Building a solid foundation is the goal for the Scott West Nordic ski team this winter.
This year marks the first season of the co-operative program with Belle Plaine. There are 20 skiers out for the first season, 12 boys and eight girls.
The idea for creating a co-op team surfaced a few years ago when Jordan Public Schools offered a demo day and there was a good showing of students interested in the sport. Jordan approached Belle Plaine to see if it was interested in joining forces, which it was. The communities already had a cooperation agreement for wrestling.
While the Panthers’ inaugural season likely won’t produce any state qualifiers or section champions, the hope is to develop the proper form and learn good classical and freestyle technique for each individual skier.
“The strength and endurance gained by participating in Nordic ski during the winter months benefit their spring, summer and fall sports,” Scott West coach Lisa Jamison said. “Our hope is to make this sport and our team atmosphere really fun and rewarding so the athletes develop a love for this life-long sport and encourage their classmate to join as well.”
The team opened the season Jan. 27 with a 5,000-meter freestyle race at Hyland Park Reserve in Bloomington. It also competed in a 5,000-meter classical event Feb. 5 at Elm Creek Park Reserve.
The Wright County Conference Championships are set for Feb. 19 at Hyland Park, while the Section 1 meet is Feb. 3 at the same venue.
The Minnesota State High School League’s Board of Directors met Feb. 4 and approved state tournaments for all winter sports. The Nordic ski meet will be March 12 at Giants Ridge in Biwabik.
It may take a few years for the Panthers to break through and get a skier or two to state. But ultimately, that will be the hope for the program.
“We are a no-cut winter sport where athletes race at their ability level,” Jamison said. “This year, all 20 athletes are beginner Nordic racers. We hope to bring all of them back next year as our second-year experienced team, and then bring in a new group of beginners to train.
“Each year, we will refine their skiing skills and build upon their previous year’s strength and speed endurance gains,” Jamison added.
Good Nordic teams have skiers who are strong in both techniques. Results from conference championships, sections and state are based on pursuit times. Pursuit is a combination of times from both the freestyle and classical races.
Jamison said it’s hard to pinpoint the team’s top skiers at this point.
“They each bring a different strength to the table,” she said. “Some kids are stronger at classic than skate (freestyle) and vice versa. Some athletes have precision form when it comes to particular ski gears, where other athletes naturally have faster speed skills or higher endurance.”
Sophomore Basia Babcock has led the Panther girls team in the first two races. At the freestyle competition Jan. 27, she was 38th overall with a time of 21:31. She finished 55th in the classic race (26.44).
On the boys side, junior Adam Stiemke also led the Panthers in both races, taking 23rd (15:54) in freestyle and 46th in classical (22:18).
Other members of the boys team in the first season include senior Joey Hein, junior Kevin He, sophomores Andrew Norberg, Kaleb Sharp, Emmett Fahey and Nicklaus Weedman, ninth-grader Tony Lederle, eighth-grader Caden Rigam and seventh-grader Isaac Bemmels.
Other member for the girls squad are senior Savannah DeYoung, junior Aria Jamison, ninth-grader Addison Kraus, eighth-graders Cassidy DeYoung, Bekah Stiemke and Addisyn Giles and seventh-grader Jesse Sullivan.
For Deb Pauly, the Jordan School Board chair and past president of Minnesota School Board Association, working in education isn’t her day job.
But it is a full-time commitment.
Pauly has been a part of the Jordan School Board since 2006. At the time she was elected, her four children had been students in the Jordan school system.
“My husband and I just have a strong belief in giving back to the community and serving wherever we can,” Pauly said. “So I felt a call to help the community by being willing to serve on the board and trying to help provide wonderful opportunities for our students and their families.”
Now, Pauly and her husband, Myron, have several grandchildren in the district as well.
In her 15 years on the board she’s served on a long list of committees from finance to legislature. Right now she serves as the board chair, and in addition to several committee assignments, she works with the American Indian Parent Advisory Council and is part of the legislative and MSHSL committees.
Pauly’s commitment to improving education in her community goes beyond her dedication to Jordan Public Schools. Whether on a PTO committee or her long-time role in the faith formation program at St. John the Baptist Catholic School, Pauly says she has been involved in education in one way or another for most of her adult life.
Pauly admits this work is time-consuming, and it’s not even her full-time job. By day she is the director of an apartment building that houses elderly and disabled individuals.
The thing that makes the hours spent reading hundred-page packets before board meetings or attending trainings and courses over the years is this: Pauly is passionate about ensuring the kids in her community have a quality education.
Pauly’s passion and dedication go beyond Jordan’s city limits.
For over 10 years, she’s been on the board of directors for the Minnesota School Board Association, which Pauly describes as the first place school boards go to get answers, help and tools to support them in their work.
Pauly was the president-elect of the MSBA beginning in 2018, followed by a two-year term as president of the organization, which she just completed in mid-January of this year.
Over her term Pauly navigated the typical challenges of helping school boards best serve their students, and the not-so-typical challenge of helping those schools in the midst of a pandemic.
Pauly said the financial challenges presented to school districts by COVID-19, as well as concerns over student mental health and the need for constant flexibility as statewide guidelines changed seemingly overnight, posed real difficulties for not only her and the board members she helped lead, but also the students they ultimately exist to support.
Still, she says, she’s grateful to have had the opportunity to serve for as many years as she has.
“To have the opportunity to serve as president of an organization that is this impactful is an incredible, incredible honor,” Pauly said.
She’s also been impressed with the MSBA’s ability to adapt to changing state guidelines over the past year and use technology to keep up a high standard of work.
“The fact that I was able to serve as their president during a once-in-100-year pandemic was pretty overwhelming and pretty monumental, to be honest with you,” said Pauly. “And I was just so overwhelmed, and so honored and pleased to see how MSBA pulls things together and was able to support schools.”
In mid-January Pauly ceremonially “passed the gavel” to new MSBA President Mike Domin of the Crosby-Ironton district.
Domin says he and Pauly have worked together for nearly nine years as part of the MSBA. Over that time he’s had the opportunity to travel with her and a team of colleagues to Washington, D.C. to advocate for education and policy at the national level. Now, in her role as past president, she is a sort of mentor to Domin, offering her experience and knowledge to him as he takes over leadership of the organization for the next two years.
Domin described Pauly as approachable and knowledgeable on a wide range of topics.
“You could always reach out to Deb with questions and she will always get back to you,” said Domin. “And really what is her strength is her passion for public education. I think that’s what stands out.”
Pauly’s ability to juggle her many commitments and still create such a strong framework of leadership for him to step into this year is admirable, Domin said.
“We’ve been lucky to have Deb as the president,” said Domin.
Pauly will continue to be involved in MSBA meetings and committees this year while juggling her numerous other commitments, the Jordan School Board being one of them.
Superintendent Ranae Case Evenson expressed gratitude for Pauly’s role on the board over the past years.
“Deb Pauly is so dedicated to the students and staff of Jordan Public Schools. We are incredibly fortunate to have Deb serve our school community as a longtime board member and Board Chair,” Case Evenson said. “She has been a great support to Jordan Public Schools and so many board members across the state!”
Pauly’s term as past president will expire in early 2022.