Behind the Gold

ACHIEVING A DREAM

This is a story about the dream of four teenaged girls. It’s a story about best friends who came from different backgrounds in sport from across America. It’s a story about inspiration and the power of sport heroes. In a way, it reads a bit like a fairytale. Except that it really did happen, just as they had dreamed.

2017 USANA FIS Nordic Junior World Championships - women's 4x3.3k relay (U.S. Ski Team - Tom Kelly)

2017 USANA FIS Nordic Junior World Championships – women’s 4×3.3k relay (U.S. Ski Team – Tom Kelly)

Katharine Ogden and Julia Kern, both 19, are New England natives who cross country ski race together at Stratton Mountain School. Hannah Halvorsen, 18, is a California girl from Truckee, skiing out of Sugar Bowl. Hailey Swirbul grew up in Carbondale, CO skiing with the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club before moving to Alaska.

The dream they shared was a bit different than that of most teens. Walking around the streets of the Adirondack Olympic village of Lake Placid in September, 2015, they talked about their heroes – the American girls on the World Cup tour. They envisioned themselves with USA painted on their faces and glitter on their cheeks. And then there were those crazy relay socks their heroes wore.

“We’ve just loved seeing the girls in the relay,” said Ogden. “The four of us have been really close friends for a long time. It was our dream to have the four of us on a relay team together just like the national team.”

A decade ago, the USA was not a player in international cross country ski racing. Today, seven different women have stood on World Cup podiums. And in the relay event held twice a year, the USA has now become a threat. What the U.S. women have done to achieve that level goes well beyond athletic training. It’s about team. It’s about supporting each other. It’s about dressing up for relay days to build team spirit. And it’s about winning.

“We’ve taken a ton of inspiration from the World Cup girls,” said Swirbul. “All four of us have watched those races together. It’s important to feed off each other as a team. Our World Cup girls do that very well. They take each other’s positive energy and it spirals into more positive energy and into a good result.”

So, together, the four best friends set a goal. It wasn’t just any goal. They knew the Junior World Championships was coming to America. And they knew the date when they would ski together in the relay: Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017. On that afternoon in Lake Placid nearly two years ago, they stopped in an outlet store and bought their relay socks, tucking them away until that Sunday in February. At every camp and every competition, they reminded each other of their goal.

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A cross country relay is complex. The first two athletes ski classical technique, or diagonal stride. The final two ski freestyle technique, or skating. Every athlete has a role. Every athlete must perform. It doesn’t mean you have to win your leg, but each corresponding athlete needs to move the team forward.

It was not lost on Hailey Swirbul, the youngest of the team, the importance of her leadoff role. A few minutes before the start, Coach Bryan Fish talked to her on the trail. “Just ski your own race – don’t worry about anyone else,” he told her. “You’ll stay in contact.” She did her job, positioning the USA 15 seconds from the medal.

Swirbul tagged Kern for the second classic leg. Battling illness that week, Kern was not at 100 percent. But she gutted through her leg, moving the USA up two spots to sixth and kept the gap to medals at 25 seconds – still achievable with the skating prowess of Halvorsen and Ogden.

Now it was crunch time. Next up was Halvorsen who tore through the field, battling up every hill with Sweden and France. Tucking the long Cabin Downhill, Halvorsen burst between the Swedish and French girls and attacked on Horseshoe HIll to move into third. She would lose one spot coming into the stadium, but left Ogden in a viable position to seal the deal.

Classic Sprint Finals 2017 USANA Nordic Junior World Championships - Soldier Hollow Photo © Steven Earl

Classic Sprint Finals 2017 USANA Nordic Junior World Championships – Soldier Hollow Photo © Steven Earl

Ogden saw Halvorsen coming into the stadium for the tag in fourth. It was now in her hands to achieve the dream. “The podium was right there and I couldn’t not just send it,” said Ogden. As much as she wanted that medal, Ogden knew she had to be smart. She paced herself behind France, waiting for the long sustained climb on the back reaches of the 3.3k course – powering herself into medal position and building a gap that could not be overcome.

