CCSA Season Preview

Matias SaariJanuary 2, 2009


At the 2008 NCAA Skiing Championships, the Central Collegiate Ski Association was represented by six schools, had a top-three Nordic team and boasted a national champion.

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.; and 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.

For more information, visit the Central Collegiate Ski Association’s Web site at




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:

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

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.



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

Web site:

Key departed skiers: Bjorn Bakken

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

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.



Location: St. Peter, Minn.

Head coach: Jed Friedrich (5th year)

Assistant coach: Andy Rishavy

Top male returners: Jens Brabbit, Andrew Tilman, Eli Anoszko, Andrew Poffenberger, Logan Smestad

Top female returners: Kelly Chaudoin, Alye Bohn, Erin Eppler, Kathryn Ladig, Cassandra Brady

Top newcomers: Anders Bowman, Peter Larsen, Jon Kasprisin, Kory Freeberg, Danielle Burgmeier, Jill Manthey, Annika Ferber

Web site:

Key departed skiers: Laura Edlund, Kathleen DeWahl, Sarah Willis, Kevin Patzoldt

2007-08 standings: Central Region: 4th; NCAA: 15th

2008-09 outlook: Repeating last year’s accomplishment of sending three women to the NCAAs surely won’t happen for Gustavus Adolphus, but that hardly means head coach Jed Friedrich has lost focus about nationals.

“My team goal is to rebuild and form more teams that can compete with the best in the region,” said Friedrich, the 2007-08 unanimous choice for women’s CCSA Coach of the Year. “What happened last year might not happen every year because I think it takes a special group of athletes to grow and develop together over the course of 3-4 years. But I am always trying to build that kind of team.”

What happened in 2007-08 is that Laura Edlund, Kathleen DeWahl and Kelly Chaudoin all qualified for NCAAs after leading the Division III Gusties to second place among women’s teams at the Central Region Championships. Edlund paced the trio with 18th place in the NCAA classic race.

Only Chaudoin, a senior from Ely, Minn., returns.

“Kelly Chaudoin will lead the women’s team as she put in a great summer of training,” Friedrich said. “Our men’s team should be a lot stronger as guys have made significant gains in testing so far. Just like every year, I expect a few surprises from a few skiers.”

Sophomores Jens Brabbit and Andrew Tilman are expected to pace the men’s team. Brabbit got off to a strong start this season by finishing third in the freestyle and sixth in the classic among college skiers Dec. 13-14 at the Grand View XC Ski Challenge in Ironwood, Mich.



Location: Collegeville, Minn.

Head coach: David Johnson, 9th season

Assistant coach: Kelly Wubbels

Top returners: So. Jared Sundstrom, So. Mason Bacso

Top newcomers: Bob Gerten, Grant Cook

Web site:

Key departed skiers: Derek Neal

2007-08 standings: Central Region: 10th (men’s standings: 8th)

2008-09 outlook: After graduating five seniors the year before, the Johnnies spent 2007-08 in rebuilding mode. Now sophomores Jared Sundstrom and Mason Bacso head the 12-member squad that hails entirely from Minnesota.

“We have a strong, yet young, team,” coach David Johnson said. “January and February will tell if they are ready to compete this year.”

Saint John’s is one of six schools from Minnesota in the CCSA.

“We want to continue to develop our young skiers and be competitive with the other Minnesota schools,” Johnson said.

Aiding SJU’s cause is 20 kilometers of groomed ski trails on a 2,500-acre campus filled with natural hardwood forest, lakes and prairie. The trails start just 100 meters from the team’s locker room.

Johnson seeks to balance academics with athletics and competition with fun.

“We work to provide a quality training and racing experience without killing the joy of being a ski racer,” Johnson said. “We encourage each athlete to not just train hard but train smart and focus on developing long-term goals.”

