Two Bucs on new 5-school ski team
History was made recently at BEA when school board members approved adding alpine skiing to the winter sports calendar.
Rob Norman, Athletic Director at BEA, was approached last year by skiing enthusiast and parent, David Lein, about the possibility of joining an area school co-op in order to offer alpine skiing.
Norman then spoke with the school board in the spring about adding the sport, filled-out the necessary paperwork for the Minnesota State High School League and it was all downhill from this point.
“As schools get smaller and can’t offer certain sports, I thought it was a great opportunity to co-op with others,” says Lein.
In the past, BEA co-opped with Fairmont as a means of offering hockey to interested students. The concern voiced by some board members that joining the co-op might deplete from a major sport such as wrestling or basketball, met with little resistance after discussing BEA’s previous successful cooperative experience with Fairmont.
“There is no cost to the local school district for adding the sport other than the schedules,” explains David Lein. “The cost is to our family through the participation fees at each meet.”
Thanks to the five-school cooperative agreement, senior Mackenzie Lein and her brother, Nick, a seventh grader, will have the chance this winter to compete with the Crystal Valley Ski Team. The team, which has existed in some form or other with varying schools for the past five years, is hosted by the Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial School District and spans much of south-central Minnesota.
Schools involved are: LCWM, Nicollet, Maple River, United South Central and Blue Earth Area — the last three being new additions this year.
According to Scott Carlson, the coach for the past three years, there are currently nine students comprising the alpine skiing team. These consist of four girls and five boys.
“In order to compete,” Carlson says, “students must be at least a seventh grader and able to ski down an intermediary run.”
Carlson first met Nick Lein through the developmental team at Mt. Kato. This is basically a ski league sponsored by ski resorts. Currently, Carlson says there are 11 coaches and 115 youth in grades seven through 12 involved in the program.
“The Crystal Valley Ski Team is unique,” says Carlson, “because the nine kids from the five schools get lots of one-on-one attention.”
He adds the developmental format is a great feeder program for racers in southern Minnesota to improve their skiing skills or to join a ski team if they wish.
The Leins began their first day of dry-land training at Mt. Kato on Nov. 11. Their first meet is scheduled for Dec. 17 at Powder Ridge near St. Cloud. By mid-February, the skiing season will have concluded.
Students on the Crystal Valley team will compete in several regular season events, in addition to hosting a conference meet in late January with a handful of other teams also without a conference. These include Rochester, Northfield and Mankato East and West.
The team will begin practicing on snow by early December at Mt. Kato. Carlson says the management at Mt. Kato does not charge the team for using its slopes, so this is very helpful with the fledgling organization.
Mackenzie, who has played tennis and golf at BEA, says she has raced before, but never on a team.
“I’m kind of nervous,” she admits. “I haven’t skied as much as Nick. I skied for two years with Kato Kids then just skied for fun. But I think it will be interesting to compete on the different slopes.”
Nick started the sport with Kato Kids when he was four. He remained in this program for two years before advancing to the developmental program where he has skied for the past four years.
“I like the slalom,” says an enthusiastic Nick. “It’s a cool feeling to hear your knees knocking the gates…clunk, clunk, clunk.”
As a middle school student, Nick has participated in tennis and ran JV meets in cross-country this past season. Now he will add Alpine skiing to his resume.
“I just want to see how far I can go,” says Nick. “On the developmental team one was limited, but I’m sure the team will put more effort into skiing and improve more now that we are at the high school level.”
Because of the cooperative venture, students such as Mackenzie and Nick will have the opportunity to compete among the best in the state at the prep level.
Both the Leins hope to improve their skiing skills and make Alpine skiing a life-long interest, just as it has been for their father, David.
“This will open new opportunities for me,” says Mackenzie, “and it will open the door for others to join the skiing team in the future.”