It was at that moment that life moved in slow motion. Ogden’s three teammates were in the finish anxiously watching for the racers to come into view. Suddenly, there she was, hauling down Cabin Hollow and up into Horseshoe Hill – no one behind her. At first they pinched themselves – was this a dream? Then came the reality.

“I was crying,” said Swirbul. “This has been a dream for us for more than two years. To see that dream come true – I was crying, happy, hugging and screaming – all in one emotion.”

Ogden rounded the final turn into the stadium – the bronze medal uncontested – as her friends came to greet her at the finish with American flags. It was a finish area filled with emotion – family, friends, fans who all knew how hard these four girls had worked for this one day.

Together, as teammates, they had accomplished something that had never been done before.

“This didn’t just happen organically,” said U.S. Ski Team Coach Bryan Fish. “This was a part of a plan that these four athletes have worked on for nearly two years. Today they put it together on the snow.”

And the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team athletes the four girls admire so much? They showered the juniors – who they jokingly call “guppies” – with praise. “Relay days are the BEST days, because that’s when the true strength of a team comes out! SO proud of our junior girls for taking the #relaysocks out for an exciting ride. #oneteam #guppiepower,” wrote two-time World Championship medalist Jessie Diggins. Kikkan Randall echoed the sentiment. “Looks like the relay socks worked their magic! World Junior podium for the US in relay! So proud! #oneteam #youngguns.”

“We got all our motivation from the World Cup girls,” said Kern after the big win. “They’re the ones who set the precedent and we just try to follow and make them proud.”

Proud, indeed.


by Tom Kelly, USSA Communications

Behind the Gold

PAIN THAT NEVER FELT SO GOOD

Norwegian cross country skier Heidi Weng stood atop Alpe Cermis screaming. Below, her teammate Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg was challenging Swede Stina Nilsson for third in the seventh and final stage of the Tour de Ski. The screams came with passion deep from within her burned out lungs. Two minutes earlier, she had won one of cross country ski racing’s biggest prizes, passing out exhausted onto the snow.

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The Tour de Ski is cross country ski racing’s version of cycling’s Tour de France. Alpe Cermis is its Alpe d’Huez. Skiing up the nine kilometer face of the Italian ski resort is painful enough. But to do it after spending a week of pushing yourself well past the brink every day is beyond comprehension.

“It’s our Mt. Everest,” said Jessie Diggins of the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team, who won one of the seven stages and finished fifth in the Tour – matching the U.S. mark set by teammate Liz Stephen two years ago. “It’s the challenge of doing something so hard that most people in the world can’t or won’t do it. When you’re standing at the top look down you feel this huge sense of hard-earned accomplishment and say, ‘hey, I did that.'”

In 2008, the second year of the Tour, then 19-year-old Stephen saw a video of the climb with her idol Charlotte Kalla of Sweden chasing Finn Virpi Kuitunen stride for stride up the climb. On the final switchback, Kalla made an impressive move to pass then exploded up the hill to win.

“It was the first time I heard about the Tour,” said Stephen. “It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen – such a feat of mental and physical strength. Kalla just decided, ‘I want to win this thing.’ Immediately, I knew I wanted to do this event!”

The Tour began in 2007. The USA didn’t participate until 2010 and didn’t have a finisher until 2011. But in the years since, the Americans have become one of the most Tour’s most notable teams. In the past five years, four different Americans have won stages. Another three have had a top three time.

“It took us a few years to get the hang of such an intensive multi-day event,” said Kikkan Randall, who was the first U.S. woman to finish in 2011. “But as we got the logistics and tactics figured out and started seeing success, the confidence for everyone has built and built.”

Randall was one of her sport’s first modern day star, inspiring athletes and using her platform to grow the sport. “The Tour de Ski has become a premier event for cross country and has been really good for raising the profile of our sport,” she said. “The Tour is an event that many of our athletes make one of the major focal points of the season and it’s becoming a stronger event for us every year.”

