Sam Hanson leads Nordic team to success

Sam Hanson is testing the course of leadership and responsibility as the only junior captain of the Nordic Ski team.

“It’s fun but also comes with a lot of responsibility. It’s nice to have input on what we do for practice and gain experience,” said Hanson.

Hanson took Nordic up after watching his brothers compete on the team.

“It looked really fun, you go really fast down hills and it looked crazy and dangerous,” explained Hanson.

Hanson, along with seniors Quentin Ikuta, Matt Trumper and Linder Wendt are the captains of the largest Nordic team in the country. These four are just captains for the boys team, the girls team has four female captains.

“[The team] is really big-it’s hard to be organized. Having four captains is nice because we can split the team up,” said Hanson. Since the team is so big, varsity and junior varsity teams rarely see one another. “As a captain I have to help lead practice on Fridays and create the team apparel. I also have to lead warm up and cool down and ski at a comfortable pace,” said Hanson.

Ikuta said, “We have to make sure everyone on the team has a great experience and makes Nordic a lifelong sport.”

Sophomore Nolan Noer competes under Hanson and Ikuta’s leadership.

“I thought it would be fun and exciting. I like to race,” said Noer. “The best parts are all the inside jokes we have and the friends I’ve made.”

The Star Tribune in December ranked Stillwater third, trailing only behind Section 4 rival Forest Lake, and St. Louis Park, a strong contender from Section 6.

“[Nordic] provides a dynamic environment that is as competitive as you can make it, but it is also fun,” said Ikuta.

“Nordic is a lifelong sport that makes winter enjoyable, especially in Stillwater. It is very accessible because the community is involved,” said Ikuta.”

— Quentin Ikuta

Ikuta was on the Star Tribune’s list of the top 10 skiers to watch. He finished 28th (just one place behind Hanson) at last season’s state meet, located in Biwabik. In addition, SkinnySki, a national Nordic Ski website, listed Hanson and sophomore Shad Kraftson as being on the cusp of skiers ready to break into the top ten rankings at the state meet.

The 2014-2015 Section 4 meet will begin on Feb. 5 at Battle Creek Regional Park. According to SkinnySki, the battle for a section win will be tough with Stillwater and Forest Lake chasing the championship.

The MSHSL has changed the format of the state meet this year: the top two teams will advance along with the top six skiers that are not on a state-bound team. This will increase the size of the state meet and make it possible to win a team title, even if the team is not advancing to state.

“Nordic is a lifelong sport that makes winter enjoyable, especially in Stillwater. It is very accessible because the community is involved,” said Ikuta.