Nordic Ski

Author: Club Sports

On February 22, 2014, the Notre Dame Nordic Ski team joined over 10,300 cross-country skiers in North America’s largest ski race: the American Birkebeiner (Birkie). The race takes place in western Wisconsin, over a trail connecting the cities of Cable and Hayward. The annual event is the American version of Norway’s Birkebeinerrenet and began in 1973 as a way to commemorate the journey of the two original Birkebeiner warriors in the year 1206. The Birkebeiners traversed over 54 kilometers of grueling terrain in the midst of the Norwegian Civil War in order to deliver the 18-month-old Prince Haakon to safety. The child would later become King Haakon Haakonsson IV and end the civil war in 1240, forever altering the course of northern European history.

Ten skiers from Notre Dame traveled into the tundra to compete in various events over Birkie weekend. Races ranged from 12-54k in length, and the cumulative length of the team’s races totaled to over 250 miles—nearly the length of the state of Indiana. For most of the team’s skiers, this grand event was a first-time experience, but for Iciar Ocariz (sophomore), this event is a family tradition. This year was her fourth time competing in the 27k Kortelopet race, finishing third in her age group with an impressive time of 1:59:18. Senior Kevin Bednar also performed well in the 54k classic, finishing his first ski-marathon as third in his wave with a time of 4:01:41.

For most of the team, finishing the race was the achievement of a lifetime. After the race, sophomore Adrienne Hushcke said, “I’ve wanted to do the Birkie ever since I began skiing in high school, and now that I’ve done it, I want to come back every year because it was just such an amazing experience.” The community of people that comes together for the race each year is what really adds magic to the event. Every 5-7k, volunteers greeted the skiers with water and snacks to refuel because in races of this length, replenishment is critical—skiers can burn up to 1,000 calories per hour while racing. Fans banging drums and cowbells were sprinkled throughout the course as they cheered the skiers over the miles of hills and all the way to the finish. Because of the proximity to the Twin Cities, many of the team’s members from Minnesota were able to reunite with their families at the finish line and share the achievement with them.

Each year, the event brings together skiers from all over the world to tackle the most elite trail in the Midwest. “What’s cool about the Birkie is that it draws such a variety of skiers; competitors range from Olympic-level athletes to novices,” said Bednar. “It’s amazing that as a third-year club, we were able to bring such a great representation of the university to the event. When we first dreamed up this trip, we never imagined so many students would be interested in going and doing something so crazy.”

The skiers spent the weekend at the nearby cabin of alumni Michael Daugherty (’82), who provided food and shelter for them before and after the race. Senior Mara Stolee said, “We are so thankful for the support of the Notre Dame family. It was only through the generosity and assistance of this community that we were able to achieve such a lofty goal.”

 

Team Results

Race

Skier

Time

54k Birkebeiner Classic

Kevin Bednar (’14)

4:01:41

 

Adrienne Huschke (’16)

6:12:47

 

Jenny Coble (’16)

7:29:32

50k Birkebeiner Skate

Austin Reed (’15)

6:09:44

 

Laura Stangler (’14)

6:15:14

 

Mara Stolee (’14)

6:16:27

 

Caroline Corsones (’16)

6:29:46

27k Kortelopet Skate

Iciar Ocariz (’16)

1:59:18

12k Prince Haakon Skate

Joe Kuhns (’17)

1:07:27

 

Lily McGill (’16)

1:49:23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a map of the ski courses, see http://assets.ngin.com/attachments/document/0007/2683/BirkieMap.pdf