UAF Nordic Ski gears up for first action of the season

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 7:40 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The last time the Alaska Nanooks Nordic Ski program was preparing for a race, the NCAA Championships were canceled days before five UAF skiers were set to compete. Ten months and countless hours of training later, the Nanooks will see its first action this weekend when they travel to Midway, Utah for two days of competition.

In August, UAF head coach Eliska Albrigtsen appointed Jennie Bender as acting coach for the year with Albrigtsen expecting a child in the near future. The sport of skiing has brought Bender to various parts of the country, and now, to the 49th State of Alaska.

“I am originally from the east coast, I was on a team in the Midwest, I was on a team in Montana, but I have always wanted to live in Alaska,” said Bender. “I love the mountains around here and the people are solid humans, it is a good crew, so I am really excited to spend some time up here.”

“She’s been killing it,” said redshirt junior Logan Mowry (Fairbanks, Alaska) of Bender. “I think it’s never an easy situation, getting a lot more responsibility like that and getting kind of tossed into that situation, but it’s been super smooth and I know the whole team has been vibing and really meshing well with her instruction.”

In all, the Nanooks will travel 10 student-athletes to the Olympic venue in Utah. Rya Berrigan (Senior-Palmer, Alaska), Catherin Reed-Metayer (Junior-St. Ferreol les Neiges, Quebec) Sage Robine (Redshirt Sophomore-Rossland, British Columbia), Mariel Pulles (Sophomore-Otepaa, Estonia) and Kendall Kramer (Freshman-Fairbanks, Alaska) will represent the women, while Lukash Platil (Senior-Thorton, Colorado), Patrick Marbacher (Junior-Schumpfheim, Switzerland), Christopher Kalev (Junior-Tallinn, Estonia), Mike Ophoff (Sophomore-Cista u Horek, Czech Republic) and Mowry will race on the men’s side.

Training for the enduring ski season has been challenged by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as student-athletes find new ways to stay motivated and stay in-shape.

“You’re meeting with your team and your competitors a lot less, so when you’re having less races going into the season, you’re not getting that reminder, that competitive edge. There is a lot more self-motivation,” said Mowry “That can just like visualization, maybe watching Rocky IV a few more times, really get that motivation going. You just got to be able to push yourself, and that is kind of what the whole sport is built on, so it is kind of playing more into that side of it.”

Racing begins on Sunday with the 5-kilometer/10k freestyle, before the 15k/20k Classic on Monday. Kramer, a former West Valley standout, is preparing for her first collegiate ski race after dominating the high school landscape with three consecutive state titles. One of the most accomplished prep skiers the state has seen had plenty of options when planning her next step and to the excitement of the skiing community, Kramer decided to stay and compete for her hometown University.

“I have always known that the college racing path was for me,” said Kramer. “I never really wanted to go straight pro or take a gap year or anything because I really like the combination of the school spirit, that is kind of the extra push. I just really want to make UAF proud and so I think that is going to be like a lot of extra motivation and it is going to make it is easier for me when I have something outside myself to work for.”

The event hosted by the University of Utah this weekend will be the first of three trips to Salt Lake City prior to the NCAA Ski Championships in Jackson, New Hampshire March 10.

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