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Other teams have watched the American women with their face paint, glitter and funny socks and wondered what it was all about. It’s as tight-knit as a team or family can be. They are true soulmates in search of the same holy grail.

“As a team we’re mentally tough and very positive,” said Diggins. “We go into each stage as a new day – a new opportunity to win. We don’t get bogged down by ‘yesterday.’ It’s easy to talk yourself out of a good result. Never mind what happened yesterday; today I’m going in to do my best.”

But a team is more than athletes.

“Our coaches and wax technicians – they’re everything,” said Diggins. “They work harder than we do. If you think it’s hard for us to climb Alpe Cermis, that’s what they do every day in ski testing. They sprint up the hill, glide test down, then do it again – three hours or more each day. They work their butts off to make our day successful. It’s take amazing stamina and humility.”

The U.S. Cross Country Team was given a small good luck token a year ago by one of its most passionate supporters – a tiny turquoise bear. That little lucky charm was handcrafted by a member of the Zuni trip in the American Southwest. The Zuni, a pueblo of the Navajo, believe the bear symbolizes strength, courage and healing.

As one of the team’s veterans, Stephen has kept a watchful eye on Diggins the last few years. “It’s been fun for me to watch Jessie grow up as an athlete and as a person,” said Stephen. “She’s been like a little sister for me.”

Over Christmas, Stephen needed a confidence boost. So she went to Diggins and they talked. A day later, Diggins passed the bear off to Stephen as they headed into the Tour. “We all know Liz has these mad skills on the Tour,” joked teammate Sadie Bjornsen. Now it was Stephen’s choice as to who she would reward.

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In stage six, it was all America with Diggins taking a 5k win in Toblach and Bjornsen third. On the long drive through the Dolomites to Predazzo that night, Stephen got to thinking.

“We don’t have as many ‘firsts’ any more,” she said. “Sadie had really shown some guts to get that first podium. And you never have another first. So the bear needed to go along with that moment.”

Much like Stephen, Bjornsen felt she needed a boost of confidence in the 5k earlier that day. “When the going got tough, I just kept thinking, ‘what would Jessie do?'”

This is a team with heart. And a team with true grit.

“The tour puts everyone on the same playing field,” said Bjornsen. “We all have the same fatigue, the same difficult travel between races, the same battle ahead each day. I love the “toughness” factor to it.”

For seven out of nine days, they have left every ounce of their being on the ski track. On New Year’s Eve day in Val Mustair, Switzerland, 65 women were on the start list. At the top of Alpe Cermis, there were only 31 remaining – earning a bond that can never be broken.

“We are dreamers, but we are also believers,” said Bjornsen. “It’s crazy how much confidence you can get from a teammate’s success if you allow yourself to stand beside them.”


by Tom Kelly, USSA Communications

 

2016 CXC Chairman’s Award Recepients

Past weekend marked the annual CXC Chairman’s Award Reception and Dinner at Lakewood’s Resort in Cable, WI.

The Chairman’s award Reception Dinner occurred in conjunction with the 2016 CXC/USSA Wayne Fish Coaches Conference & Certification as we honored four individuals who have dedicated their time as volunteers, coaches and leaders to better the sport and culture of cross country skiing.

Each of these awards not only recognize the individuals for whom they are named after, but also the individuals who have carried on the same legacy and dedication to the sport as Igor, Wayne, John and Tony did.

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Sten Fjeldheim – Coach of the Year Award

IGOR BADAMSHIN COACH OF THE YEAR AWARD

Four awards were presented during the reception. The Igor Badamshin Coach of the Year award presented by Piotr Bednarski (last year’s award recipient) was received by Northern Michigan University head coach Sten Fjeldheim. Stens’ lengthy list of accomplishments was summarized with this award which Sten accepted by telling a heartwarming and humorous speech that had attendees inspired about historic and future accounts concerning the cross-country ski community.

