The University of Wyoming's Nordic ski program hasn't been a varsity sport since the early 1990s. That hasn't stopped UW from becoming a national power as a club sport; the men's and women's teams have won a combined nine United States Collegiate Ski Association national championships in the past seven years. Even with that success, UW coach Christi Boggs was surprised when she found out late last year that the Cowboys and Cowgirls had been selected to participate in the upcoming Winter World University Games, which begin Wednesday in Erzurum, Turkey.
"My initial reaction was complete shock," Boggs said. "I actually said to [the selection committee], 'You know we're not the fastest team in the nation?'" UW, which competes in NCAA Division II, did, however, meet other requirements in addition to its success nationally. Whereas most DI teams are comprised primarily of European skiers, the UW teams have a distinct American presence. More impressively, eight of the 14 UW skiers expected to compete in the Winter World University Games are Wyoming natives. "[The selection committee] said they needed a full American team, and they were aware of our club status," Boggs said. "They also said they wanted a team that specifically was about more than just speed." With a team grade-point average of 3.52 and the experience gained from holding multiple fund raisers, the UW program definitely qualified. MAKING ENDS MEET Boggs estimates that it cost each UW team member about $2,500 to attend the event, a large portion of which the team was able to raise through auctions and other fundraising events. "We haven't raised it all," Boggs said, "but we are close. "[UW] Campus Recreation has allowed us to run a deficit, which means that we pay for everything and we're going to Turkey, but that we still owe them money." Boggs added that the student-athletes will get back to fundraising when they return, mainly to assure that they will be able to defend their DII national championships March 8-12 in Sun Valley, Idaho. "We have to fund everything," Boggs said. "We raised enough money to fund [the trip to Turkey], but not enough to fund both that and our regular season." For now, though, fundraising is likely the furthest thing on the minds of the UW contingent. 'A HUGE OPPORTUNITY' UW junior Morgan Cropsey, a two-time all-state skier for Natrona County High School, had the chance to continue her racing career at a school that offered Nordic skiing as a varsity sport. Instead, Cropsey chose to attend UW. "I had looked at possibly skiing at Montana or Montana State or St. Olaf [Minnesota]," Cropsey, the women's team captain, said. "But I'm so glad I chose UW. The coaches are amazing and the whole team concept is very different than it is for varsity teams at other schools." There's also the added bonus that Cropsey and her teammates get to spend the next two weeks competing in the Winter World University Games. "It's finally starting to sink in that we're going," Cropsey said. "This is a huge opportunity that not many people get, especially with us being a club sport. "This is just a huge experience for a lot of people to see what is involved in an international competition like this." THE EVENT Boggs, who represented UW at the Winter World University Games in 1993, is realistic about her teams' chances in Turkey. "I do not expect us to place extremely well, but I do not expect us to be hanging off the back," Boggs said. "I expect us to be in the pack, which will be good." Considering the level of some of the competition, finishing in the pack would be a solid accomplishment. While some teams, like UW, will send actual student-athletes, others use the event as a training ground for some of their elite, or professional, athletes. Boggs expects the experience to be a positive one for the UW contingent. "Overall, it's going to be an amazing experience," she said. "It's a great chance for these kids to get some international experience ... being able to race internationally is a big deal for anybody. We watch World Cup races and now we get to compete in a similar event." Boggs added that the competition itself could pale in comparison to the overall experience of the whole event, which is regarded as a smaller version of the Olympic Games. "It's an Olympic-style event, so we'll be staying in an Olympic-style village," Boggs said. "And once we land in Istanbul, they will have people to take care of us. "Really, the stuff that surround the whole event is wonderful ... it's extremely special." Obviously, that's something the Winter World University Games and the UW Nordic Ski Club have in common. Source: By Jack Nowlin - Star Tribune staff writer
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07