Advice from Olympic gold medalist sparks girls nordic ski team


Photo submitted by Ana Weaver

Junior Ana Weaver skied at the Suburban East conference meet last year. Weaver and her teammates hope to have another successful season, with many returners skiing again this year.

Allison Benning, Podcast Reporter

Jessie Diggins’ gold medal victory in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea inspired the whole community, but she has affected a specific group more than anyone else.

“She has impacted me because she’s just a really good person,” junior Liv Myers said. “She’ll talk about things that she struggled with in high school and it’s just really relatable knowing that she did a lot of the same things I’m doing right now.”

The girls nordic ski team got advice, messages of good luck and traditions, such as wearing glitter during races, from the Olympic skier. Diggins, who graduated in 2010, skied for co-head coach Kris Hansen while competing in high school. During her six years on the varsity team, she won two team state championships, 2008 and 2010. Hansen described Diggins as humble, hard working and exceptionally dedicated.

Nordic skiing, opposed to alpine, is also known as cross-country skiing. Each race, according to the MSHSL, is just over three miles. That can be daunting not only physically, but mentally as well.

“Skiing is pretty hard mentally during races,” Myers explained. “So remembering why we wear glitter, because I love skiing and I love the team, and that’s why I want to ski fast.”

Diggins’ words of wisdom have made a long-lasting impact on the current team. In the state tournament, they won by seven points over Forest Lake, with four skiers placing in the top 20 to claim the state title.

Senior Sydney Peterson explained Diggins’ advice really helped the team, “when we won state a few years ago because it really helped us all come together as a team and do well.”

She’s been a world champion, an Olympic champion, a national champion and a state champion. You don’t establish yourself as one of the best in the world at your sport and not make an impression.”

— Kris Hansen

“She’s been a world champion, an Olympic champion, a national champion and a state champion,” Hansen added. “You don’t establish yourself as one of the best in the world at your sport and not make an impression.”

Even though she is busy training for the next Winter Olympics, Diggins likes to make time to help out her hometown team.

According to Peterson, Diggins “likes to communicate with our head coach on a regular basis. So for being so integrated, she’s made [an impact].”

“I am always proud and happy when skiers who graduated from our program return to work with us,” Hansen said. “It makes me feel like we created a positive environment on the team.”

Since placing third in the state tournament last year, the team has several strong goals. They are poised to have another successful season this year, with many skiers from last year’s team coming back. Those returners include senior Libby Tuttle, who placed third individually in the state tournament last year.

“I’d love to have our team win state again,” Myers explained. “That would be really awesome, and I think we can do it.”

“When you have the privilege of working closely with someone who is as accomplished and as exceptional as Jessie is, I think you’re stupid to not learn as much as you can, and selfish to not share the insights you gain,” Hansen explained.

“Jessie isn’t someone who’s pretty good. She is literally one of the very best in the world. Most people never even get to meet an Olympic gold medalist…I get to count one amongst my closest friends. You better believe I’m going to share the ‘secrets’ of her success with my athletes every chance I get,” Hansen added.