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Craig Jarvinen – Volunteer of the Year Award

WAYNE FISH VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR AWARD

The Wayne Fish award was presented by the prodigies’ son and United States Ski Team Development Coach Bryan Fish. Fish handed the honor to Craig Jarvinen, a devoted volunteer of the Loppet Nordic Foundation and coach for Edina. Craig was renowned for his diligent work managing the challenges faced when warm weather threatened the courses at the Junior Nationals held at Telemark Trail System last season. Craig’s’ leadership and ability to delegate a workforce of over one-hundred volunteers saved the week of races.

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John Munger – Leadership Award

JOHN HUGUS LEADERSHIP AWARD

John Hugus was remembered for his commitment to skier development as John Munger, executive director of Loppet Nordic Racing, was honored for his own leadership. This leadership was recognized as the fuel for athlete development throughout the United States by providing programming in the Twin Cities area. Munger’s integral role with the Loppet Foundation, CXC Youth Cup and CXC Youth Committee was recognized as Don Becker (last year’s award recipient) spoke of Mungers’ success in a program that has allowed athletes to live healthy lifestyles and experience success as competitive skiers.

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Dennis Kruse – Tony Wise Award

TONY WISE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

The recipient of the inaugural Lifetime Achievement award was Dennis Kruse. Dennis was presented with the award by current President of CXC Oyvind Solvang. As a former CXC President himself, Dennis was celebrated for his long time support and involvement with CXC, the American Birkebeiner Foundation and announcer of IPC World Cup, World Championships and Junior National. Dennis was recognized with a character reminiscent of Tony Wise through and through.

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CXC Spotlight: Cross-Country Ski Training – Uncrunched

Come spring after a season of racing, or during the mid-summer grind of training, starting the same old training plan or workouts can become a bit monotonous year after year.

Fortunately, Central Cross Country Ski Association has just the program that shares all of its training tips, tricks and secrets by providing training plans for all types of skiers. Now, for the ninth consecutive year, CXC Academy is proving to be a valuable tool for athletes and coaches around the nation and even the world!

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“After the CXC Team’s great results throughout the years, we were looking for ways to share our experiences and expertise with coaches and skiers. Many coaches started to invite us to visit their clubs, but with busy camp and race schedules, it was not possible. So CXC came up with the idea to create an online resource to share the latest information with coaches and athletes,” recalls Yuriy Gusev, CXC Executive Director.

CXC Academy was created with contributions from Bryan Fish, 2007 CXC Team head coach (Currently the U.S. Ski Team Development Coach), Yuriy Gusev, CXC Executive Director, and the CXC Team athletes. Resulting in training plans for novice, intermediate and expert skiers, along with videos created and organized into a web based library.

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Currently, all CXC coaches and athletes continue to contribute content to CXC Academy as well as the program’s advisors such as Bryan Fish, Steve Myrland, Performance and Conditioning Coach and Jim Mullen, Rehabilitation Specialist.

“CXC Academy is a membership based program designed for anyone from entry level skiers, looking to become a more efficient skier, to citizen racers, to junior skiers hoping to qualify for Junior Nationals, as well as all levels of coaches and instructors,” said Gusev.

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Membership Levels

The program offers a variety of membership levels for skiers including a monthly subscription, an annual subscription, and a VIP membership which includes access to camps and race support.

A training year through CXC Academy is broken into four week periods starting each week on a Monday and concluding on Sunday. There are 13 training periods with 28 days in each period. Each month CXC publishes new training plans designed for each level. We suggest members plan to commit to at least four training sessions a week to ensure the training goals are met.

“In addition to training plans, CXC Academy offers monthly ski-specific strength workout videos and has an extensive video library with ski technique videos, training and recovery tips, equipment demonstrations and wax room videos, where members learn to prepare and maintain skis. There are new offerings in each category every month!” explains Gusev.

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Personal Coaching

The newest CXC Academy membership enhancement is the Personal Coaching option. Through CXC’s Personal Coaching membership, skiers have access to monthly training evaluation and adjustment, e-mail communication with the assigned coach, weekly phone calls with the coach, a personalized training plan and logging workouts through Training Peaks software and much more!

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Whether a skier is a beginner looking to finish their first 5k, a Master skier training for a big ski event, or simply looking to improve overall strength and fitness, CXC Academy has a training program to meet any goal!


