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Nordic skiing broadens to the next generation with Wadena-Deer Creek students

The boys and girls team will compete at the junior varsity level to help introduce students to the sport and the competitions, which are hosted in Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Little Falls and Alexandria with races at lengths of a 5K or less.

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Coach Terry Olson leads a group of Wadena-Deer Creek athletes on a cross-country skiing trail at Blacks Grove Park in March 2018. Contributed / Wadena-Deer Creek Schools

Wadena-Deer Creek students will have the option to hit the trails competitively with Nordic skiing this winter.

From cross-country running to now skiing, Coach Terry Olson knows a set of students who are ready to strap on their skis. Olson has been a cross-country coach for 34 years. He has worked with a small group of students—when it wasn’t too cold or too much snow—for a couple years at trails like Blacks Grove Park to practice cross-country skiing. The Whitetail Run Golf Course and Perham's Lakeside Golf Club are also adding ski trails .

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Terry Olson takes a cross-country ski stroll at Maple Lag near Detroit Lakes in March 2021. Contributed / Wadena-Deer Creek Schools

The boys and girls team will compete at the junior varsity level to help introduce students to the sport and the competitions, which are hosted in Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Little Falls and Alexandria with races at lengths of a 5K or less. Students will train at the park, golf course and the high school along with indoor exercises. The general interest so far shows a team of possibly eight students.

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“We’re seeing a lot more interest in these life-long type activities from our students: cross-country running, track and field, trap team, fishing and skiing,” said Norm Gallant, activities director and dean of students. “I think there’s an appetite for it.”

The school has 12 ski and boot sets available in different sizes. As students hope to go faster and move into the varsity ranks, Olson said they’ll have to purchase their own skis along with other equipment.

“From a community standpoint, we have some great things around here,” Gallant said. “You’re kind of grooming the next generation to take care of something like Blacks Grove.”

Black's Grove Park, located west of Wadena, has cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails.
Black's Grove Park, located west of Wadena, has cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails.

School board members Ryan Damlo and Kent Schmidt shared the team is a great opportunity for students, including for students who might not be involved in other sports.

But are there enough students that other sports won’t lose members in the coming years? That’s the question school board members Barb Tumberg, Missy Seelhammer and Dan Lawson considered before approving the new team.

“One of my concerns is just us spreading ourselves too thin,” Tumberg said. “We can’t predict the future, but I just have concerns with us being one of the smaller double A schools and then if we offer another program that slices our programs even smaller.”

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Lawson added the district’s sport involvement is low compared to the enrollment numbers and students’ participation does drop off after elementary school. While students join hockey, basketball or wrestling in elementary school, Gallant said if they’re no longer on the team in middle school it doesn’t necessarily mean a lost student. He added that the Nordic skiing team will target a different group of students than students registered for other winter sports.

The district has plenty of options, including shared programs with other districts. WDC’s winter sports include basketball, dance, hockey and wrestling.

“I’m really happy that Terry’s willing to take this on and give this (skiing) opportunity to some kids,” Schmidt said. “I’m more willing to say not what if but let’s go, build it and find something more for the kids that want to try it.”

For more information, you can contact Gallant at ngallant@wdc2155.k12.mn.us or 218-632-2310.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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