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Published January 18, 2023
The University of Wyoming Nordic ski team celebrated the new year by competing against the country’s fastest skiers.
The 2023 Toyota U.S. Cross Country Ski Nationals were held in Houghton, Mich., Jan. 2-7, followed by the Seeley Hills Classic SuperTour in Cable, Wis., Jan. 14-15. Both events drew the nation’s best professional skiers. The U.S. Nationals determine qualification for World Cup and Olympic teams.
Ten UW skiers and one UW alumna traveled to these events and posted the best results in the 25-year history of the modern team. Those completing the entire series of races skied six races in 13 days.
Andrew Siegel, of Bethel, Maine, a master’s degree student in the Creative Writing MFA Program, consistently placed in the top half of the field, with his best results in the freestyle sprint at U.S. Nationals and the classic sprint at the Cable SuperTour. In the former, he placed 38th in a field of 161 skiers. He was bested by only 23 Americans, and one of these included his teammate, John Henry Paluszek, of Farmington, N.H., a master’s student in botany, who finished 35th.
In the Cable SuperTour, both Cowboys skied to top-25 finishes, which qualified them for the elimination rounds. This boasting right is reserved for only those in the top 30 places. In their quarterfinal, Siegel and Paluszek placed third and fifth.
“Third place in an elimination round put Andrew in contention for the semifinal. We had to wait to find out his time, because the fastest third-place skiers in quarterfinals go on to semis,” says co-coach Christi Boggs. “While Andrew didn’t get that time, it was just incredible to be on the edge of our seat waiting to see if we might have someone skiing at that high of a level.”
“It was fun to mix it up with skiers who were fresh off of the World Cup,” Paluszek says.
On the women’s side of the competition, Anne Miller, of Minneapolis, Minn., an undergraduate studying kinesiology and health, posted her best results in the sprint races as well. Despite taking a hard fall, Miller qualified for the quarterfinals in the Cable SuperTour.
“In her elimination round, she was pitted against all but one pro skier. She took another fall and ended up finishing sixth. But a major point of distinction came when comparing Annie’s time to sixth-place skiers in other elimination rounds. Among those, Annie’s time was the fastest,” co-coach Rachel Watson says.
“The entire week of racing was a rewarding and grit-building experience,” Miller says.
Shining in the distance events were Jamie Peacock, of Jackson, and Kaj Taylor, of Palmer, Alaska. Peacock, an undergraduate majoring in physiology, and Taylor, an undergraduate majoring in chemical engineering, completed the 20-kilometer mass start at U.S. Nationals.
“It’s difficult to explain the grit required to complete this long mass start race in a field of pros. The top pack skis each kilometer split faster than most citizen ski racers would ski a 1-kilometer sprint,” Watson says. “Kaj just kept moving up the field, passing one elite skier at a time, and finally finishing in 69th, just seconds away from an Alaskan pro skier. Jamie fought hard for the entire 20 kilometers and bested several scholarship athletes from other colleges.”
UW alumna Ella DeWolf skied in the top third of the field. She graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in microbiology, molecular biology and botany from UW. Now a data scientist working for WEST Environmental and Statistical Consultants, DeWolf is a member of the nonprofit ski club that supports postgraduate skiing and also is coached by Watson and Boggs.
“There is an incredible need for programs that support skiers during their graduate degrees and beyond. The literature tells us that young people are more successful in their careers and lives when they continue in sport,” Boggs says.
Also competing for UW at these high-level events were Krisanna Andrews, of Laramie, an undergraduate majoring in secondary education; Samantha Veauthier, of Casper, an undergraduate majoring in zoology; Matthew Williams, of Jackson, an undergraduate majoring in kinesiology and health; Spencer Canen, of Laramie, an undergraduate majoring in outdoor recreation and tourism management; and Isabella Brown, of Casper, an undergraduate majoring in architectural engineering.
The Nordic ski team is housed in UW’s Division of Kinesiology and Health.
“We are thankful for the endless support we have from the Division of Kinesiology and Health; Department Head Derek Smith values the integrated athleticism and academics afforded by the program,” Watson says. “Without him, these rich experiences would be impossible.”