The University of Alaska Fairbanks has another NCAA champion.
Joe Davies, a sophomore from Pemberton, British Columbia, crossed the finish line of the 10-kilometer men’s individual Nordic skiing race in 22 minutes, 33.2 seconds to win the national title on Friday in Lake Placid, New York.
Davies was an astounding 25 seconds ahead of runner-up John Hagenbuch of Dartmouth.
“To be honest, we took his splits and knew after the first lap that he was six seconds ahead, which was already quite a lot,” coach Eliska Albrigtsen said in a telephone interview after the race. “He has started third from the back, and he had a built 17-second lead at the 6.3k, which is outrageous.
“So it was a great start – he looked relaxed and composed, and that’s how I knew yeah that’s his race.”
With teammates Mike Ophoff fifth (23:39.0) and Chris Kalev 16th (24:19.0), the Nanooks scored 85 points in the event, the most by any school. Denver University was second with 84 points, followed by the University of Utah at 80.
“It felt really great (to top the nation in points),” Albrigtsen said.
Davies is the first national champion, Albrigtsen has coached, and he’s the second in program history. Marius Korthauer won the 20-kilometer classical distance in 2008.
Though the lack of an Alpine program precludes UAF from competing for a national team title, they nonetheless stand at fifth overall with 150 points. The University of Colorado leads the team standings after two days with 279.5 points.
The UAF women also had two All-Americans on Thursday. Mariel Pulles, and Olympian from Estonia, finished sixth in the 5k race with a time of 13:08.2, while West Valley High School graduate Kendall Kramer finished seventh in 13:17.8.
Combined with freshman Rosie Fordham’s 17th-place finish (13:43.8), the Nanooks finished third in the event with 66 points. Utah was first in 88, edging runner-up Colorado with 85.
Novie McCabe of Utah won the event in 12:46.3.
“I think Mariel was actually a little unhappy,” Albrigtsen said. “She felt like she overthought it, had maybe been a little nervous.”
Kramer — coming off an illness in recent weeks — was in 12th at the halfway point before charging up the field on the back half.
“We knew Kendall was on the upswing,” Albrgitsen said. “She raced really, really hard the second part of the race – a really smart race from her.
Today’s competition is back on the Alpine slopes before the men and women race the Classic 20k on Saturday. For the coaches, that means determining whether a 40 percent chance of snow will develop.
“Right now everyone’s just tired and looking forward to getting dinner while we figure out the weather and which skis to use,” she said.
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