News & Stories
Team Birkie Launches
July 2, 2021
Three of the largest cross country ski organizations in the Central Region combine forces to start a professional racing team
Central Cross Country Skiing (CXC), the Loppet Foundation, and the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) are teaming up to create a high performance cross-country ski racing team – so that the next Jessie Diggins can stay home to train, inspire future generations, and win Olympic medals. Team Birkie is based out of The Trailhead at Theodore Wirth Park, the Loppet Foundation’s headquarters in Minneapolis. The team will conduct training camps in the Hayward/Cable area and around the central region, as well as training and competition trips around North America.
By many measures, the central region has the strongest ski community in the nation, but top local athletes often leave the area to train with programs like Craftsbury Racing Project, Stratton Mountain School (SMS), Alaska Pacific University (APU), and Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF) once they have graduated from college. For example, SMS is the club team of choice for Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins and American Birkebeiner Champions Alayna Sonnesyn and Ian Torchia, all of whom are originally from Minnesota. With Team Birkie, athletes from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan will now have a World Class training opportunity in the central region.
Loppet Sport Director, Piotr Bednarski, has been laying the groundwork for the past three years to launch this team, most recently with the creation of this past year’s Loppet Nordic Racing High Performance Team. “We are confident athletes can market themselves better when in the communities that they grew up in. By training here, at home, these top athletes can help elevate the training level and profile of ski racing in the central region,” said Piotr Bednarski. “The top American competitor at this year’s NCAA Championship’s, Zak Ketterson, has decided to join Team Birkie over other top clubs in the country. With great coaching, race support, and talented training partners, we are confident that Zak and his teammates will be well prepared for Olympic qualification.”
The name “Team Birkie” plays homage to one of the first clubs to promote high level training for juniors, seniors, and masters in the 1990’s, based in the Twin Cities and Hayward area. Led by former U.S. Ski Team Coach Steve Gaskill, Team Birkie helped several athletes achieve World Cup and Olympic starts. Steve Gaskill’s lasting legacy with Team Birkie was educating and mentoring many Midwest coaches who continue to coach and organize cross-country ski programs around the country.
The Coaching Staff
The coaching staff will be led by the 2015 World Championships bronze medalist and 2010 Olympian Caitlin Compton Gregg (email@example.com). Caitlin has competed at 5 World Championships – four times for Cross Country Skiing and once for Biathlon. She has also won the American Birkebeiner more times than any other athlete, and has many City of Lakes Loppet wins under her belt as well. A U.S. Ski Team Alum and an 8-time National Champion, Caitlin has been living and training in the Minneapolis area for over 15 years and knows how to maximize every inch of terrain in our urban playground. She has used her creativity to compete and succeed at the highest level in the sport of cross-country skiing. She and her husband Brian Gregg, also a 2014 Olympian, started Team Gregg in 2013 and have enjoyed pushing their limits to succeed in results and marketing on the World Stage. When not coaching or taking care of her young daughter Heidi, Caitlin enjoys sharing her passion for health and the outdoors with the youth in her North Minneapolis community.
Caitlin will be supported by Assistant Coaches Leo Hipp and Jeremy Hecker. In addition to a great coaching staff, Midwestern legends of cross-country skiing Brian Gregg and Matt Liebsch will act as mentors and training partners to the athletes, regularly joining the team for training sessions and sharing their years of Olympic and World Cup racing/training experience with the younger athletes.
Central Cross Country Skiing, the Loppet Foundation, and the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation
The three largest cross country ski organizations in the central region have been working together closely for the past year to create Team Birkie.
This collaborative effort is summed up by Ben Popp, Executive Director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, who said, “Affording these athletes an opportunity to strive to be the best in the world takes a village, and we are excited to be a part of it.”
Having the entire central region supporting Team Birkie athletes is the key to long term success of this program, which Executive Director of the Loppet Foundation Claire Wilson touched on when she said, “We are thrilled to be part of this regional collaboration – not only by our three organizations, but looking to all central ski clubs, citizen ski races, and ski shops.”
“A high-performance team is a much-needed athlete development program for the region that will provide a platform for the regional best athletes to excel and play mentorship roles to clubs and coaches around the region,” said CXC Executive Director Yuriy Gusev whose organization is the governing body for cross country skiing in the central region and providing a pipeline for local skiers to the national team.
Athletes Named to Team Birkie
Zak Ketterson competing at the U23 World Championships. Photo by Doug Stephen.
Team Birkie athletes:
- Zak Ketterson (Bloomington, MN)
- Christian Gostout (Rochester, MN)
- Abbie Drach (Eden Prairie, MN)
- Amanda Kautzer (Minneapolis, MN)
- Ingrid Thyr (Minneapolis, MN)
- Julie Ensrud (Saltnes, Norway)
- Jordan Schuster (Minnetonka, MN)
- Tony Mathie (Edinboro, PA)
- Andrew Millan (Wayzata, MN)
Summer Development Team athletes:
- Lars Dewall (St Scholastica College, Afton, MN)
- Joe Lynch (St Scholastica College, St Anthony, MN)
- Gus Schlatzein (St Scholastica College, Savage, MN)
- Peter Carlen (St Olaf College, St Paul, MN)
- Xavier Mansfield (Northern Michigan University, Minneapolis, MN)
- Henry Snider (Michigan Tech, Mounds View, MN)
- Libby Tuttle (University of Vermont, Stilwater, MN)
- Matt Clarke (St Scholastica, Bloomington, MN)
- PJ Rubin (St Scholastica, Bloomington, MN))
- Tryg Solberg (Michigan Tech University,Minneapolis, MN)
- Calvin Boone (St Scholastica, hometown, MN)
- Charlotte Brown (Saint Lawrence University, St Paul, MN)
- CJ Young (University of Green Bay, hometown, MN)
- Charlie Reinhardt (Saint Lawrence University, Mound, MN)
- Nick Kjome (St Scholastica, Maple Grove, MN)
- Cole Johnson (Colby,St Paul, MN)
- Renae Anderson (Bowdoin College, Hopkins, MN)
- Ben Boetler (St Scholastica, St Cloud, MN)
We are still accepting applications for the 2021-2022 season. Email Caitlin Gregg, firstname.lastname@example.org, with a statement of your goals and a summary of your results.
Visit the Team Birkie Website for more information on team criteria, training camps, and race schedule
There are multiple ways to support Team Birkie: