The world has turned upside down since NCAAs ended abruptly last spring, but teams around the region have proved what they are best at- being flexible and staying positive despite the change. Covid regulations have changed practice regulations, prompting teams to train in smaller groups, with masks, and adding restrictions to some school’s ability to travel this winter. After a successful season for the region last year, we checked in with teams across the region to see how they’ve been faring this fall!
The College of Saint Scholastica
After a record-breaking season in the winter of 2020, CSS continues to grow their squad, with a whooping 14 freshman athletes this season. Some freshman to watch include, Maggie Whitaker, Maj-Liz Helmer, Mia Case, Abby Ellenbecker, Joseph Walling, Hayden Ulbrich, Ben Boelter, Ben Boelter, and Chase High. Top returning athletes for Saint Scholastica are Ryan Steger, John Schwinghamer, Lars Dewall, Bjorn Larson, Emma Stertz, Sam Benzing, Mae Barnes, and Rana Kraftson. Head Coach, Maria Stuber has said that their biggest goal shift is that they are working to be adaptable in the time of covid. “We are focused on how we can do the best we can with what we’ve got on any given day recognizing what we’ve got can change daily. Our expectations for each other are just as high with a little extra compassion and care. We are adding questions to our curriculum like, who are we if we can’t compete? And How does this pursuit of excellence in skiing contribute to that?”
Despite the circumstances, CSS has been having lots of safe and fun workouts, including a Halloween Team Sprints- with lots of costumes and head-to-head competition.
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan has a legacy of success, and with a strong returning roster on both the men’s and the women’s teams, they will be ones to watch once again this season. Leading the men’s squad is Zak Ketterson, who is returning from a redshirt season last year, and Kjetil Banerud, who finished 2nd in the CCSA point rankings last season. On the women’s side, top returning CCSA athlete is Malin Bojesjo is leading the team, followed by the NCAA qualifiers Molly Miller (who made the Canadian National Ski Team this past summer) and Nadine Matter. Padding the team are freshman Gretchen Haggenmiller, Copper Lennox, and Kristoffer Karsrud.
Green Bay has had a lot of changes since last spring, including their new Director of Nordic Skiing Lee Reinke. “The fall has been difficult not knowing what the next week was going to bring as Wisconsin, unfortunately, had high positive COVID numbers. We have kept our heads up and continued to look forward to whatever the ski season brings”, said Reinke. Despite having restrictions for the athletes, Green Bay has been working on rebuilding their team, with the additions of Grace Collier, CJ Young, and Ryan Thieme. Green Bay is simply hopeful they will be able to compete this season as they have been limited to outdoor workouts due to COVID this fall.
Olaf had a strong ending to their season, with dominant team performances at the USCSA Nationals in Lake Placid, New York. The majority of that team is coming back, with USCSA Champ Erica Meyers leading the women’s squad, and Henry Wortman, Kieran Mullen, and Peter Carlen on the men’s team. Julia Everet , Christina Rohrer, Ali Seaton, Helen Olson, Bailey VanderWilde , and Julia Biship are strong additions to the the women’s team and Forest Forsey and Eric Crosby Lehman join the men’s team. This season, Saint Olaf will not be participating in CCSA races due to the University’s covid restrictions, but they hope to demonstrate the improvement athletes have been showing in some form of race this winter.
Covid took a toll on the St Cloud team this year. “New athletes were in question this year due to Covid whether they would attend SCSU or school in general. Unfortunately it did not work in favor for the university” said head coach Mike Schroden. “Lastly, the women’s Nordic [team] opted for the Covid NCAA opt out this year. So I will be attending races as a recruiter to increase the skier population at SCSU”.
MTU had a very strong season last year, and they have been continuing to show their depth this fall. “One of the greatest aspects of our team this year on both the women’s and men’s squads is that we haven’t had just one standout student-athlete. We incorporated frequent benchmark performance tests this fall for competition development and training motivation, and we saw different student-athletes step up to the plate,” said head coach Tom Smith. Standouts have included Anabel Needham who has been “crushing it in everything”, and Mary Lyon who “did more dips in the strength test than all of the men” and on the men’s side, Reid Goble and Patrick Acton will be forces to be reckoned with this winter. “At large our team has had a more consistent fall training than any of the past years we’ve been coaching with the Huskies. This is in part due to the pandemic as everyone has focused on staying healthy first and this has certainly paid off in consistency of training”. As for favorite workouts, “top of the list was our 5k uphill running time trial up Mt. Baldy. The best fall colors we’ve yet to experience in the Keweenaw, and no better way to experience this than to race to the top!”