAA competition, Ian Torchia (Rochester, MN) of Northern Michigan University had an epic race to finish out his comeback season - winning the NCAA title in the men’s 20k freestyle mass start. His journey to the top of the NCAA podium did not come without hardships. Torchia suffered a broken broken wrist in the summer of 2016 and then came down with mono after the 2016 U.S. Nationals. Despite these inconveniences, Torchia’s positive attitude, discipline and dedication kept him motivated to get himself back on top for the 2017-2018 season. Torchia won a SuperTour race in Canada, had awesome results at the 2018 U.S. National Championships in Anchorage, Alaska which qualified him for U23 Championships in Goms, Switzerland and  dominated the men’s field in the CCSA region. Now, Torchia can add 2018 NCAA Champion to his growing list of accomplishments.

“I wouldn’t be here without the support of my coaches and teammates, it was a great day to be a Wildcat!”, said Torchia.

Katharine Ogden (Landgrove, VT) of Dartmouth had another outstanding race and secured her second NCAA title in the women’s 15k freestyle by 38.4 seconds. Vivian Hett (Burnsville, MN) of NMU led the Midwest women finishing 20th overall.

“My teammate, Kristen and I were pretty emotional after the race because it was our last NCAA race as wildcats together, but I couldn't have asked for a better four years at NMU!”, said Hett.

In the men’s 20k mass start Torchia was in a sea of University of Colorado, Boulder and University of Denver skiers, along with Callan DeLine of Dartmouth, Zane Fields of Colby College and Martin Bergstrom of University of Utah. The lead pack stayed close together, making it anyone’s race until the final stretch.

“The pace in the first two laps was very easy as I think over half the field was still together,” explained Torchia.

The finish was a battle between the top ten, as they all were within 20 seconds of one another. The finish between Torchia, Alvar Alev (Parnu, Estonia) of CU and Elvind Kvaale (Hoydalsmo, Norway) of DU was a scramble, but it was Torchia who had the final surge of energy to secure the win.

“Denver guys strung it out on lap three and then with 2.5k to go I gradually pulled the trigger,” said Torchia. “Alvar Alev went with me and we were together on the downhill and I slingshotted on the second to last corner and [for the first time ever] sprinted for the win! Felt the hand of God pushing me along that final straightaway!"

Torchia edged Alev by just two seconds while Kvaale finished third, just four seconds behind. Torchia won the men’s 20k race with a time of 54:21.0. Lars Soenesterud (Oslo, Norway) of NMU grabbed a spot in the top 15 finishing 13th while teammate Kjetil Baanerud (Oslo, Norway) of NMU was 18th. Luke Brown (Minneapolis, MN) of Dartmouth was 30th, Gaspard Cuenot (Le Cerneux-Pequignot, Switzerland) of Michigan Tech University 33rd, Tom Bye (Eden Prairie, MN) of MTU 35th and Reid Goble (Harbor Springs, MI) of MTU was 39th.

The races concluded with the women’s 15k freestyle, where they trudged their way through a mix of snow and wind at the start, but finished in the sunshine. The women’s race had a more predictable finish. For the second day in a row, Katharine Ogden of Dartmouth shattered the competition and remained queen of the 2018 NCAAs. Ogden secured her second podium with a time of 43:22.0, winning the race by over 30 seconds. Hailey Swirbul (El Jebel, CO) of University of Alaska Anchorage, grabbed her second NCAA podium finishing second, while Linn Eriksen (Oslo, Norway) of University of Denver was third. Vivian Hett of NMU clutched a spot in the top 20, finishing 20th overall, while Margie Freed (Apple Valley, MN) of University of Vermont was close behind in 22nd.

“I was pleased with my skate race today since skate is usually not my strong suit!", said Hett. “I started out the race in the middle of the pack and got pushed far to the back pretty quickly into the race. Throughout the whole rest of the race I slowly worked my way up and was able to finish right in the middle of the field in 20th!”

Nicole Schneider (Plymouth, MN) of NMU finished in the top 25 in 24th, Kristen Bourne (Lake Elmo, MN) of NMU was 27th, Ranae Anderson (Golden Valley, MN) of Bowdoin College 28th, Sarah Goble (Harbor Springs, MI) of MTU was 30th, Alayna Sonnesyn (Plymouth, MN) of UVM 34th, Carolyn Lucca (Duluth, MN) of University of New Mexico 35th, Kelsey Dickinson (Winthrop, WA) of College of St. Scholastica 37th and Amanda Kautzer (Plymouth, MN) of MTU was 39th.

Results and photos

About the author...

Mary Kozloski is from Green Bay, WI and is a UW Green Bay Ski Team Alumni, where she skied and studied Communications and Business Administration for four years. Mary continues to love and stay connected to the sport through writing. She is a travel and outdoor enthusiast and enjoys exploring everything Colorado has to offer, which she has called her new home state since fall of 2016.


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