by Dylan McConnell
As the weather gets colder and the first few flakes of snow begin to fall, my mind has been wandering to thoughts of tobogganing, skiing, snowboarding and other kinds of games and sports that we, as Canadians, enjoy for 4-8 months of the year.
Some people, like a few select students here at Augustana, are lucky enough to be involved with some of these winter activities in organized, competitive capacities. Unlike the hockey and curling teams here at Augustana (who play inside on artificial ice) the cross-country skiing and biathlon teams rely on Mother Nature’s gift of snow to provide them with the surface they need to compete.
So while other teams can hit the covered ice of rinks around town to practice or begin playing games before the temperature outside drops below zero, the cross-country skiing and biathlon teams have to get a little creative to stay in shape. But Joan Skinstad, coach of the cross-country says that her athletes are ready for the upcoming season: “I am very pleased with the team this year. Early season testing results indicate that the student athletes have had a good summer of training. We have just as strong a team as last year. The dynamic on the team is excellent… with personalities beginning to mesh due to most members’ participation on the cross country running team, as well as our work in practices.”
I can attest to the work ethic of these athletes, as I have often seen them around campus and the surrounding parks with their wheel-equipped skis and flashy, aerodynamic suits. Certainly the teams’ conditioning will not be an issue and I am sure it won’t be long before they are able to reacquaint themselves with the snow below their skis.
Interested in the makeup of this year’s cross-country team, I asked Joan if her team will have a similar look to the team from last year. She responded by saying that while the mentality and outside appearance of her team had not changed significantly, she (like most teams across the country) has been “struggling to… keep young women in [the] sport after their junior competitive years.” Joan said that she had recruited two national level athletes to her program who “decided to move on to other sports or quit altogether” over the summer, leaving Joan and her team two female athletes short.
Of course this is a tragedy, as our cross-country skiing program has had much success over the past few years, and any open holes in the roster hurts the chemistry and momentum of the team. However, Joan still has reason for optimism. On the upcoming events this year, she had this to say:
“The Augustana Vikings Ski Team has a great record in Alberta on the Alberta Cup Series so I am particularly excited about our National Championships to be held in Duntroon, Ontario as well as at the Western Canadian Championships in Canmore. These events will really test the athletes and are always a positive experience, with the student athletes competing in a good field with depth. These races are also a tremendous learning opportunity for all the Vikings.”
It sounds as though the Augustana Cross-Country Ski team (and the biathlon team as well) will be ready for the upcoming season as soon as the snow flies, full of confidence and high hopes for the major events of the year. Good luck to all the athletes.