SJU is a men’s only team. Located 10 kilometers away is the women’s only College of Saint Benedict, which is also coached by Johnson. Both schools are in central Minnesota near St. Cloud and share an academic program but have separate athletic programs, campuses, residence halls and traditions.



Location: Northfield, Minn.

Head coach: Mark Skildum, first season

Top male returners: So. Tom Jorgenson, Sr. Jim Vaillancourt, Sr. Matt Rowe

Top female returners: Sr. Shaina Short, Jr. Caitlin Marine

Top newcomers: Brandon Piechowski, Anders Nienstad, Sarah Fleming, Hillary Boyce

Web site:

Key departed skiers: Nels Dyste, Jennie Hedberg, Nellie Adams

2007-08 standings: Central Region: 7th

2008-09 outlook: Mark Skildum takes over as coach of the Oles and inherits men’s and women’s teams that each won 2008 U.S. Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association national championships.

Skildum, a 2003 St. Olaf graduate, was the head ski coach for five seasons at Mounds View High School in Arden Hills, Minn. He also founded the Cowboy Nordic Ski Club in 2005. Skildum replaces Ollie Garrison, who led St. Olaf for two years.

Skildum looks for Shaina Short and Caitlin Marine to be in the mix for NCAA berths. Short (Plymouth, Minn.) narrowly missed an NCAA spot in 2008 and placed second overall at the USCSA championships.

Freshmen Sarah Fleming and Hillary Boyce each have potential to be Junior Nationals qualifiers.

For the men, sophomore Tom Jorgenson (Roseville, Minn.), the individual winner at the USCSA championships, leads the way.

“The men’s team has a good young core of athletes that are looking to get more CCSA experience this year in preparation for future seasons,” Skildum said.

Saint Olaf is an NCAA Division III school that cannot offer athletic scholarships, unlike DI and DII institutions. Skildum’s goal is to qualify two athletes for NCAAs and finish as the top non-scholarship school in the Central Region.



Location: St. Cloud, Minn.

Head coach: Jeremy Frost, 8th season

Top returners: So. Diane Vezendy, So. Mariah Featherly, So. Jenny Beckman, So. Amy Peterson

Top newcomers: Christy Ringsmuth

Web site:

2007-08 standings: Central Region: 11th (women’s standings: 9th)

2008-09 outlook: A quartert of sophomores – Diane Vezendy, Mariah Featherly, Jenny Beckman and Amy Peterson – look to move St. Cloud State up in the CCSA ranks.

“I believe the outlook for this season is very positive. We have such a great group of women who are supportive, motivated and anxious to compete,” coach Jeremy Frost said. “The learning curve was steep last season and they come into this year’s races with valuable experience. We have used those experiences to help us modify and improve our training this year, which should make for some exciting racing this season.”

The Huskies, a women’s only team, started the season in late-November in West Yellowstone, Mont., raced in Ironwood, Michigan in mid-December and will attend the U.S. Nationals in Anchorage, Alaska in early January before hosting the Minnesota College Cup Jan. 18. Then they begin the Central Region NCAA qualifying races.

Featherly had the best result in Ironwood by taking 25th in the 10-kilometer classic.

The second largest university in Minnesota, SCSU is a Division II program located on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Frost, in his eighth season, said he appreciates how the conference works together to achieve success.

“The CCSA coaches and athletes are a great group and really push all teams to improve,” he said.




Location: Ashland, Wisconsin

Head coach: Dave Beeksma (3rd season)

Assistant coach: Blaise Sopiwnik

Top male returners: Jr. Christopher Goscinak

Top newcomers: Fr. Anna Rix, Fr. Bonnie Johnson, Fr. Erin Blow, Fr. Noel Cockney

Web site:

Key departed skiers: Sarah Domek

2007-08 standings: Central Region: 9th

2008-09 outlook: Northland, a small college on the south shore of Lake Superior that focuses on environmental issues, is in its third season with skiing as a varsity sport.

