This year as we celebrate CXC’s 15th anniversary, we thought we’d take a look back and pay tribute to an organization, that in a relative short time span of 15 years has been at the vanguard of Nordic sports in the Central Region of the United States, making a true difference.
To understand, how it began, we talked to Gary Larson of Duluth, MN, who was the President during the formative development years of CXC’s formation.
Larson has spent the better part of his life in our sport. First as an athlete and then as a coach with the US Ski Team during the Mike Gallagher era. Later he spent much of his career working at Giants Ridge and the IRRRB (Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board), taking a leadership role in many aspects of the program, including the fabled World Cups at the Ridge. His measured wisdom and global experience was tapped again at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, where he served as the Chief of Course in cross-country, adding another feather to his cap. A year ago he retired from the IRRRB, in a career that spanned 27 years.
Larson recently recalled some of his earliest memories about the transition from USSA Central to the birth of what is now CXC.
“We had a meeting in the Cities and about that time USSA was no longer funding a Nordic office and we were all thinking of what the next step would be, I think it was in 2000. It took awhile but we were able to form a 501(c)3 entity, develop a mission statement, bylaws and a plan”.
Larson said many people were involved in those early days, when the organization was known as MidWest Cross-Country Skiing (MCCS), he notes that Scott Wilson played a major role.
“As I remember Scott was the first Program Director, the role which later became the Executive Director. He (and others) worked hard and developed a point’s list, membership program, web page, worked with media and started the development of a coaches education program, along with other things. He took the ball and ran with it and brought consistency to it”, Larson noted recently.
Larson was the President for two years at the start. A position that later saw ski sport leaders like Dennis Kruse, Matt Laue, Nancy Bauer also assume the leadership role. The position now is being held by Oyvind Solvang, who has given so much to the sport, and is currently playing an inspirational leadership role.
Many worked long and hard to harmonize a good idea and make it grow better and better, to what it is now.
“It was all part of what I call a natural evolution in focusing more and more on a regional basis to help grow the sport and develop strong, competitive skiers. I think we all brought a broader focus in growing the sport regionally,” Larson offered.
As CXC evolved it was expanded to two regions, the MidWest and the Great Lakes districts. Larson noted that high school varsity ski programs are huge in Minnesota but are less developed in other states, and as such the Clubs have played a major role in sport development, noting…
“In other states, it’s the clubs that make it happen. Central and CXC always had a tradition of strong and well organized clubs, now CXC has improved communication and so many other things, that there is a real common purpose.”
Yuriy Gusev arrived in the United States in 2001 as a student and was introduced to the Nordic community by Sepp Candinas, the owner Sepp Sports ski shop in Madison, WI. Gusev has now been at the helm as Executive Director for 10 years. He’s credited with growing and building the sport on many levels and the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
Gusev, who is a tireless worker, has expanded CXC into a model regional program. It now has vast roots and dreams big things. Just to note in a period of three seasons CXC has been the host body for a pair of IPC World Cups and the ambitious IPC World Nordic Championships held last January to universal acclaim. What’s more the 2016 USSA Jr. Nationals will be hosted at Telemark.
Gusev is deeply passionate about the work, which he sees as a labor of love for the sport. Gusev said for this interview, that he is really pleased by the growth of the sport here.
“It’s very exciting time for Nordic skiing in Midwest. Everyone is working together as one team and towards one goal, to grow the sport of cross country skiing at all levels!”
Larson applauded Gusev for his tireless efforts.
“Look, Yuriy has a vision for CXC and he is really energetic and a very hard worker. He networks well and has deeply broadened CXC’s reach. He’s great with sponsors and his work with things like camps, coaches education, the huge growth of the adaptive program and other things is amazing. Look at what he has done in athlete development. Assuredly CXC and it’s coaches and staff certainly helped foster the development of athletes like Jessie Diggins and Caitlin Gregg, we have a very strong sense of community here”, Larson said.
Gusev puts much of the credit upon others, who have helped pave the way.
“CXC would not be where it is right now without great club coaches that inspire athletes every day to train hard towards their goals, strong clubs that truly are becoming a backbone of sport development, innovative and creative leadership in our partner organizations (ABSF, MYSL,WNSL, Loppet Foundation and others), staff, volunteers and supporters.”
CXC is truly the sum of all its parts and continues to trail blaze into the future with confidence of its leadership.
by Peter Graves, Winter Olympic Games Announcer and CXC Writer
Editor’s note: Peter Graves has spent over 40 years in Nordic skiing, first as a racer, then as a USST coach and a USSA Administrator. He has worked in public relations and broadcasting promoting the sport, and has announced at eight Olympic Games. He is a long time voice of the Birkie and handles creative writing projects for CXC.