Ski coach earns national honors

Ray Bressette

Fjeldheim recognized by colleagues as ‘coach of the year’

Nordic skiing head coach Sten Fjeldheim received the 2014 National Coach of the Year award from United States Collegiate Ski Coaches Association, after leading the Wildcats to an appearance at the NCAA Championships last season.

Fjeldheim said the award was a career-high achievement.

“It was truly an honor,” Fjeldheim said. “I’ve won awards in the past but never anything quite like national coach of the year, and when the award is voted on by other coaches across the country, it’s something special that you won’t ever forget.”

The Wildcats finished in seventh place at the NCAA Championships Thursday, March 6 through Saturday, March 8 at the Soldier Hallow Resort in Midway, Utah. The finish was the highest for a Central College Ski Association team in history.

Fjeldheim credited his athlete’s performances for his coach of the year award.

“Obviously, I couldn’t have earned anything without the great players we had this season,” Fjeldheim said. “The kids played solid all year long, and I was very pleased with our results week in and week out. We stayed consistent throughout most of the year, and it really helps out when you have one of your best weeks of the season at the NCAA Championship.

“We played a lot of great teams all year long, and when you come away as the second best Nordic team at the NCAA championship, you know you’ve done something great.”

Throughout his time at NMU, Fjeldheim has also earned the Central Collegiate Ski Association Women’s Coach of the Year (2007-11), Central Regional Men’s and Women’s Coach of the Year (2011-13), USSA Domestic Coach of the Year (1991, 2000, 2005) and USSA Development Coach of the year (2000, 2005).

Junior Felicia Gesior said Fjeldheim’s award was well-deserved.

“It wasn’t that big of a surprise to me that he won the award,”  Gesior said. “He has a great amount of knowledge for the sport, and everyone knows about his dedication for it and his team, and his success over the years has shown that.”

Four of the six skiers that represented NMU at the NCAA Championships earned All-American honors this past season, including senior Rosie Frankowski, junior Kyle Bratud, junior Mary Kate Cirelli and freshman Fredrik Schwencke.

Senior Ben Hugus said Fjeldheim has tremendous relations with his athletes.

“Sten makes sure he works with every athlete so that they can reach their full potential,” Hugus said. “He works really hard out of practice to make things happen for us, and even if he’s battling personal issues he’s always there for us and tries to guide us to a great season. This sport requires a lot of manpower and long hours as we’re gone very weekend, and from the preparation to equipment to coaches meetings, Sten always toughs it out and gives it his all.”

Fjeldheim has been coaching NMU athletics since 1986, and held the title of cross country head coach from 1986 to 2007.

During his coaching, five of Fjeldhiem’s skiers have become National Champions.

The Wildcats will be losing five seniors this offseason, including George Cartwright, Hugus, Erik Soderman, Frankowski and Jordyn Ross.

Gesior said she expects Fjeldheim to continue the success into next season.

“Sten was a huge reason I came to NMU,” Gesior said. He’s spent a lot of time building up this program, and has a big reputation of working with each individual athlete and putting everything he has into winning.

“We couldn’t ask for a better coach here at Northern, and I know he’s going to keep the success going.”