As the world turns its calendars to 2011, the skiers prepare their final layers of wax for the start of both U.S. Nationals and the college racing season. With traditional powerhouses Northern Michigan, Michigan Tech and Alaska once again ready to prove their pedigree, and up-and-coming programs like Saint Scholastica and St. Olaf’s packed with exciting young talent, the CCSA season is poised to be one of the most exciting, most even, and most competitive in recent memory.
“On paper, I think we have a pretty talented region,” said Michigan Tech head coach and CCSA President Joe Haggenmiller. “It should be a little bit tense when it comes to qualifying for NCAA’s, but that’s what you want. We will be pushing each other to be better skiers.
For the CCSA programs, the new year also brings with it another shot at making their presence felt at the NCAA Championships come March. After a couple of difficult years, the conference’s skiers and coaches will be eager to prove what they can do on college’s biggest stage, as they jockey for spots as well as future nationals berths.
“We have had a few down years, but these things have a way of working themselves out over time,” Haggenmiller said. “I think we are probably in a rebound mode and about ready to make some noise again at the national championships.”
With only eight coveted NCAA spots up for grabs on the men’s side, and just seven for the women, competition to represent the CCSA at this year’s national championships will certainly be fierce.
“The one thing [our skiers] know is that you’ve got to be on the podium a lot in the CCSA to expect to be at NCAAs, and more importantly, to do anything noteworthy once you get there,” College of Saint Scholastica head coach Chad Salmela said. “You have to go out every weekend and race the best you can, and if you should be at NCAA’s, you probably will be.”
“With the number of spots we have, that should mean that we are going to the national championships with people who are contenders to be in the top ten or on the podium,” Haggenmiller said.
With an intense competitive schedule, starting with U.S. Nationals and concluding at the NCAA Central Region Championships on Feb. 18-19, the CCSA skiers will test their abilities against some of the finest skiers the nation has to offer.
The Saints Hilltop Invitational (Jan. 15-16), Super Tour stops in Minneapolis (Jan. 22-23) and Houghton (Jan. 29-30) as well as the CCSA Championship in Ishpeming (Feb. 12-13) fill out a busy eight-weeks of action. The goal: to still be skiing on March 9-12, at the NCAA Championships in Stowe, Vt.
“With the strengths of the other programs, there are no gimmes this year,” Alaska head coach Scott Jerome said. “It’s been fun to see how the other programs have grown, and the competition is really going to help us in the long run. We are looking forward to a great season.”
For an in-depth look at each of the CCSA’s 11 members, please visit their respective team capsule below.