The Gustavus women’s nordic skiing team will travel to Grand Rapids, Minn. to compete in the second Central Region NCAA qualifier of the season. The qualifier will take place at Mt. Itasca with the freestyle race on Saturday, January 22 and the classic race on Sunday, January 23. Other schools that will compete in the meet are UW-Green Bay, Northern Michigan University, Michigan Tech University, St. Olaf College, University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Saint John’s University, St. Cloud State University, University of Minnesota-Duluth and the College of Saint Benedict.
Top returners for the Gusties include Chandra Daw, Nicole Olson, Kelly Damrow and Melissa Kittock. First-year head coach Jed Friedrich spoke highly of Chandra Daw. “Chandra has looked fantastic this year. After an impressive summer of training, she has arrived for her junior year ready to do some damage in the central region.” Daw looks to become the first Gustavus skier to qualify for the NCAA Division I National Championships.
Nicole Olson returns as one of the top competitors in the central region. Olson will not be in action until early February as she she spent the first semester in New Zealand and will miss several race weekends due to travel for J-term. Melissa Kittock saw a big improvement in her cross country season this fall and is looking to make similar improvements on snow.
Kelly Damrow is the lone women’s skier to have already competed this season. The rest of the Gustie squad will be participating in their first race of the season. Damrow competed in the first qualifying race of the season in Park City, Utah January 5-6. The qualifier was held in conjuction with the U.S. National Championships. The best skiers in the country were there including the U.S. National Team and the best college programs from all divisions. In the classical race, Damrow placed 110th overall and 13th for the central region skiers. In the freestyle, Damrow placed 129th overall and 15th for the central region. She was the top division III skier in both races earning valuable NCAA qualifying points.
The team’s training conditions have been challenging with little snow accumulation in the area. However, this has not slowed down coach Friedrich’s squad. “My skiers have worked really hard all summer and fall by rollerskiing, running and bounding with poles,” Friedrich commented. “Not having snow doesn’t stop us from training 2-3 hours a day. Luckily we have been able to get on snow a few times in the Twin Cities on man-made snow. We have held rollerski time trials to help stimulate racing conditions to prepare us for the opening races in January.”