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Help support CXC’s Adaptive Program for children with physical disabilities and visual impairments, with your ticket purchase to win a custom Eriksen Road Bike! – PURCHASE A TICKET!

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CXC Spotlight: CXC Summer Residency Program

When summer rolls around for college and post college athletes looking to reach the next level of racing, training by yourself is less than ideal. To reach top-level results in the winter, surrounding yourself with good athletes to train and compete with throughout the off-season is crucial.

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Since 2007, Central Cross Country Ski Association (CXC) has held summer residency programs in conjunction with the CXC Team summer training up in Cable, WI. After the unfortunate fall of Telemark Lodge, CXC’s summer residency program became more challenging to host. Luckily, the Midwest has numerous welcoming ski communities, pristine trails and great summer training in locations other than Cable.

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Over the past year, CXC has developed a new partnership with Northern Michigan University (NMU) and their U.S. Olympic Training Site in Marquette, Michigan, to re-establish and re-vamp CXC’s Summer Residency Program. With Andy Keller, CXC Team Head Coach and Shane McDowell, NMU’s Assistant Coach, as the CXC Summer Residency Program coaches, the program is set for a strong summer of focused training.

“During the summer months for collegiate skiers, a lot of athletes come home and try to train on their own, or when athletes age out of their previous program and are financially responsible for the training they are doing, we felt the need to give an option for training programs to meet the needs of these specific groups,” said CXC Team Coach, Andy Keller.

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What makes this specific program unique not only in the Midwest but also in the U.S., is that the program gives athletes access to a high level training group as well as providing the athletes with food, lodging, school options offering in-state tuition and training facilities all in one area.

Another great aspect of this program is any athlete, participating in a college level program, taking a gap year, or post-grads looking to ski full time, can participate in this program, no qualifications necessary!

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“This program will give individuals the opportunity to train at a top level with other high caliber athletes,” said Keller. “Through this program, athletes will find out what it takes and the training that needs to happen to achieve success.”

From June 15th through August 12th, athletes will train hard with a dedicated training focus to improve fitness, technique and strength for the upcoming season.

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“The training will be focused on best preparing athletes for when they return to their respective colleges and training programs in the fall,” explained Keller. “Each week will have specific supported workouts and training. There will be opportunities for athletes to make adjustments to the training plan to tailor to their specific training level, training focuses, or injuries that may alter training volume or mode.”

The CXC Summer Residency Program offers great opportunities and is the only program of its kind in the Midwest. With the collaboration between CXC and NMU, this program can bring dedicated athletes to the next level of ski racing.

ADDITIONAL INFO & PRICING

CXC Spotlight: What it Takes to be a Ski Team in the Central Region

Coaching and being a part of a nordic ski team in the Midwest isn’t always easy, as the winters continue to become more and more unpredictable, it can be helpful to look onto others and see how they operate when times get tough.

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An interview with Jake Morgan (Endurance United), Ted Theyerl (Chippewa Nordic Ski Team), and Jon Stone (Copper Country Ski Tigers).

We wanted some insight on how different teams of different sizes handle the challenges and triumphs of being a ski team in the Midwest. How to keep the kids excited with the continuous unpredictable winters? What fundraisers works best? And most importantly, how to keep kids and their families coming back year after year?

We sat down with three coaches representing three different teams in the Midwest. Jake Morgan of Endurance United in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Ted Theyerl of Chippewa Valley Nordic Ski Team in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Jon Stone of Copper Country Ski Tigers in Houghton, Michigan. Their passion for skiing and coaching has fueled their determination to continue to do what they love no matter the circumstances, or what mother nature throws at them.

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Endurance United has been around for about two and a half years, but the organization itself has been around for 30 years under multiple different names. The team has two full time coaches, Jake and Executive Director Andrew Poffenberger, and 15 part-time coaches who help out with the large amount of athletes and adults who train with them throughout the summer and into the winter.

