What’s the official name of this ski team? Team Birkie
Where is it located? Minneapolis, Minnesota (also: Hayward, Wisconsin)
Who’s the coach? Caitlin Gregg (Program Director and Coach), Leo Hipp (Coach), Matt Clarke (Assistant Coach)
Who’s on the roster this season? Zak Ketterson, Xavier Mansfield, Gus Schatzlein, Erin Bianco, Renae Anderson, Julie Ensrud, Tony Mathie, and Andrew Millan
What’s different from last year? Per coach Leo Hipp, “We have four new athletes joining the pro team this year, Renae Anderson, Erin Bianco, Xavier Mansfield, and Gus Schatzlein. We are also starting the year with an athlete on the World Cup, Zak Ketterson.” Christian Gostout has moved on.
What were some highlights of last season? Again per Leo Hipp, who is frankly doing a lot of this reporter’s job for him (thanks Leo!), “The headline results are Zak Ketterson’s successes on the World Cup circuit. Zak had an individual 15th place in the Falun 15km skate and then skied the 2nd leg on the 4x5km mixed relay that took gold the next day [see Instagram post above]. Zak also podiumed in 8 Supertour races, winning 4 of them (3 sprint and 1 distance). Along with Zak, several other athletes found career best results throughout the season. Julie Ensrud skied to an 18th place finish in the 20km skate at U.S. National Championships, where newcomer Renae Anderson finished in 19th. Ingrid Thyr started the season off with a bang in Duluth, MN, finishing 12th in the skate sprint.
“Some top results from newcomers include Renae Anderson finishing 10th (All-American) in the 15km skate at the NCAA Championships, 18th in the classic sprint at U.S. National Championships, and also representing the US at the 2021 U23 World Championships. Erin Bianco finished 12th in the 15km skate at NCAA Championships and also posted a top 10 SuperTour result in Craftsbury, VT, earning a 9th place in the 10km classic. Xavier Mansfield finished in 19th in the 20km skate at NCAA Championships, and also had a college career best 2nd place finish in the 10km classic at the CCSA Regional Championships.”
What does the coach have to say? Here’s Hipp again, verbatim for the entirety of this section:
The team has been training in full swing since the beginning of May. Most athletes found themselves in Minneapolis by early May while a few finishing up college joined in early June. By early June, the group size for training was the largest we have ever had in the Twin Cities, which was a pretty awesome thing to see. The Pro Team athletes are accompanied year-round by a group of Marathon Team athletes, and also by athletes in the summer who are a part of our College Program, which capped out at 25 athletes this summer. Having around 25-30 high level skiers training together 6 days a week made for an extremely strong group of athletes who could all learn from and push each other day in and day out.
Outside of daily summer training grind in the Minneapolis area, athletes went on training camps to Park City, Utah; Marquette, MI; Jericho, VT; and Thunder Bay, Ontario. The goals of each of these camps were slightly different, but all fit into the greater goals of improving of our program to improve the strength of skiing in the central region. To kick off the camp schedule, we headed to Park City in early June with the goal of getting in a volume period at altitude before the potential of smoke season. It was definitely earlier than our athletes normally travel to a training camp, but it turned out to be a really great success. It is always great to get in some sessions at Soldier Hollow, too!
We then headed to Marquette in early July to be involved with the Central REG Camp as athletes, coaches, and mentors. The crew got to get in a really solid week of training including mid-summer time trial efforts in the uphill run, uphill double pole, and skate agility tests. Team Birkies inclusion in the camp felt like a really nice addition to the already high level of training and professionalism at these REG Camps.
In late July we headed to Vermont to chase vertical and collaborate with other high level programs. This was our largest camp, with almost all of the athletes in our college program making the trip out East. While out East, we got to collaborate with programs like the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, SMS T2, and USST athletes for intervals and time trials. Also, GMVS nicely let us use their facilities for strength training! Here’s the crew summiting one of many peaks during the two week stay in Vermont:
To cap off the summer, we headed to Thunder Bay, Ontario where we also got to collaborate with another high level program. NTDC Thunder Bay is located in Thunder Bay and is a Canadian program for professional skiers. We collabed with them for an intensity week, which was a perfect way to end our last true summer training block as we start to shift our training focus from volume to intensity. Here is a picture from our last OD along the North Shore of Lake Superior:
As summer is coming to an end, the group size has shrunk a bit with athletes from the College Program heading back to their respective universities, but we feel a real steam of momentum as we are gearing up for some challenging training this Fall! It is exciting and motivating to see athletes showing serious improvements from both last year and from earlier this summer in time trials, lab testing, and technique prowess.
Looking into the fall, we will be doing a small camp in Hayward, WI in late September to run in their Trail Half Marathon. Shortly after that, the team will be heading back to Park City, Utah for two weeks to again get in some quality time at altitude and to also align with the US Ski Team and with other clubs from around the country who will be there. After that we will settle down in Minneapolis to do our final preparations for the training season, which we will be kicking off in Silverstar, BC where the first SuperTours are being held. We are extremely excited for the road ahead and hope to have a successful 2nd year for the program.
What do the athletes have to say? Here’s Zak Ketterson: “I am super excited to be returning to Team Birkie for a second year. I’m really proud of how I raced last season and the support network with Team Birkie was a huge reason for that. I love Minneapolis, my coaches, and my teammates and I can’t wait to keep showing the world that the Midwest is a place where skiers can reach a really high level.”