Butch is back.
After an eight-year hiatus, Butch Reimer returns to coach the Phoenix. “It’s exciting,” said Reimer, who took the lengthy break so he could more regularly watch his school-age children compete in football and basketball. “I’m getting used to seeing the people again.”
Reimer coached at UWGB, the CCSA’s lone Division I program, from 1988-98, then gave way to former Phoenix skier Bryan Fish. When Fish moved on to coach the Midwest travel team CXC in April, Reimer decided to return. Under Reimer’s previous direction, 29 UWGB skiers qualified for the NCAA Championships and the team won two regional and two conference titles.
Green Bay qualified Johanna Winters for the NCAAs the past two seasons, but she has since graduated. Qualifying athletes this season will be difficult, in part because the influx of foreign skiers has made it tougher for Phoenix skiers, said Reimer. Last season, the Phoenix tied for fourth place in the CCSA with Gustavus Adolphus.
“To ski well, try to get to NCAAs if we can, and possibly get in the top three (CCSA) spots,” Reimer said of the team’s aspirations this season.
With a lack of snow in Green Bay so far, the team has trained by rollerskiing and running, though it did travel to Ironwood, Mich., for the Grandview XC Classic Dec. 9-10.
Reimer has just three women on this year’s roster but boasts a large group of capable men. “Any of the top seven of my guys could probably pop one off,” said Reimer. Freshman Santi Ocariz (Spooner, Wisc.), who redshirted last season, leads the group. “He’s probably my best skier. I think he could do some damage,” said Reimer. “He’ll be right there with the Northern (Michigan) guys.” Ocariz, who has dual citizenship and a Spanish heritage, led the Phoenix in 12th place in the Ironwood 10k despite stepping into classic skis for the first time this season.
Junior Tim Damrow, a transfer from Colorado University, is a former Junior Olympic sprint champion while junior Bryan Gastonguay is also a strong sprinter. Casey Krueger (Ashwaubenon, Wisc.), is the only male senior and will be looked to for leadership. “If I did name a captain, he’d be one of them for sure,” said Reimer.
Comprising the women’s team are junior Jenna Dickinson, a transfer from Northern Michigan, where she swam instead of skied; senior Rosy Walsh, who was in India last year; and junior Ashley Pletcher.
UWGB is known more for its DI basketball team and Green Bay Packer football-mania envelops the town, but Reimer is looking to increase the visibility of his Nordic skiers. “It’s great to see all these skiers,” said Reimer, whose roster runs 15 deep, all from the Midwest. “My philosophy is to get as many skiers as you can. I’m actually excited (to be back). It’s a new challenge.”