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2009 Preview of the Central Collegiate Ski Association

Mon, Jan  12, 2009 - By Matias Saari

What will 2008-09 bring?

Most of the CCSA programs began their seasons in December, and several will be attending the U.S. National Cross Country Championships Jan. 3-8 in Anchorage, Alaska.

The most important regular-season events this year, however, are the four sets of NCAA qualifying races that will determine which 11 women and nine men will participate in the NCAA Championships March 11-14 in Rumford, Maine.

The qualifying races are

  • Jan. 24-25 in Coleraine, Minn.
  • Jan. 31-Feb. 1 in Cable, Wisc.
  • Feb. 14-15 in Little Falls, Minn.
  • Feb. 28-Mar. 1 at the Central Region Championships in Houghton, Mich.

Press releases will be distributed summarizing each of the qualifying events as well as the NCAAs. 

The CCSA includes six teams from Minnesota (the College of Saint Benedict, College of Saint Scholastica, Gustavus Adolphus College, Saint John’s University, Saint Olaf College and St. Cloud State University), two from Wisconsin (Northland College and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay), two from Michigan (Michigan Tech University and Northern Michigan University) and Alaska (Fairbanks).  

Below are capsule previews of each conference school. Today we cover two schools from Minnesota.

For more information, visit the Central Collegiate Ski Association’s Web site at www.ccsaski.com

MINNESOTA SCHOOLS 

COLLEGE OF SAINT BENEDICT

2007-08 standings: Central Region: 8th (women’s standings: 6th) 

Location: St. Joseph, Minn.
Head coach: David Johnson, 9th season
Assistant coach: Kelly Wubbels

Top female returners: Jr. Christi Nowak, Sr. Maggie Donahue, Jr. Anna Roessler
Top newcomers: Kelly Donahue, Marianne Luetmer, Taylor Ellison

Web site: www.csbblazers.com

2008-09 outlook: The Blazers finished as the sixth-place women’s team in the conference last year and aren’t satisfied. “We want to finish in the top five in the CCSA,” coach David Johnson said.

That’s a realistic goal, considering CSB did not graduate any skiers and is bringing in several talented newcomers.

The top returners are team MVP Anna Roessler, a junior who placed in the top 15 in both races at the 2008 Central Region Championships; senior Maggie Donahue, who is back after missing last season because she was on a study abroad program; and Christi Nowak, who will return from studying in Austria in time for the upcoming race season.

“With so many new skiers joining the team and with everyone putting forth the effort, the team’s depth and competitive nature is higher than it has been in years past,” Donahue told the CSB sports information department.

Among the newcomers is Maggie’s sister, Kelly Donahue, who has an endurance sports goal well beyond Nordic skiing: One day she wants to finish an Ironman triathlon.

Aiding Johnson as an assistant coach is former CSB standout Kelly Wubbels.

The Division III program is less than 10 years old and has never qualified a skier for the NCAA Championships. “I am hopeful that our current group of women will be writing new history,” Johnson said.

The skiers at the liberal arts college in St. Joseph, Minn., also take their academics seriously: the team compiled a cumulative grade point average of 3.57 last year.

COLLEGE OF SAINT SCHOLASTICA

2007-08 standings: Central Region: 6th; NCAA: 18th

Location: Duluth, Minnesota
Head coach: Chad Salmela (3rd season)
Assistant coaches: Brad Nelson, Scott Kylander-Johnson, Sara Kylander-Johnson

Top male returners: Sr. Jason Kask, Sr. Tyler Kjorstad, So. Waylon Manske
Top female returners: Jr. Megan Holmes, So. Lindsay Wallis, So. Julia Curry
Top newcomers: Kirk Leach, Eric Boyles, Ellen Anderson, Caroline Lund, Melissa Kempenich
Key departed skiers: Bjorn Bakken

Web site: www.csssaints.com

2008-09 outlook: Bjorn Bakken made history last season as the first NCAA qualifier for the Saints, a third-year program in Duluth, Minn. Though Bakken, who notched 15th place in the NCAA freestyle race, has graduated, CSS has three male skiers capable of duplicating his qualifying feat. They are senior Tyler Kjorstad, a Duluth native who heartbreakingly missed an NCAA berth in 2008 by less than a point; senior Jason Kask, who like Kjorstad has increased his training intensity for this season; and sophomore Waylon Manske, who last year picked up one top-10 CCSA result.

“All three have their sights set on an NCAA berth,” said head coach Chad Salmela, a former long-time member of the U.S. Biathlon Team.

Kjorstad, Kask and Manske will represent CSS at the U.S. National Championships in Anchorage from Jan. 3-8. Several Saints also held a training camp over Thanksgiving in West Yellowstone, Mont., and competed in SuperTour races there.

Kjorstad and Manske have already picked up where they left off last season. They took fifth and eighth places, respectively, among college skiers at the Grand View XC Ski Challenge freestyle race Dec. 13 in Ironwood, Mich.

The CSS men took fourth at the 2008 Central Region Championships.

On the women’s side, Salmela says the team’s depth is at least double what it was a year ago.  Megan Holmes is expected to continue to improve (she was the team’s top performer at the Grand View Challenge) while Caroline Lund has transferred to CSS from St. Olaf. 

Two others - Ellen Anderson and sophomore Julia Curry - are now giving skiing their full attention. Anderson competed the last two years on the U.S. Junior National Biathlon Team, and Curry nearly qualified for the cross country running nationals as a freshman. Curry, though, was diagnosed with mononucleosis in September, and what impact that could have on her skiing remains to be seen.

Tomorrow, the remainder of the Minnesota schoools...