Though the Lumberjills graduated Sara Domek (17th at the 2008 Central Region freestyle race), a young bunch is eager to try to replace her.

“We should have a solid women’s team that will be made up of all freshmen,” coach Dave Beeksma said. “The men’s team will improve with the addition of Noel Cockney and all other skiers returning.”

Cockney has traveled a long way to Ashland, Wis., as he comes from Inuvik, a small town in Northwest Territories, Canada, that is located above the Arctic Circle on the Mackenzie River Delta.

Cockney should also have little trouble adapting to the Midwest’s climate as the average high temperature in Inuvik in January is minus 10 Fahrenheit and the average low is minus 25.

Christopher Goscinak is the top returner for the Lumberjacks.

The campus in Ashland, Wis., now has a two-kilometer training loop for Nordic skiing, and the area is known for its abundant snowfall.

Northland’s roster includes 14 members this year and the program welcomes skiers of all abilities.

Beeksma summarized his training and competition philosophy as “hard work pays off and the pay-off is fun.”



Location: Green Bay, Wisc.

Head coach: Butch Reimer, 12th season

Assistant coaches: Nate Balk (1st year) and Ashley Pletcher (1st year)

Top male returners: Jr. Santi Ocariz, Sr. Andy Cheesebro, Sr. Craig Hertz

Top female returners: So. Carolyn Freeman, So. Lindsey Marshall

Top newcomers: Brittany Drengler, Annie Dehmlow, Jeff Cook, Kyle Fredrickson

Web site:

Key departed skiers: Ashley Pletcher, Jenna Dickinson, Jackie Pribyl

2007-08 standings: Central Region: 5th; NCAA: 19th

2008-09 outlook: Wisconsin-Green Bay, the only Division I school in the CCSA, qualified a pair of skiers to the NCAA Championships last year in Santi Ocariz and Ashley Pletcher.

Both are still with the Phoenix but in different capacities: Ocariz is a junior looking to qualify for a third straight season while Pletcher, who graduated after snagging the last NCAA spot, is now an assistant coach under Butch Reimer.

The blond-haired Ocariz is a Spooner, Wis., native who has dual citizenship and a Spanish heritage. He also has come out strong this season by winning freestyle races at the NMU Invitational on Dec. 7 and the Grand View XC Ski Challenge on Dec. 13.

Teammate Carolyn Freeman was also the top collegiate freestyle skier and second fastest classic skier at Grand View. Freeman, a sophomore from Ely, Minn., narrowly missed an NCAA spot a year ago. Now she leads an all-underclassman women’s squad that includes sophomore Lindsey Marshall.

Also hungry for an NCAA spot is senior Craig Hertz, who came up just six-tenths of a point shy in 2008. Adding depth the men’s squad is senior Andy Cheesebro.

Reimer is in his 12th season overall and returned to UWGB in 2006 after an eight-year hiatus.

“This is my third year back and I’m trying to get the team to improve every year,” Reimer said. “They made a step last year, almost qualifying two more skiers.”




Location: Marquette, Michigan

Head coach: Sten Fjeldheim (21st season)

Assistant coach: Jennifer Ryan (8th season)

Top male returners: Jr. Martin Banerud, Sr. Phil Violett, Sr. Justin Singleton

Top female returners: Jr. Laura DeWitt, So. Ingrid Fjeldheim, So. Christina Gillis, Jr. Anna Berglund

Top newcomers: Jr. Sindre Stokke, Fr. Randi Vermelid, Fr. Marie-Helen Soderman

Web site:

Key departed skiers: Morgan Smyth, Maria Stuber, Gus Kaeding, Bill Bowler

2007-08 standings: Central Region: 1st; NCAA: 3rd

2008-09 outlook: After claiming the CCSA crown, the tradition-rich Wildcats again sent the maximum six skiers for the NCAAs and took third in the Nordic standings despite a disappointing race in the women’s classical event due to tricky waxing conditions.

