Skiers hit slopes for season opener

CHAMPIONSHIPS+IN+GRASP%E2%80%94After+what+has+been+a+very+successful+start+to+the+season%2C+both+skiing+teams+are+pushing+towards+the+NCAA+Championships.+Photo+courtesy+of+NMU+Athletics.

CHAMPIONSHIPS IN GRASP—After what has been a very successful start to the season, both skiing teams are pushing towards the NCAA Championships. Photo courtesy of NMU Athletics.

Travis Nelson

With heavy snow arriving and cold air rising, it is time for the NMU Men’s and Women’s Nordic Skiing teams to take on the elements.

Coming off of a year where the Wildcats had six All-Americans, this season’s team has a lot to live up to. Assistant Coach Andy Keller said that five of the six skiers to make the national championships are either graduated or are taking a red-shirt year off this season. NMU is in a big need of upperclassmen to step up, and they found just the two athletes to lead as captains in seniors Leo Hipp and Julie Ensrud. The two veterans, along with the other upperclassmen have the task of teaching the younger skiers the ropes. 

“That’s the kind of culture that Sten has set here, is that the upperclassmen set the tone and set the work ethic that is expected of each and every person,” Keller said.

There are plenty of new faces on this year’s squad, eight in total with three men and five women. Keller said not only is this a new experience for the athletes, but for the coaches as well.

This year we’ve had quite a high turnover on our team, it’s been a whole new experience for us coaches, a lot of new faces, a lot of getting to know new athletes,” Keller said. “The new incoming skiiers have definitely shown that they’re willing to step up and contribute and fight for some of those NCAA spots.”

The ‘Cats get the luxury to start off the season on its home track at the Al Quaal Recreation Area in Ishpeming, where they will host Michigan Tech University (MTU) on Saturday, Dec. 14 and Sunday, Dec. 15. This will be the Wildcats’ only home meet until late February when it hosts the NCAA Central Region Championships. In a dual meet format against MTU, Keller is expecting to get a good challenge from the Huskies.

“They’ve always been strong competition for us in our conference and the new coach up there has been doing a good job,” Keller said. “They should be strong, it’ll be a good competition.”

NMU’s season opening clash with MTU takes place this weekend from Ishpeming, with start times TBA.

“It’s exciting to always get the season kicked off, so we’re excited to see what we can do against other people,” Keller said. “It’s a fun way to get things started.”