McMullen leads contingent of Alaska skiers headed to NCAAs
Anchorage’s Zanden McMullen is one of the country’s rising stars in cross-country skiing and a strong contender for a spot on the podium at this week’s NCAA Ski Championships.
The sophomore at Montana State University earned the fourth seed out of the West Region and is the highest ranked Alaska skier among the six qualifiers and three alternates.
The NCAAs will take place Thursday through Sunday at different alpine and nordic sites in New Hampshire.
All six Alaska qualifiers are in the nordic events and will race Thursday in classical and Saturday in skating.
The other NCAA qualifiers from Alaska include Anchorage’s Luke Jager from the University of Utah, Fairbanks’ Kendall Kramer from UAF, Chugiak’s Adrianna Proffitt and Anchorage’s Aubrey Leclair of Montana State, and Fairbanks’ Maggie Whitaker from The College of St. Scholastica.
McMullen, of South High fame, was named first team All-Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association after a strong regular season that featured four top-5 finishes.
“It is notable that he is the only American on the men’s All-RMISA first-team and the only athlete under 20-years-old,” said MSU nordic coach Adam St. Pierre.
McMullen placed second in the 20-kilometer classical race at the RMISA Invitational at Utah in January. He was also fifth at the Junior World Championships in February.
“Zanden is seeing the payoff for all the hard work he has put in, year-round, for the past few seasons,” said St. Pierre. “He has been the top junior skier in the country this year. To say Zanden’s future is bright would be a massive understatement.”
Last season as a freshman, McMullen qualified for the NCAAs and helped Montana State to a seventh-place finish in an abbreviated championship. He finished 15th in the men’s 10K skate race.
Jager, of West High fame, is also returning to the NCAAs and is the eighth seed out of the West Region.
The sophomore was selected second team All-Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association a year after earning first-team honors as a freshman.
Utah won the RMISA Championship to keep the Utes undefeated on the season.
Jager owns seven career top-5 performances, including two this season, along with a few just misses when he finished sixth in one race and seventh in another.
Jager and Kramer are both members of the U.S. Ski Team’s Development squad.
Kramer, of West Valley High fame, is making her first appearance at NCAAs and as the 12th seed out of the West Region.
The UAF freshman is coming off two top-10 finishes at the RIMSA Championships, highlighted by sixth in the women’s 15K skate race.
Kramer has experience showing out at major races, winning a bronze medal at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics in the 5K classical in Switzerland.
Proffitt, of Chugiak High fame, is making her debut at the NCAA Championships and is the 13th seed out of the West Region.
The freshman posted back-to-back top-15 finishes at the RMISA Championships.
She twice crossed the line with a top-10 result as a season best.
Leclair, of West High fame, is returning to the NCAAs for a second straight year.
The sophomore earned the No. 15 seed in the West Region. The longer the race, the better she skis.
Leclair has placed in the top-20 in five of her seven races, led by one top-10 performance.
Last year she finished 32nd in the 5K freestyle at the NCAA meet to help the Bobcats to a seventh-place showing.
Whitaker, of West Valley High fame, is also making her debut at the NCAA Championships as the ninth seed out of the Central Region.
She is one of a school-record five skiers from St. Scholastica who qualified for the Big Dance.
Whitaker turned in a pair of top-20 finishes at the NCAA Central Region Championships in Houghton, Michigan.
The three alternates from Alaska include Anchorage’s Ivy Eski of the University of Colorado and Fairbanks’ Ti Donaldson and Anchorage’s Eli Hermanson of Montana State.