They’re looking for continued success despite the loss of four standouts, including CCSA Female Skier of the Year Morgan Smyth, now a member of the U.S. Ski Team’s B team.

Junior Laura DeWitt, who has redshirted one season as a freshman and another for medical reasons, paces the Wildcat women. She gained All-American honors by taking seventh in the NCAA freestyle race last season.

DeWitt will be pushed by Swedish freshman Marie-Helen Soderman, who redshirted last year. At the Grand View XC Ski Challenge Dec. 13-14 in Ironwood, Mich., DeWitt and Soderman each won a race and placed second in another, but they competed as open class skiers instead of collegians. For the CCSA season, however, they’ll be suiting up for the Wildcats, 21st-year head coach Sten Fjeldheim said.

Anna Berglund and Christina Gillis should also contend for NCAA spots.

After NMU swept the Central Region Championships, the women placed fourth and the men were fifth at NCAAs.

“I expect we will be strong in the men’s field and equally as strong on the women’s as last year,” said Fjeldheim, whose daughters Ingrid and Kirsten are also on the team.

For the men, junior Martin Banerud of Norway seeks a spot on the NCAA podium after taking fourth each of the last two seasons.

Senior Phillip Violett, the only college skier to beat Alaska’s Marius Korthauer in a race last season, also returns. So does senior Justin Singleton, who didn’t get to ski at NCAAs last year despite tying for sixth in the CCSA rankings. Unfortunately for Singleton, he was fourth on NMU’s squad; only three per gender from each school can go to nationals. Junior Sindre Stokke from Norway has also joined the team.

The Wildcats are steeped in tradition, as under Fjeldheim they have produced 10 Olympians, five NCAA champions and more than 40 All-Americans. Among them is Pete Vordenberg, the current head coach of the U.S. Ski Team.

The goals for 2008-09 remain high, as the Wildcats want to again place in the top three at NCAAs for Nordic teams. They also strive for the highest GPA among NMU sports teams, something they have done 20 years in a row, according to Fjeldheim.



Location: Houghton, Michigan

Head coach: Joe Haggenmiller (6th season)

Assistant coach: Jason Cork (1st season)

Graduate assistants: Karl Walczak (6th season), Adam Airoldi (1st season), Ryan Tervo (1st season)

Top male returners: Jr. Jesse Lang, Sr. Chris Harvey, Jr. Erik Mundahl, Sr. Andrew Joda, Fr. Jesse Smith

Top female returners: Jr. Jenna Klein, Jr. Liz Quinley, Sr. Laura Kangas, Fr. Christina Mishica, So. Kristen Monahan

Top newcomers: Petter Sjulstad, Oskar Karl Lund, Melanie Hoffman, Jackie Pribyl

Web site:

Key departed skiers: Adam Airoldi, Kevin Heglund

2007-08 standings: Central Region: 3rd; NCAA: 14th

2008-09 outlook: Despite a third-place finish in the CCSA and multiple individual successes last year, coach Joe Haggenmiller isn’t content.

Nor is he hesitant to publicize the goals for 2008-09. They are:

1) Move into a position where MTU is clearly in the same class as NMU and UAF with multiple skiers at the top of the Central Region.

2) Qualify a full team of six for NCAAs for the first time in program history.

3) Perform well on both days at the NCAA Championships and come home with multiple All-American results.

Last year MTU qualified Jenna Klein, Jesse Lang and Adam Airoldi but had no result higher than 22nd at NCAAs.

“We had a horrendous day at the NCAA Championships in the men’s freestyle race,” Haggenmiller said.

Lang and Klein each return while Airoldi is now a graduate assistant coach. The men’s depth is evident as former all-region performers Chris Harvey and Erik Mundahl, senior Andrew Joda and Norwegian freshman Petter Sjulstad join Lang.

A year ago, three of MTU’s top women redshirted. But this season 2007 NCAA qualifier Liz Quinley, senior Laura Kangas and Wisconsin-Green Bay transfer Jackie Pribyl, among others, join Klein.

