ChaskaChan Nordic - Bennett Adams

Chaska/Chanhassen's Bennett Adams turned in an all-conference performance over the two-day Metro West Championships Feb. 23 and 25 in 2021 at Hyland Park Reserve.

The Nordic ski program at Chaska and Chanhassen high schools saw its numbers rocket upward over the last five years. Strong leadership led by David Paulson, a coach for more than five decades, and staff, responsible for building enthusiasm. 

The skiers did the rest, reviving the roster by recruiting friends and classmates.

Then COVID came. The 2020-21 season shortened. Students were not always in the building last year. Couple that with graduation and the Storm Hawks find much smaller numbers of skiers for the upcoming season.

"The Nordic Storm Hawks are facing a significant challenge this year. In the last two years we have lost 47 skiers to graduation. These 47 have been the core of our program, our most dedicated recruiters, and athletes who got involved in this very complex sport in middle school," Paulson said.

Nordic ski also presents additional costs for competition, and the uncertainty of venues and practice are also issues facing the program.

"We have averaged over 75 skiers for the past five years and this year we have 34 skiers and half are middle school students. We are a building program to say the least!"

While a snowstorm brought good snow over the weekend, the first-third of the season is already in the books. The team imitated skiing on snowless hills and utilized treadmills and roller skis.

"We will withhold our snow celebration now that we finally have natural snow until after we see if it stays around. The warming of our winters is posing a serious threat to our sport," Paulson said.

Chaska/Chanhassen is set to compete in its first competition on Dec. 15 with another event on Dec. 23. Competition venues include Hyland Reserve, Elm Creek Reserve, Baker Park Reserve, and Carver Park Reserve.

"Our small team is still excited about skiing. In the few recent days with snow, these young talented athletes have made significant progress. There are always a few who take a week or two to grasp the essential fundamentals, but once they get the basics they begin to gain the thrill of Nordic skiing," Paulson said.

Returning from last season's section team are senior Cole Donahe and sophomore Bennett Adams and his eighth grade brother Finnian Adams on the boys team.

Isabella Roemer, Madeline Hauck and Marissa Long are top returning girls from last season.

"Our expectations for the skiers in our trust are almost always the same. As coaches we want to help skiers attain their athletic goals and to create an environment where they continue to learn, stay healthy, and fulfill their academic requirements," Paulson said.

The addition of Orono to the Metro West Conference expands the league to seven teams.

"As with all sports, team talent and competitive edge ebb and flow. To state a cliche, the next two years will be building years for the team, but we have high expectations for a number of our very talented individuals. We have a serious challenge with the boys team at St. Louis Park and the girls team from Bloomington. With the anticipated challenges, do not be surprised if we exceed expectations. We look forward to the remainder of this season and we expect this season to create many wonderful memorable moments for all of our team members," the Storm Hawks coach said.