Elite Team Preview: Team Birkie

Gavin KentchNovember 19, 2021
Team Birkie athletes, including summer collegiate athletes, at the track, summer 2021. (photo: courtesy Team Birkie)

Team name and location: Team Birkie; Minneapolis, Minnesota (also Hayward, Wisconsin)

Coach: Caitlin Gregg (co-coach), Leo Hipp (co-coach), Jeremy Hecker (technique coach and wax tech)

Current roster: For the men: Zak Ketterson, Christian Gostout, Andrew Millan, Tony Mathie, Brian Gregg; Women: Ingrid Thyr, Julie Ensrud, Jordan Schuster, Abbie Drach, Amanda Kautzer (focusing on biathlon)

What’s new: “Everything,” Gregg writes. While elite teams have existed in the Midwest in the past, Team Birkie is new this year. You can learn more about the program in this podcast with Gregg.

Who’s still on this team, or otherwise involved in American skiing, from when we did this in 2012: Since this is the inaugural year for the team, this question is not directly applicable; however, Caitlin Gregg and Brian Gregg remain recognizable names from our 2012 CXC preview. Nichole Bathe raced internationally for Great Britain as recently as last season.

Ingrid Thyr bounding, summer 2021. (photo: courtesy Team Birkie)

Top results last season: While racing for different programs, Ketterson was 4th and 15th at NCAA Championships racing for NMU, including top American in the 20 k skate. Kautzer was 7th in Soldier Hollow in January against a RMISA field. Gostout was 13th in a January race in Soldier Hollow against a strong regional field. Drach was 8th in the skate Birkie. Among the coaching staff, Caitlin Gregg was third in the skate Birkie, marking the rare year in which she has entered the race but not won it.

Zak Ketterson doing work on the rollerski treadmill. (photo: courtesy Team Birkie)

Coach’s comments: Caitlin Gregg writes: “What’s new: Everything.”

“We are a brand new team with lots of excitement for the upcoming season.

“Our summer was very productive with the addition of 17 college athletes who helped push our Team Birkie athletes and made our altitude camp in Bozeman very successful. With lots of strong runners during the summer we enjoyed pushing our fitness on foot and refining our technique on rollerskis.

“Early fall was spent in the Midwest increasing our paces on familiar courses and dialing in efforts and technique on the rollerski treadmill.

From left, Christian Gostout, Ingrid Thyr, Andrew Millan, Zak Ketterson, Tony Mathie, and Jordan Schuster, Frozen Thunder, Canmore, Alberta, fall 2021. (photo: courtesy Team Birkie)

“As we approach the first series of races this winter we are in a final three-week altitude block and back on snow in Canmore, Alberta.

“We look forward to starting the season close to home in Duluth and Cable and competing at U.S. Nationals at Soldier Hollow (one of my all time favorite venues).”

Related coverage: Press release on team’s launch; Nordic Nation interview with Caitlin Gregg; sponsored writeup of team’s altitude camp in Bozeman; Coming next week: recap of Team Birkie’s altitude block.

Previously in this series: BSF | SMS

Caitlin Gregg (fifth from left) and some athletes with members of the Loppet Foundation’s Northside Adventure Team, Minneapolis, summer 2021. (photo: courtesy Team Birkie)

Gavin Kentch

Gavin Kentch wrote for FasterSkier from 2016–2022. He has a cat named Marit.

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