The Huskies have gotten off to a strong start this season, taking the combined team title over a shorthanded NMU and other CCSA schools at the Grand View XC Ski Challenge Dec. 13-14. A week earlier, the MTU women also claimed the NMU Invitational.

“Pretty cool to step up and race at another level and win the team title at this race series,” Haggenmiller told the MTU sports information department after the Grand View races. “But at the same time we can’t rest on our laurels as Northern Michigan and the other teams in our league will not sit back.”

The Huskies will seek to ride the momentum Jan. 3-8 at the U.S. Nationals in Anchorage, Alaska. MTU successfully hosted the same major event at its campus Nordic Training Center in 2007 and 2008.

After U.S. Nationals, MTU will stay in Anchorage for the UAA Invite Jan. 10-11 before returning to the Midwest to begin NCAA qualifying races.



ALASKA (Fairbanks)

Location: Fairbanks, Alaska

Head coach: Scott Jerome, 5th season

Assistant coach: Ingrid Olson, 5th season

Top male returners: So. John Parry, So. Ray Sabo, Jr. Einar Often, So. Robert Pakk

Top female returners: Jr. Anna Coulter, Jr. Julia Pierson, Jr. Elisabeth Habermann

Top newcomers: Jr. Oyvind Watterdal, Fr. Erik Soderstrom, Fr. Theresia Schnurr

Web site:

Key departed skiers: Marius Korthauer, Vahur Teppan, Aurelia Korthauer (redshirting)

2007-08 standings: Central Region: 2nd; NCAA: 7th

2008-09 outlook: The Nanooks have lost two guys who are impossible to replace in 2008 NCAA national classical champion Marius Korthauer and current Estonia National B Team member Vahur Teppan – but that doesn’t mean they’re no longer a force.

“We not going to cry about it and rest on our laurels,” coach Scott Jerome said. “We’ve got young guys that are developing. It’s good for them to get their chance.”

Six men will be competing for a maximum three NCAA spots, and none are American. They are Canadians Ray Sabo and John Parry, Norwegians Einar Often and Oyvind Watterdal, Swede Erik Soderstrom and Estonian Robert Pakk. Only Sabo skied at NCAAs last season.

“We’re really fortunate because on any given day any of the five or six of us can be on top,” Parry said. “No one’s got a safe spot. We’re all planning on helping each other.”

Nowhere was that teamwork more evident than at the final NCAA-qualifying race last season, when Often – who had an outside chance to make nationals – handed a ski pole to Sabo, who had broken one of his. Sabo went on to clinch his NCAA spot and Often was later honored with an NCAA sportsmanship award.

The team’s goal is to again send a full complement of six skiers to nationals, and it got a training headstart this season. While the competition was rollerskiing and doing dryland training, the Nanooks were already skiing at the end of September.

For the women, the quartet of Aurelia Korthauer, Anna Coulter, Julia Pierson and Elisabeth Habermann (all juniors) have rotated redshirting in recent years. Despite winning several early-season races as an open class skier, this year is Aurelia Korthauer’s turn to sit out. The native of Germany was an all-CCSA first team selection last season.

The newly-married Pierson, however, has completed her redshirt season, and rejoins twin sister Coulter, a 2008 freestyle All-American as well as Habermann, who qualified a year ago. Freshman Theresia Schnurr, the team’s top cross country runner this fall, also is looking to break through.

The Nanooks are seeking to challenge Northern Michigan for CCSA supremacy after their women took third in the conference and the men’s were second last season.


Marius Korthauer (UAF) skiing to victory at the 2008 NCAA Championships
Marius Korthauer (UAF) skiing to victory at the 2008 NCAA Championships

Matias Saari

Matias Saari writes for the Fairbanks Daily News Miner and provides coverage of the Central Collegiate Ski Association.

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