Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire


Nordic Ski Team Rides Strong Season Into Nationals

Whitman students rejoiced in the recent snow flurries, using the white tundra of Ankeny as a field for snowball fights and snowman building. While approximately 1 foot of snow brought fun and games for some, Whitman’s Nordic ski team used it as a rare opportunity to get practice runs in around Ankeny as they prepare for Division 3 Nationals in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Contributed Photo

Nordic skiing was originally a varsity sport at Whitman that produced alumna Holly Brooks ’04, who is currently competing for the U.S.  Nordic team in the Winter Olympics. However, six years ago the team was demoted to a club sport and much of its funding was cut. Despite these hurdles, a core group of about a dozen skiers still dedicate their time and bodies to a virtually unknown and under-advertised sport at Whitman.

“When most people think of cross-country skiing, they think of a slow scenic hike in the snow. They don’t think of the sport part of it; they don’t see a team, but we really are a group of competitive ski racers,” said senior and team captain Lauren Elgee.

Elgee co-captains the team with sophomore Audrey Thimm and junior Kelsey Brennan, who is currently studying abroad in New Zealand. Without a coach, this trio has played a pivotal role in helping the team make it to U.S. Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association Nationals this year. For the first time, Whitman has been able to field a full men’s and women’s team at nationals, which impressively consists entirely of underclassmen.  Representing the women are first-years Lauren Benedict, Riley Mehring, Isabel Mills and Galen Voorhees. First-year Colin McCarthy and sophomores Samuel Curtis and Greg Holdman are the three who earned spots competing on the men’s side. 

For those unfamiliar with this sport, there are two different techniques of Nordic skiing.

“The easiest way to describe it is that you’re cross-country skiing, except it’s a race. One technique is called classic skiing, where you essentially look like you are jogging in the snow, and the other is called skate skiing, which is a lot like rollerblading or ice skating on skis,” said Curtis.

While the general worldwide trend is moving more toward skate skiing, there are traditionalists who believe classic skating should remain the dominant technique.

Training for a sport that requires snow is difficult when attending school at Whitman.  With the exception of this past week, Walla Walla is not known for its white winters, which means that the team has to both improvise their training regime and travel to get actual time on the snow.

“Nordic skiing is extremely cardiovascular and uses just about every muscle group,” said Elgee, who got involved in Nordic skiing as a way to stay in shape during cross country’s off-season.

“Practices consist of a lot of interval and long distance runs in Walla Walla and weight training in the gym, since there is usually no snow nearby” said Curtis.  If they want to ski during they day, the team goes to Tollgate, a snowmobile park about 45 minutes away, or Anthony Lakes, which is about a three-hour drive away.

Contributed Photo

“Time on the snow is really important because those kind of movements are difficult to mimic away from the mountain and snowy areas,” said Voorhees. 

Although Nordic skiing is an individual sport, its tight-knit, tradition-based community makes this event differ from many other sports. For Voorhees, this sense of community is one of her favorite aspects of skiing.

“The ski community is a really welcoming and supporting community that upholds so much tradition. Going along the race course hearing all the cow bells and hearing people you don’t even know cheer for you is such a powerful feeling,” she said.

In addition to this friendly atmosphere, Nordic skiing is both therapeutic and a form of art for many skiers.

“It is my way of expressing myself and letting loose anything that is on my mind,” said Curtis.

Similarly, Voorhees compared it to ballet.

“In a lot of ways Nordic skiing and ballet share the same grace and fluidity. It makes me feel like I am flying and is the closest way I can get to nature. It’s almost meditative––just you, your breathing, the snow and your skis” said Voorhees. 

Follow the Whitman Nordic ski team as they ski at the 2014 USCSA Nationals from March 9 to 15 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

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