Athlete of the week: Mitch Nordahl, Elk River, Nordic Ski: Self-propelled

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Mitch Nordahl is eager to embrace any self-propelled mode of travel, any new way to try go fast.

Already a Nordic Skier in the winter, and distance runner in the fall and spring, the Elk River senior took up competitive bicycling last summer. He had a good rookie season in his new sport and found it had other benefits.

“Cycling served as really good cross training, too,” he said. “I picked up a lot of speed (running) after I started.”

Mitch Nordahl is a three-time all-conference skier and has twice gone to the state meet.

Nordahl’s best sport is skiing. He made all-conference three times and went to state twice, finishing Thursday with a 77th-place finish at state while battling illness.

A slight athlete (5-foot-6, 120 pounds) with modest natural ability, Nordahl gives every sport his best shot. Also an Eagle Scout, he lives up to the “be prepared” motto.

“MItch is good because he works hard every chance he gets. He is a tenacious athlete, a real fighter out there,” said Elk ski coach Kirsten Anderson. “Endurance and strength are keys. He just keeps improving.”

In conference meets, Nordahl placed 26th as a sophomore, 13th as a junior and seventh as a senior for his all-conference awards.  At sectionals, he qualified for state by placing 13th last year and ninth this year.

In cross country, Nordahl was a top-seven runner on the team for three years and led the Elks most of his senior season when he placed 25th in the conference, then 12th in the section meet, missing state by two places.  Coach Mike Niziolek cited Nordahl for “excellent focus” and vast improvement from 10th to 12th grade.

“His cycling last summer brought quite an improvement to him,” said Niziolek. “You can see there is merit to cross training. Mitch really exemplifies a multi-sport athlete.”

Nordahl has lettered since ninth grade in track as a middle of the pack 1600 and 3200 runner. Not overly fast, he does better in  longer distances.

He  started competitive biking last spring with the MN Junior Cycling Team coached by Dag Selander.

“I had always enjoyed riding bike, and my (Nordic) teammate, Aaron Shaw, suggested I join the team. He was already a member,” said Nordahl.

The team raced once or twice each weekend, anywhere from 10 to 54 miles on the road. Nordahl was usually among the leaders, capped by a first-palce finish among 20 contestants in the 36-mile Minnesota Cycling Federation state road race  at Avon, and fourth in the state Cyclocross meet in snow on Nov. 4 in Crystal Park.

“Mitch is a real go-getter,” said Selander. “He leaves it all out on the field, or road. He is not afraid to try anything.”

He’s been a devoted Boy Scout since first grade. His Eagle Scout project in 2009  was helping build a patio at his family’s church in St. Louis Park.

Nordahl plans on being a lifelong athlete: “I will keep on biking the rest of my life, and skiing, and I’m planning to do triathlons, too.” Triathlons are running, biking and swimming. “I’m not much of a swimmer yet,” he said. So that will be the next mode of travel to challenge  him.

The Nordahl scorecard

Mitch Nordahl

Personal file– Age: 17 … Family: parents Steve and Teresa; sisters Kayla, 20, and Bella, 15 … Sports: cross country, Nordic Ski, track … Academics: “B” average … Other activity: Boy Scouts (is an Eagle) … College plans: currently PSEO at Anoka-Ramsey; next year North Dakota State, mechanical engineering

Favorite stuff – Class: Dynamics … TV show: “I like ‘ Outscourced,’ but I don’t have much time for TV.” … Food: pasta … Drink: water … Team: “None in particular” … Athletes: “My coaches, they have the most impact on me” … Place he’d like to visit: Australia and Europe

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