Club skiers give it their all at Noque

jay.tomlinson

If you are a cross-country ski enthusiast here at NMU, but you aren’t quite prepared for the commitment level of head coach Sten Fjeldheim’s prestigious Nordic ski team, there is a new haven for you.

The newly founded Northern Nordic Club made its debut this past weekend, in the 51 km Marquette General Hospital Noquemanon Ski Marathon and the 25 km Bank Half Noquemanon Marathon. The race toured the notorious Noquemanon ski trail, starting at Al Quaal Recreation Area in Ishpeming, and ending at the Superior Dome, with both races being split into classic and freestyle.

Six members of the club competed in the races, including founding member and club president Colleen Mikelson.

“It was a lot better weather conditions than anticipated,” Mikelson said. “We had a great time together and we ate dinner the night before. It was a really fun race and a good way to not only cap off my fourth and final Noquemanon as a student, but to kick things off for this club.”

Mikelson teamed up with cross-country ski enthusiast and Interim Head of the Geography Department, John Anderton, and formed the club. Mikelson added that, she and Anderton always spoke of starting a club or team for students that wanted to train and race in Nordic skiing, but were not on the official NMU ski team. After getting the paper work in, the club started training in November. Since its inception, the club has grown to 10 members, and they said they are eager for more.

“The NMU ski team is outstanding every year and we have a lot of respect for them, but that level of commitment isn’t for everyone,” Mikelson said. “That is what this club is all about. It gives student skiers who still want to meet people and have that camaraderie, a place to train and compete.”

Mikelson and other members of the group urge people to join, despite their level of skill or commitment. Since the club is entirely self-funded, members must pay for their uniforms, transportation and race entry fees. Therefore, members choose their own level of participation, whether it be competing in races or just practicing with the club on Fridays and Saturdays.

The club was not formed to teach people how to ski, so a little knowledge is preferred. Hailing from downstate Kalamazoo, sophomore Andy Harmon had little skiing experience before coming to NMU, but is now very active in the club and progressing very well, said Mikelson.

Harmon proved her right as he completed the Freestyle Half Marathon in 1:23:29, finishing sixth in his age group and 36th overall, out of 195 racers.

“I did one race last year, and I beat that time by about 14 minutes, so it feels really good,” Harmon said.

Harmon wasn’t the only club member with a performance worth noting. Junior Lara Burke took first place in her age group of the Freestyle Half Noquemanon.

“It was a great race and a lot of fun because this is the first year we’ve had the club,” Burke said. “Having the club is nice because you have people to ride and train with, and when you finish, your teammates and spectators are there to cheer you on. I really enjoyed the whole experience and being able to compete.”

Sophomore Hannah Ciesla agreed with Burke as she also took first in her respective age group. Even more noteworthy was the fact that it was Ciesla’s first time in the Noquemanon.

“We had a lot of fun, the weather was great and the trails were groomed very well,” Ciesla said.

Mikelson was the only club member to tackle the frigid 51K marathon.

Mikelson as well as the rest of the group, urges anyone who is interested to sign up and get out on the trails.

“We hope to get things really rolling by the end of this spring, so next fall we can start recruiting more people and make a name for ourselves,” Mikelson said.

Students who join the group will not only get help from teammates, but Anderton, as well. He finished in first place overall in last year’s Classic Half Noquemanon.

Anderton said he felt the pressure to defend his title. After the gun went off, he got out to an early lead and held it until about five kilometers into the race.

“I was holding my lead pretty well until a 17-year-old skier dressed in a hot pink cheetah-print ski suit with a matching hat, went gliding by with very fast skies.” Anderton said. “Shortly after, the two other skiers passed me, and I battled for the rest of the race to stay on their heels.”

He did stay on their heels as he passed one of the racers in an all-out sprint in the last 200 meters, to snag third place out of 200 skiers. Making him the only Northern Nordic Club member to reach the podium.

On Saturday, Feb. 21, the club heads to Hayward, Wis., for the 51K Subaru American Birkebeiner, and the 23K Kortelopet. On March 8, members of the club are competing in The Great Bear Chase Marathon in Calumet, Mich.

Anyone that skies and is interested in joining the club may do so at any time by contacting Colleen Mikelson at [email protected]