CCSA Spotlight: St Olaf

CCSA Spotlight

Base in Northfield, MN, the St Olaf Nordic Ski Team is growing a reputation with its promising close-knit community and growing success. Although with the Ole’s rapid improvements in the CCSA trails, the St Olaf Team also has a strong legacy at the USCSA National Championships, often being a contender for Individual and National Championships.

St Olaf team members after intervals earlier this winter

St Olaf team members after intervals earlier this winter

One major draw to the program is Head Coach Kevin Brochman. Brochman in a renowned Nordic Skiing coach in the United States, having been a two time U.S. Olympian himself, along with coaching several Olympians. He not only coached the 1984 and 1988 Olympic teams but also was named the 1997 U.S. Ski Team Coach of the Year award.   Brochman is in his 8th year coaching at Olaf, and he has led the athletes to numerous U.S. College Skiing Association National Championships titles, along with coaching both Paige Schember in 2014 and Jake Brown in 2015 to the NCAAs. “The nordic team is a very close group of skiers,” says former Olympian and Head Coach, Kevin Brochman, “They often study together, eat together and still have time to train together. Their cohesiveness makes it easy to coach in many ways”.

Members of the St Olaf Women's team

Members of the St Olaf Women’s team

Hosting one of the larger rosters in the CCSA, Olaf draws many of its athletes from Minnesota and the team bonds quickly, building a community within the team. “I love my team. Everyone is so supportive of one another which creatures a great team atmosphere. This allows us to have fun where we go while maintaining a high level of competition,” expressed Lucia Wyland. The team not only has the custom of traveling to West Yellowstone every Thanksgiving for a training camp, but Brochman also says the team trains a lot during the summer together, often getting together at cabins in Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin for mini-training camps and bonding time. “One of my favorite traditions that the ski team has is that most years is that around finals time in December, we have a holiday gathering. We watch the movie Elf, and have pasta in the style of the movie (with maple syrup and candy), and follow it up with a gift exchange! It’s a wholesome break to finals stress!” stated Ware-Joncas.

The St Olaf team after a very success weekend in Rhinelander, WI this season

The St Olaf team after a very successful weekend in Rhinelander, WI this season

One of two liberal art schools in the CSSA, Olaf is a great choice for a student who is looking to ski on a college team but also wants to pursue other experiences. “[Skiers] go to college at St Olaf to be well-rounded student-athletes” Brochman states, “Often they are part of the band, the choir, or doing a fall sport before they join the nordic team. In the fall some are on the soccer team and some are on the cross country team”

“St Olaf for me had a little bit of everything I wanted. I chose the school because of its strong background in health sciences, and the focus on study abroad and music expressed Spencer Ware-Joncas. “I loved that I could truly do a liberal arts experience and study Exercise Science and German. I wasn’t completely certain what I wanted in a college, so I came to St Olaf, partially because I could try so many different things!”

CCSA Spotlight: University of Wisconsin Green Bay

CCSA Spotlight
Sadie Peterson and Coach Jeremy Hecker at NCAAs last year

Sadie Peterson and Coach Jeremy Hecker at NCAAs last year

The Green Bay Nordic Ski Team hosted a successful weekend in Rhinelander, Wisconsin this past weekend. While Green Bay is not necessarily known for its annual snowfall (hence having their home meet 2  1/2 hours away), the University of Wisconsin Green Bay allows for student-athletes to succeed in strong academic programs and benefit from the top of the line ski coaching. In his second year of coaching at the university, Jeremy Hecker is taking steps to make the Green Bay Nordic Ski Team stand out. “We are the only collegiate ski program in Wisconsin, and the only fully Division I program in the CCSA. We have the ability to give athletes a Division I school experience which is very unique. We have a very competitive campus, and it is fun to be a part of the Division I culture”. Hecker is familiar with competitive teams, as he formally was an assistant coach at Williams College and Stratton Mountain School, where he worked with some of the most successful juniors and professional skiers in the country.

GB Women training this fall

GB Women training this fall

Last season, Hecker coached Sadie Peterson to the NCAA Championships, and he is hoping to build on that this year. Sam Meyers and Shad Kraftson are on the cusp of qualifying on the men’s season, and Lara Ketterer currently in contention on the women’s side, showing the growth for the Phoenixes. “While I do look at performance and results as a factor in the recruiting process, my biggest focus is on how the athlete will fit in with the team,” said Hecker.

