The Gustavus Adolphus women’s Nordic ski team will open its season this weekend at Junior Olympic Qualifying races in Dresser, Wis. Saturday’s action will feature a 1-kilometer freestyle sprint race, while Sunday’s races will highlight a 1-kilometer classic sprint race.
Gustavus begins the season with an experienced squad that finished fourth at the Central Collegiate Ski Association (CCSA) Regional Championships a year ago. Coach Jed Friedrich has set high goals for the season as the core of last year’s team returns. “Any given day our top four skiers can put up fast times. We are definitely good enough to finish in the top three at the regional championships,” noted Friedrich. Seniors Kathleen Dewahl (St. Paul, Minn./Central), Laura Edlund (Forest Lake, Minn./Forest Lake), and Sarah Willis (Willmar, Minn.) and junior Kelly Chaudoin (Ely, Minn./Ely Memorial) return as key members of last year’s squad and will be joined by three newcomers to the collegiate Nordic ski scene.
Willis was one of the top Gustavus finishers at the CCSA Regional Championships as she placed 24th in the freestyle race and 12th in the classic race. Wills gained valuable experience this fall as she spent a week helping the US National Nordic Ski Team in Lake Placid, NY with performance testing. Edlund finished 16th in the freestyle race and 22nd in the classic race at the regional championships. In becoming an all-conference cross country runner this fall, Edlund made a big improvement in her fitness level which will carry over into greater success during the Nordic ski season. Chaudoin crossed the finish line 21st in the freestyle race and 17th in the classic race last year at the CCSA Championships. Chaudoin finished last season as the top ranked Junior National skier (Ages 18-19) in the Midwest region. Last year, Willis, Chaudoin, and Edlund barely missed qualifying for the NCAA Championships as they finished 19th, 20th, and 21st on the CCSA/NCAA Qualification Points List. Dewahl will compete with the others for the final team scoring spot.
First-year newcomers on the squad include Cassandra Brady (Apple Valley, Minn./Eastview) and Olivia Karns (Fairbanks, Alaska/Lathrop). Sophomore transfer student Erin Eppler (Salt Lake City, Utah) has never competed collegiately, but has been a competitor at the Junior National level.
After this meet, the Gusties will be off until Jan. 1-6 when they participate in the United States Cross Country Skiing Championship at the Michigan Tech Nordic Training Center in Houghton, Mich.