Chippewa Valley Nordic Ski Team (CVN) was established in 2006 and currently has a roster of about 17 middle schoolers and 17 high schoolers, coached by 8 volunteers and several parents who help out as well. CVN is considered a charter group connected to the Eau Claire Ski Striders, the local cross country ski club in town.

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Copper Country Ski Tigers has been around since 1992 and has grown into a team of 80 youth skiers, 13 middle school skiers and 14 high school skiers. The Ski Tigers have 15 coaches in addition to many parents who help out as well.

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For Coach Jake Morgan of Endurance United, keeping kids excited despite a lack of snow from season to season, begins with the attitude of the coaches.

“There are a lot of ways to keep the team energized, but I think staying positive is the most important piece. If I as the coach am positive about things despite the conditions, weather, or anything else negative going on, then the rest of the team tends to follow suit. This is one of the most difficult aspects of being a coach. Every athlete is different, and each of them have certain things that work for them in terms of motivation, physical stimulus, etc. Finding the right balance of keeping the whole team happy while also supporting each of the athletes as individuals is a challenging, but very fun and rewarding job.”

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For Chippewa Valley Nordic Ski Team and Copper Country Ski Team, fundraising is a very important strategy for both teams, helping keep registration fees affordable for families. It has proven to be one of the best ways to keep families coming back year after year.

For Coach Ted Theyerl of Chippewa Valley Nordic Ski Team, one fundraiser the team does each year is having a brat stand at the local Festival Foods in August.

“The team, coaches and parents try to spread the word to other organization in the city to come to our brat stand fundraiser each year. This has been a really successful fundraiser for us, the team typically makes about $800 and that is the only fundraising they do. The team also gets donations throughout the year as well.”

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The Copper Country Ski Tigers team participates in a variety of fundraisers throughout the year to raise funds, including:

  • Bagging groceries at the local grocery store
  • Assisting at the ‘Run the Keweenaw’
  • Hosting a ski swap twice a year in the spring and fall
  • A silent auction at the ski swap
  • The coaches of the team also write grants to add funds for the team as well.

When we inquired what the biggest challenges were last season, Endurance United and Chippewa Valley Nordic Ski Team without hesitation said, lack of snow, but for Cooper Country Ski Tigers who rarely have that issue, brought up a different challenge which other teams may be able to relate to as well; team cohesion and leadership.

“The lack of snow and finding a venue that they could actually train on snow was CVN’s biggest challenge. We made use of what we had and hosted a race with Winona and shoveled a bunch of bare spots to make it work. If they had to, they used rock skis and just double poled around for practice some days. It never got to the point where they couldn’t ski on something and they went out to make the most of it, and didn’t let it bother them or bring them down. Fortunately on weekends they were always on snow for races. We always tried to keep it fun and upbeat.” Said, Ted Theyerl

 

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Team dynamics change each season, because of seniors graduating and different personalities amongst the team develop. Jon Stone of Copper Country Ski Tigers had a great solution to this challenge:

“To build bonds amongst the team, coaches and parents have taken the initiative to create fun activities that are non competitive that help foster team building. Building coach to athlete relationships is also important to us because we want our athletes to be comfortable talking with us. Our goal as coaches is not just to support them in their athletic aspirations, but to also make them the best people they can be.”

No matter how big or small a team is, learning from others and sharing best practices can be great way to improve how a team operates when snow is sparse, challenges emerge and knowing what fundraisers works!


Support our Sport! 

The clock is ticking on CXC’s end of the year drive, “Support our Sport” fundraiser. It’s through the support we receive from those who believe in our mission, that we are able to make these wonderful programs continue!

DONATE TODAY! 

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Mary-Kozloski

Mary Kozloski is CXC’s Communication and Media Coordinator. Mary has a Bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay where she majored in Public Relations with a minor in Business Administration, competed as a member of UW-Grean Bay Nordic Ski Team and was team captain for two years.

CXC Spotlight: ‘Nordic Rocks’, Going Beyond the Introduction of Cross Country Skiing

Lincoln Elementary School in Madison, WI is just one of 60 schools throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan who participate in the ‘Nordic Rocks’ For Schools Program. A program developed to introduce a new generation of children in grades K through 6th to the excitement of cross country skiing.