Working hard in the rain this fall

Working hard in the rain this fall

The Green Bay Team emphasizes that having similar-minded athletes helps increases the overall team performances, and there are plenty of opportunities to bond at Green Bay’s Training Camps. “I make sure that we spend as much time together as possible and we have at least 1 or 2 camps per year. This fall we had two training camps, one in Door County in late September and another in Cable over Thanksgiving. It is during these training camps that we get closer as a team because we will eat, train, and sleep together. We usually try to get at least 1 or two games of Settlers of Catan going during these camps as well!” Green Bay’s ability to have fun is a big part of them being able to push hard in the workouts. “Whether its intervals, long ODs, or volunteer work the members of the team know how to have a good time!” said redshirt junior Sadie Peterson, “I think my favorite thing about the GB team is our capability to have fun with whatever we are doing.”

GB Team enjoying themselves last winter

GB Team enjoying themselves last winter

The close-knit culture is an important part of the Green Bay Team, senior Cory Rouw explained, “My favorite part about the Green Bay team is the community we have within ourselves. We are a group of different people working together towards a common goal. As they get on their goals in the CCSA, it will only transfer onto the National level. “The thing I like about racing in the CCSA is the competitiveness of the region,” Peterson wrote, “I think it is impressive that the CCSA is competitive on a national level despite not having the opportunity to win a national championship (lacking alpine). It’s fun to be a part of the speedy group of gals and it’s so fun to watch the guys too!”

CCSA Spotlight: College of Saint Scholastica

CCSA Spotlight

The Central region historically has been dominated by the Michigan schools (Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech), but as the CCSA grows, one team starts to stand out as another challengerEarlier this month at the U.S. National Championships, the Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech men’s teams both had strong team finishes with 2nd and 4th respectively in the College Cup. One team that took everyone by surprise was the College of Saint Scholastica. Their men’s team placed 6th, putting the three CCSA teams in the top 6 of all college teams across the nation. This drive from CSS has not stopped, with a huge surge this past weekend in Cable, Wisconsin. The men’s team pulled off the biggest upset so far this season, beating Michigan Tech by 4 points.

CSS skiers having fun earlier this winter (photo-  Cece Boyle)

CSS skiers having fun earlier this winter (photo- Cece Boyle)


On Sunday, CSS’s top three strong performances pushed them to their 2nd place team finish. Emil Book Bratbak, who has been a vigorous force all season nearly pulled out a win in Mt Itasca, and had another strong day this past Sunday with 3rd place in the classic individual start. Nick Matelich placed an impressive 7th, and Tamer Mische-Richter finished the deal in14th place. What makes this such a remarkable accomplishment for CSS is that, as a Division III school, none of their student-athletes receive athletic scholarships (NMU and MTU are both DII with athletic scholarships). “Our student-athletes are the most special thing about this program” Stuber expressed, “Something about St. Scholastica attracts the best people. Our student-athletes are hard-working, smart, and compassionate”.

Brothers Ty and Jack Christianson

Brothers Ty and Jack Christianson (photo CSS Skiing Facebook page)

CSS is the also the largest ski team in the NCAA fielding a roster of 15 women and 22 men. “Maria has set up a program that is unique for U.S. Skiing because we have a development team along with our varsity team,” explains Junior Samantha Benzing. “Every athlete on the ski team works towards our program goals and plays a part in team success, even if they are not starting the CCSA races.” With 21 freshmen this season, CSS is continuously working on building their team successes. “I think our team develops a strong connection to each other and to the school because they are really proud of what we do and who we are,” Stuber wrote, “We do a good job of showing our freshmen right off the bat (what we do and who we are). Our team’s success depends on our athletes helping each other and understanding each other.” 

Working with the kids at the Duluth Center (CSS Ski team facebook page)

Working with the kids at the Duluth Center (CSS Ski team Facebook page)

Maria Stuber not only is pushing her athletes, but she also is the founder of the Women Ski Coaches Association, which is pushing to bring more women into ski coaching. Stuber is one of five NCAA head nordic coaches in the NCAA and in recruiting, this can be a big selling point. “As soon as Maria was hired, I knew that St. Scholastica was at the top of my list,” wrote Benzing, “Skiing for a female-led program is an experience that is unfortunately too far and few and I knew it was something that I wanted to be a part of. Skiing on such a large team at the NCAA level is a unique experience that allows us to compete at the high level of the CCSA and create a team of developing athletes that will positively influence the U.S. Skiing scene for years to come”.

Members of the CSS Ski team earlier this winter (CSS Ski Team facebook page)

Members of the CSS Ski team earlier this winter (CSS Ski Team Facebook page)

Recruiting for a team that does not have scholarships can be tricky, but for CSS, the culture of the program speaks for itself. “I do my best to recruit student-athletes bursting with potential, Stuber explained. “For the most part is an attitude. Regardless of how fast you are when you get here, I want everyone on our team to be striving to get A LOT better. We don’t compete for spots on the team or to improve a couple of places, we are looking to be the best athletes we can be, big picture. Potential can also be physical. We have a ton of people on our team that have been exceptional at something else in their life, and I find that this type of person is more likely to be exceptional at another thing if given the chance, regardless of their experience. We had lots of great runners, we have a nationally competitive sailor, Irish dancer, and road biker. If you understand the process it takes to be nationally competitive at something, I don’t care if it’s basket weaving, I will gladly take a chance on you. Most importantly, I am looking for people who love to ski. At the end of the day, we need to be doing this because skiing is fun.”   

