With the Men’s and Women’s Nordic Ski teams entering the bulk of their seasons, each team is coming off an important NCAA Qualifying meet, racing as a full team for the first time.
Held in Duluth, the meet pitted the Gusties against the majority of their conference, including top Division II schools University of Alaska Fairbanks and Michigan Tech.
“We Just had our first weekend of the whole team racing together up in Duluth,” Junior Anders Bowman said. “It was good to see some of the [first-years] show us what they could do in a race situation, and, as always, it’s good to see where you shake out on the team.”
The Gustie men finished third in the 10 kilometer classic race behind University of Alaska Fairbanks and Michigan Tech, while posting a fifth place finish in the 10 kilometer freestyle race.
Even though Gustavus is a Division III school, the men always aim to compete with the bigger schools in the region. “As a team, our goal is always to compete with the bigger schools in our region such as Northern Michigan, Michigan Tech and Alaska Fairbanks. I think we are finally developing enough as a program to compete with them,” Bowman said.
As for the women, they placed fifth in the five kilometer classic race and sixth in the five kilometer freestyle race but were still encouraged with the results.
“All the teams in our conference were present this past weekend except Northern Michigan. The women’s team is showing a lot of promise. Everyone had at least one good race, which is pretty normal since everyone is usually the most nervous for the first set of races. The results were really encouraging,” Senior Captain Olivia Karns said.
The women’s team is facing tougher competition in the conference from similar schools, such as St. Olaf and St. Cloud, this season than in years past. “One of the team goals that we had is to be the best Minnesota school in the conference. That’s looking like its going to be tougher than it has been in the past, but our team is really deep,” Karns said. “We are really working on team depth, and it shows in the results.”
The ski teams are unique in the fact that they compete separately but travel together. As a result, the ski teams are very close. “My favorite thing about the ski team is that we are all so close,” Bowman said. “We not only spend 20 plus hours per week at practice with each other and many weekends driving eight or nine hours each way together, but we constantly hang out outside of practice as well.”
Karns echoes Bowman’s sentiments. “One of my favorite things about being on the ski team is there is always a genuine enthusiasm about training, and there is always someone to pick you up if you’re having a low week. I’m happy to be at practice no matter how I feel,” Karns said.
After racing in the Twin Cities this weekend, the Nordic Ski teams will travel to Michigan for the following three weekends with the Regional Championships in Houghton, Mich. in the middle of February.
“Regions is where our stiffest competition will take place, and the points for the race toward NCAA [Nationals] will be at a premium. It will be essential for anybody in the hunt toward NCAA [Nationals] to ski fast at Regions if they want a chance at going,” Bowman said.
The ski teams will continue to compete this weekend in Minneapolis at another NCAA Qualifying meet.