The NMU Ski team has historically had a lot of success, including 9 past NCAA National Champions, 103 All-Americans and countless Olympians. This success has continued this season when the team claimed the overall College Cup, as the best College Team at the U.S. Cross Country Championships. The Wildcats then followed up that success with strong performances this past weekend in Coleraine, Minnesota, with 3 wins out of four races and 8 podiums out of 12.
These successes have come out of a huge turnover of the team’s athletes this year- almost have of the team is new, and only one of last year’s six NCAA athletes is competing this season. With these new athletes comes an increase of European athletes.
There are many benefits to having such a diverse squad, as evident in Northern’s results this season. European athletes tend to be a bit older when they first start racing collegiately in the US, not only giving them more racing experience than the average collegiate freshman, but the racing experience they have in Europe is typically much more competitive than we see in the Midwest. “In Europe, or at least in Sweden, most races are national, which means that you always compete against the best skiers in the nation,” says Malin Bojesjoe (Umeaa, Sweden). This past weekend at Mt. Itasca, 9 of the 12 of CCSA podium spots were filled with non-American athletes (the other three were from the Tech’s Goble siblings, Sarah and Reid), demonstrating the higher standard these athletes convey to the Midwest racing scene. “I really like having European teammates because they bring so much knowledge,” Freshman Matthew Bourne (Lake Elmo, MN) said, “As the youngest person on the team, both my European and American teammates help me and teach me to become a better skier. They bring in a lot of racing experience, and I have learned so much”.
Recruiting European athletes is much different than recruiting American athletes, as very few can see the university and team before they arrive on campus, and many times, athletes hear about American collegiate teams through word of mouth. “I first heard about NMU through some friends from home. A former coach of mine was at Michigan Tech and told me that if I wanted to ski on the top level, I should go to NMU. Most importantly was the recommendation from the former Austrian national coach who used to be the Norwegian head coach as well as a good friend of [Sten Fjeldhelm].” Tobias Moosman (Kossen, Austria) wrote, “The biggest difference between Europe and the US in racing is that we are fighting for one team and the university. If somebody has a bad day, your teammates help you get through.” Pauline Forren (Snillfjord, Norway) also commented on the strong team dynamics in Marquette, “What I really like about the team is how we look out each for each other and at the same time, we push each other every day to become better skiers”.
The NMU ski team plans on building on their successes this season, with the goal of sending a full team (3 men and 3 women) to NCCAs, and they hope to have some All-American worthy performances in Bozeman, Montana at NCAA Championships. “We are getting stronger together,” says Moosman.