CCSA Spotlight: NMU Ski Team

CCSA Spotlight

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.

The Women's Team at Mt. Itasca

The Women’s Team at Mt. Itasca- the NMU Ski team has athletes from the US, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech Republic

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.

Men's Team training earlier this winter

Men’s Team training earlier this winter

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”.

Members of the women's team celebrating after a win

Members of the women’s team celebrating after a win

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 Men's podium at PreNationals in Houghton

The Men’s podium at PreNationals in Houghton

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.

CCSA Spotlight: The Michigan Tech Women’s Team

CCSA News, CCSA Spotlight

Michigan Tech’s Women’s Nordic Ski Team has been on the rise over the last couple of years. While historically, they have a record of having one or two strong women who qualify for NCAAs each year, the depth of this year is one that has not been seen before in the program’s history. This was confirmed with the win of the College Cup at the U.S. Cross-Country Ski National Championships, as the MTU Women’s team grabbed the top spot for women’s collegiate programs.

The Tech Women winning the College Cup (Oda Hovland, Sarah Goble, Anabel Needham, Henriette Semb, Amanda Kautzer, Emma Albrechtt)

The Tech Women winning the College Cup (Oda Hovland, Sarah Goble, Anabel Needham, Henriette Semb, Amanda Kautzer, Emma Albrecht)

When coaches, Tom and Kristen Monaham Smith started at MTU three years ago, the team looked much different. “The team has changed dramatically since I was a freshman,” says senior Amanda Kauzter, “That year, our women’s team consisted of Sarah [Goble], Erin [Lipp], and I”. Michigan Technological University, in Houghton Michigan, is known for its world-class ski trails on campus, along with the large gender gap within the school- the university states that only 28.9% of the student population is female. While this was once reflected in the ski team, Tom Smith is trying to change that. “The women that we did have were tough as nails and every single one of them competed in every CCSA race in the 2017-2018 season. This was huge for us as a team to simply have all of our women healthy to compete knowing we needed three student-athletes to produce a team score for every race. The fact that they had no choice but to race for their team in every for us to count as a team really fostered just how much it meant to compete as a team and not just for themselves”. Despite only having three women, Goble and Kautzer qualified for NCAAS that year, with Lipp close behind, finishing in the top 20 of the CCSA season points list. Since then, the team has just been building on those successes.

Coaches Mike Choiniere and Tom Monahan Smith with senior athletes Amanda Kauzter and Sarah Goble

Coaches Mike Choiniere and Tom Monahan Smith with senior athletes Amanda Kauzter and Sarah Goble 

“[Amanda and Sarah] have really added fuel to the fire that we needed to make our Women’s Team into what it is today. For us, the recruitment has really been about selling the successes our current athletes have as a member of our team and the continual improvement they’ve all shown through their tenure as a student-athlete on the MTU Nordic Ski team,” wrote Smith. There was no doubt at the beginning of January when Tech’s Women’s team showed their growth at the U.S. Cross Country Championships, making a statement that as a team, they should be taken seriously. On their home course, the MTU women really stepped up, and their consistency and teamwork showed through. “Sarah and I had some of our best sprint races, and even though I was not feeling it for the skate distance, we had Anabel [Needham] really stepping it up for our team. Then in the classic mass start, Sarah had some equipment malfunctions and Henriette [Semb] and I managed to score some solid points for the team”.

Freshman Anabel Needham finishing at US Nationals

Freshman Anabel Needham finishing at US Nationals

Winning the College Cup puts a bit of a spotlight on the team for the rest of the season. The Michigan Tech Women’s team has only had one All-American (Kristina Owen 2004-2007) and hasn’t had three women qualify for NCAAS at the same time since 2009. Despite this, Kautzer and Goble came in 3rd and 4th in the overall CCSA season points list last season, making them the top returners on the women’s side this year. And, the rest of the women’s team should not be underestimated. “This is the first year now that we truly have a championship team with 8 women that can all ski in the top 10 in the CCSA on any given day,” Smith said, “Building our team to this point was the biggest challenge, now is the fun part where the athletes have the championship team environment we’ve been building for these past three years, and we believe the student-athletes themselves will really continue to fuel our success as a team from here as they have such a solid group to continue with.”