Select members of the Gustavus men’s and women’s nordic skiing teams will open the 2009-10 season at the Grand View Health System Cross Country Ski Challenge, held in Ironwood, Mich., on Saturday and Sunday. Head Coach Jed Friedrich will take 11 skiers from the men’s and women’s teams to compete in the two-day Junior Olympic qualifier race.
Junior Cassandra Brady (Apple Valley, Minn./Eastview), sophomores Annika Ferber (Brooklyn Center, Minn./Park Center) and Danielle Burgmeier (Plymouth, Minn./Wayzata), and freshman Erica Hett (Burnsville, Minn./Burnsville), will represent the women’s team in Michigan. From the men’s team, Juniors Andrew Tilman (St. Louis Park, Minn./St. Louis Park), Andrew Poffenberger (Stillwater, Minn./Stillwater), Jens Brabbit (Winona, Minn./Winona Cotter), sophomores Anders Bowman (Plymouth, Minn./Wayzata) and Peter Larsen (St. Cloud, Minn./Cathedral), and freshmen Blake Gust (Andover, Minn./Andover) and Zach Wagner (Marquette, Mich./Marquette) will take part in the two-day season opener.
The remaining skiers from the men’s and women’s team will compete at the Theodore Wirth Chalet, a 10 km race held in Minneapolis, Minn., on Sunday at 9:00am. Those competing from the men’s team will be juniors Derrick Berndt (Bloomington, Minn./Kennedy) and Logan Smestad (Nerstrand, Minn./Northfield), and sophomores Kory Freeberg (Osseo, Minn./Osseo) and Jon Kasprisin (White Bear Lake, Minn./White Bear Lake). Members of the women’s team who will be competing are senior Erin Eppler (Salt Lake City, Utah./Skyline), junior Olivia Karns (Fairbanks, Alaska/Lathrop, and freshmen Meredith Bache-Wiig (Plymouth, Minn./Wayzata), and Lauren Harden (New Brighton, Minn./Irondale).
Coach Friedrich’s squads enter this season with a lot of optimism and excitement, after combining to take fifth out of 11 teams at last season’s NCAA Regional Championships. The men’s team returns nine skiers from last year’s team, which took seventh in both the 10km classic and 15km freestyle races at Regions. Jens Brabbit and Anders Bowman are the top returners and will look to lead the Gusties as they embark on what is a promising year for the men’s nordic skiing team. Brabbit was the top Gustavus skier last season, narrowly missing the qualification for the NCAA Championships. He placed 14th in the 10km classic and 12th in the 15km freestyle at last season’s Regional Championships. Bowman finished finished 21st in the classic and 14th in the freestyle at Regions in his first year of competition last season and will look to build on his early career success. Andrew Poffenberger and Andrew Tillman will round out the list of top returners, adding depth to an already experienced team. Impact freshmen will likely include Blake Gust and Zach Wagner. Gust was an All-State performer in high school, as Wagner was a Michigan State Champion in high school. Coach Friedrich believes the men’s team is set to go, and expects them to come out of the gate fast this season.
The women’s nordic team will look to find an identity after losing top performers Kelly Chaudoin and Allison Bohn to graduation. Last year’s team finished fifth in the 10km classic and fourth in the 5km freestyle races at last season’s Regional Championships. Erin Eppler and Olivia Karns will look to lead the Gustie women, as Eppler is the top returner from last season’s team. Eppler finished 24th in both the freestyle and classic races at last season’s Regional Championships. Cassandra Brady and Danielle Burgmeier also return as top Gustavus finishers from last season’s squad. Burgmeier placed 36th and 32nd in the classic and freestyle, respectively, as Brady took 49th in the classic and 37th in the freestyle races at Regions. Newcomers Erica Hett and Elizabeth Hauer will have make a solid impact as they each were All-State performers in high school. The women’s nordic skiing team will enter this weekend in good shape, as eight of its ten skiers also competed in cross country in the Fall.