When the rest of us are thinking that the ski season is over, many of teams still in the hunt for the team title are strategizing on how they can get enough points to over take the current leader. Just when it looked like they were going to fade again, as they have in previous years, Cross Country Ski Headquarters has jumped out in front by the slimmest of margins over TNSC and cross town rival CCSS. As of the Garland Races, CCSH leads TNSC by 1,000 points followed by CCSS at 3,200 and GRNST at 3,400. With only two races and the relays left, Dick Fultz may regret taking the year off from competition. This would be the first title for Bob Frye’s team and it would give him great joy to see his arch rival fall to defeat.
Remember that CCSS has won the team championship the last 3 years due to the relentless pursuit of the great entrepreneur Dick Fultz. Following the likes of NASCAR, Dick saw an opportunity to market his ski products through promotional efforts on the Michigan Cup racing circuit. To gain market share, Dick wanted high-level performers, that would advertise his product, to win races and thereby get superior name recognition over his cross-town rival. Winning meant saying that his products were better than his competition, much the same as Goodyear vs. Firestone. The plan worked, Dick went out and recruited some of the best skiers in the state. Although his recruiting tactics were questioned, paying signing bonuses and offering free equipment, the results paid huge dividends. Dick’s business grew and profits doubled, not to mention bragging rights over his competition. However, during the summer of 2003, Dick started to party a little to hard and lost focus on his training and team. As the 2004 season approached Dick’s physical condition was deteriorated to the point were he could no longer race. He also lost some top-notch skiers that had been so loyal in past.
On the other side of tracks, Bob Frye was starting to see some success with his unique business approach. While Dick focused on performance racing, Bob’s philosophy was “make it fun and they will come”. It started with a focus on the family and kids. When you came to ski at Bob’s place you were guaranteed to leave with a smile. What Bob was actually doing, was developing a whole new breed of skiers called Junior Skiers. The muffin race and relays were drawing families and kids. Emerging from this was a competitive team led by some great junior skiers and the families that supported them. Bob saw early this year that his team was capable of winning it all. He out smarted his competition by offering to host the Michigan cup relays. He realized that he needed to take the home field advantage away from Traverse City by not having the relays at Crystal Mountain. He figured TNSC did not like to travel very far and they would be hard press to match Bob’s turnout.
Will Bob’s strategy work, or can Dick pull a rabbit out of his hat? Maybe he has been secretly training and is going to score major points in the last few races, or will TNSC turn out in mass to regain the title that they had dominated for years.
This is a great story unfolding, so stayed tuned for the final results.
- Ken Dawson