The men’s (right) and women’s (left) nordic skiing teams will both transition from varsity to club status before next season. Submitted
On March 26 the Gustavus nordic skiers were informed that the nordic program at Gustavus would transition from a varsity program to a club team next season. At the meeting, the team was told that this change was made in the best interest of the future of the college.
“At the first meeting we had, we were told that our team was being cut, and that Gustavus was no longer going to support nordic skiing. They told us that they wanted to focus on sports that are part of the MIAC, which nordic isn’t. They said that they don’t feel they can support every team, even though they would like to, and ultimately they felt that the nordic skiing team would not benefit the future of Gustavus,” Junior Skier Tyler Gustafson said.
According to the press release posted on the College’s Athletics webpage that day, Gustavus has had men’s and women’s varsity nordic skiing programs for fourteen years. In the 2004-05 season, the MIAC discontinued its sponsorship of nordic skiing, due to a lack of MIAC schools with varsity nordic programs. For the last ten years, Gustavus’ nordic teams have competed in the Central Collegiate Ski Association (CCSA). After this change to the Gustavus program, St. Olaf is the only MIAC institution with a varsity nordic skiing program.
On April 11, the skiers met again with President Ohle and Athletic Director Tom Brown to discuss the change. At this meeting, the skiers had a chance to ask questions that had arisen since they were originally informed of the decision.
“Friday’s meeting with the president was a good discussion, and we were able to get some of our questions answered, but there were still some decisions that were made that are difficult to understand,” Gustafson said.
While the nordic team will no longer be a varsity program, Gustavus will retain nordic as a club sport. This change will open the door for more Gustavus students to participate in nordic skiing, as those who may not have been ready to commit to varsity athletics may be enticed by the change to club status. The club team will still be able to compete in some of the same meets they have previously competed in as a varsity program, but as a club team they will not be able to compete at the NCAA National Championship meet.
“As a club sport, we will still be able to compete, but the races we compete at will depend on the athletes, and that will all be determined in the fall,” Head Coach Jed Friedrich said.
Friedrich himself is in a transition period, as he will still coach the nordic skiers and help lead the club team next season, while entering his new role as the equipment manager for the Athletic Department.
The team has experienced a roller-coaster of emotions since the change was announced, but is currently trying to look at the decision in a positive light.
“We’re trying to stay positive. This has been very hard on us, it’s been hard on our coach, but we’re trying not to be bitter because that doesn’t solve any problems. The skiers who remain at Gustavus will be dedicated to the club team and they will still try their hardest,” Senior Skier Marian Lund said.
“The club team next year will be what we make it. The change has been really disappointing, but it’s not in our character as people to give up on what we love,” Junior Skier Scott Williams said.
At the meeting on April 11, the skiers proposed the possibility of maintaining NCAA eligibility to Brown and Ohle, despite the lack of funding from the Athletic Department. This would allow the nordic team to compete at the same races they competed at when they were a varsity program, including the NCAA National Championship meet. Because the team is no longer funded by the Athletic Department, the skiers would need to fundraise on their own in order to travel to and enter these races. The possibility of the team retaining NCAA eligibility despite their lack of funding by the Athletic Department is currently being considered by administration, and a decision should be made by the end of the week.
Be sure to pick up next week’s issue of The Gustavian Weekly for a follow-up article on the results of efforts to retain NCAA eligibility, as well as more information on the nordic team’s change from varsity to club status.