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Clare Seguin, explaining skis to her class at Lincoln Elementary

An interview with Clare Seguin, an avid skier, as well as a 3rd, 4th and 5th grade science enrichment teacher at Lincoln Elementary School  and participant of the ‘Nordic Rocks’ for Schools Program.

The ‘Nordic Rocks’ program provides each school with skis that are equipped with easy to use step-in bindings, curriculum materials, and consultations about teaching students how to ski. The CXC staff also helps to assign 2-3 volunteers from the community, who are cross country skiers, to assist schools and teachers.

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For Lincoln Elementary and many other schools who participate, the ‘Nordic Rocks’ program is more than just an introduction to a new sport. The program teaches kids to live a healthy lifestyle, helps them focus better in school, and gives low-income children an opportunity to try something new. Skiing often becomes a lifelong sport for students and their families to enjoy in the winter. Overall, the student response to the program and cross country skiing at Lincoln Elementary has been a fun and positive activity.

“Some kids see the skis and say “oh great I go skiing all the time with my family” and that is very few of our kids because we have a high population of low income families. Lincoln Elementary has families and kids who are Bhutanese refugees, Hmong and Hispanic kids who are fairly new to the north so cross country skiing is a pretty new sport for the majority of our kids. We have kids who have never skied before and absolutely love it, which is always exciting, and some kids try it and don’t like. It’s always a little surprising which kids are going to like it and which kids don’t. After kids experience the program for one season, I have a lot of students come back the next year and ask if they are going to ski again this year.” Explains Clare.

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Lincoln Elementary implemented the ‘Nordic Rocks’ program three years ago because it helped the school continue to teach their mission and focus on health and wellness for students.

“To teach wellness, Lincoln Elementary is developing outdoor facilities called “outdoor wellness.” The facilities include a trail that goes around our playground and a running club called Girls on the Run, as well as a gardening club. The school didn’t have a program in winter, so the ‘Nordic Rocks’ was the perfect program and opportunity to fill in that chunk of time during the school year when we have snow, to have kids on skis when running around isn’t as easy.”

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With the convenience of having students ski right behind the school, Lincoln Elementary has seen the benefits of the ‘Nordic Rocks’ program not only as a way to promote wellness, but as a way to give kids engaging activities that will benefit them in school as well.

“Giving kids one more activity they find interesting and engaging, as a way to use their bodies to help settle their minds and be more available for the traditional learning is really beneficial and the ‘Nordic Rocks’ program provides that. We find when kids have those different things engaging them at school, asking the students to sit down and do their math and other homework is a little bit easier for them to do.”

We asked Clare why she supports the ‘Nordic Rocks’ program as a teacher and as a skier.

“I support the program because it is good for the students. I am also an avid skier and have known Yuriy Gusev, CXC Executive Director, since he started the Russian ski school and I know anything he puts his mind to is going to be good. What the program has provided for the students was worth jumping on the bandwagon. I always wanted to have something like this at my school and to have kids be able to ski around the school. This program makes that possible.”

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During the inaugural season 2013-2014, the ‘Nordic Rocks’ for Schools Program was implemented in 15 schools throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota. In two short seasons, the program has made an impact on thousands of new skiers. With over 3,500 elementary schools across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan the opportunity to teach children the joy of winter sports is virtually unlimited. The financial support from grants, corporate sponsors, and community advocates will help sustain the ‘Nordic Rocks’ program well into the future. The program will be adding 20 new schools during the 2015-2016 ski season for a total of 60 schools throughout the Midwest.

For more photos from the ‘Nordic Rocks’ program, visit the CXC SmugMug page.


Mary-Kozloski

Mary Kozloski is CXC’s Communication and Media Coordinator. Mary has a Bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay where she majored in Public Relations with a minor in Business Administration, competed as a member of UW-Grean Bay Nordic Ski Team and was team captain for two years.