News & Stories

Anwatin Ski Team Races Biathlon

Last year, one of the biggest highlights for the Anwatin Ski Team was their training trip. On a late December weekend, the team of twenty drove up to the woods of Callaway Minnesota to ski through the enchanted winter forests and experience the infamous bottomless cookie jar. “The first day I met Ania, she told me about Maplelag,” said Coach Allie who realized quickly she had big expectations to fill. Not only was she responsible for coordinating another winter training trip- but the kids were also expecting her to provide perfect winter snow-cover, across Minnesota, all season long.

The team had been anticipating this year’s trip for some time. Allie had set up an arrangement with Rainbow Resort near Grand Rapids Minnesota. Rainbow Resort has trails disseminating from their doorstep, and the staff was looking forward to hosting the team. Yet, despite these carefully laid plans, the snow-cast did not look good. Similar to the Cities, Northern Minnesota was pretty brown. Un-jaded from experiencing dry winters in their past, the innocent Anwatin Ski Team was about to learn cross-country skiing’s most painful truth: sometimes you just don’t get any snow. Despite propositioning Mother Nature (you give me snow and I promise that I’ll never complain about another cold day in my life) Allie did not get lucky. There was little snow “Up North” and the kids knew it. She struggled to keep their spirits high.

But Allie had some creative tricks up her sleeve. The kids would still get ample ski training as she transformed the ski trip into a “dryland training retreat”. On Saturday, the kids bounced between technique and balance work on land, to a waxing workshop at Rainbow’s waxing facility, to double pole relays on the lake and wrapped up the evening with a game of capture the flag. With the much anticipated Spaghetti Bake dinner followed with brownies and ice cream provided by Rainbow Resort – the kids transitioned into indoor mode and spent the rest of the evening thoroughly engrossed with games in the lodge. “It’s so funny,” remarked Allie after observing the kids. “You spend all day motivating them to exert energy, and then during their “down time” is actually when they are the most energized.” On Sunday, the kids were in for an even bigger surprise…

Rising just after the crack of dawn, the Anwatin Ski Team launched to witness their first biathlon competition. Not far from Rainbow Resort, Mt. Itasca was hosting a professional biathlon race, and the Anwatin Ski team was going to watch the racers, and then participate in the competition itself. The kids had practiced shooting with tennis balls during the summer- but this was their first time with the combination of rifles, targets and skis. “What kinds of guns are we using?” insisted Muaj, who has taken hunter safety with his father. The kids were able to take some practice shots before the race which consisted of three laps and two shooting stations, covering a distance of about 2 kilometers.

“From a coaching standpoint, it was neat to see who the kids become when they are racing,” said Allie who was watching the team compete for the first time as their coach. “While kids will have a tendency to goof off or get distracted during practice, everyone becomes so focused when we race.” The kids were eager to share their feelings of accomplishment with their Allie as well. “Xavier would tell me how many shots he made while passing me on the course. “Great job,” I’d shout, “keep going!” They were really proud of themselves.” Former Anwatin Coach John Swain joined the group as a chaperone and noticed sizeable improvements with the young athletes all fronts. “Must have been all that mountain biking you did over the summer!” he told the group.

This is just the beginning of a season of racing for the Anwatin Ski Team. Their next race is the Peace Coffee Pre-Loppet which takes place Jan. 7th.