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Anchorage skier Zanden McMullen caps 4 days of success with his first NCAA podium appearance

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: January 18
  • Published January 18

Zanden McMullen, shown here skiing to victory in an AMH Anchorage Cup in December, posted an NCAA career-best result Monday with a second-place finish at the Utah Invitational. (Bill Roth / ADN)

It’s been a fun and productive couple of days for Anchorage cross-country skier Zanden McMullen, who on Monday capped a four-day string of successes by making his first NCAA podium appearance.

McMullen, a sophomore at Montana State, claimed second place in the men’s 20-kilometer mass-start classic race at the Utah Invitational. Utah’s Sam Hendry won a sprint finish to take a one-second victory over the South High graduate.

UAA newcomer Astrid Stav made her podium debut too, skiing to second place in the women’s 15K classic -- the second college race of her career.

The silver medal was the high point of a memorable four-day run for McMullen, the 2019 Alaska state Skimeister and Cook Inlet Conference Skimeister It started Friday, when he was among nine Alaskans named to the 22-member U.S. Ski Team headed to the U23 and World Junior Championships next month in Finland.

On Saturday, McMullen placed third in an FIS classic sprint race at Utah’s Soldier Hollow, where he was part of an all-Alaska men’s podium that also included Luke Jager (gold medal) and JC Schoonmaker (silver medal).

On Sunday, he placed fifth in his NCAA season-opener, a 10-kilometer freestyle.

He was back on the Soldier Hollow trails for Monday’s long race, which included NCAA skiers and unattached skiers. He and Hendry dominated, finishing well ahead of everyone else.

Jager was the second Alaska finisher in eighth place overall, 1:43 off Hendry’s winning pace.

UAA landed three men in the top 15 -- ninth-place Sigurd Roenning, 11th-place Schoonmaker and 14th-place Espen Person. Eli Hermanson of Anchorage, McMullen’s teammate at Montana State, placed 15th overall.

In the women’s 15K classic, Stav continued to impress. Her runner-up finish came a day after she placed fifth in her NCAA debut.

Stav finished 7.8 seconds behind Utah’s Sydney Palmer-Leger to prevent a second straight podium sweep by the Utah women. The Utes followed up Sunday’s 1-2-3-4 finish by going 1-3-4-5-6 Monday.

Former UAA skier Hannah Rudd, who trains in Bozeman, placed 11th and UAF’s Mariel Pulles finished 12th. No other women with Alaska ties were in the top 15 overall standings.

The cross-country races marked the first half of the Utah Invitational. The alpine competition is scheduled for February.

The Seawolves sit in second place in the team standings with 319 points. Utah leads with 394 and Colorado is third with 288.