by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River emerged as one of the state’s best Nordic Ski programs this winter and one big reason was Nate Webster, a straight-A scholar, student leader and three-sport athlete.
Webster was the No. 2 skier, close behind Jake Schroeder, on an Elk team that was at least one of the top four in the state. He led a trio of Elk qualifiers at the state meet last Thursday with a 29th-place finish after Schroeder just missed state because he had flu at sectionals.
“Nate made the choice to really push this season and he did the summer training and all the extras,” said coach Kirsten Anderson. “He had a great cross country season and then did really well with us. He is pretty athletic. He does not have as much natural ability as Jake, and has to work a lot harder. Those boys worked really well together.”
The Elks were ranked fourth in the state, due to a fourth-place finish at the huge Mesabi Invitational that had all the top teams. Unfortunately, the Elks were in the same section as Eden Prairie, the No. 1 team. Eden Prairie won the Mesabi meet, and the state meet on the same course. The Elks were a close second to the Eagles at sectionals at Theodore Wirth Park.
Webster noted that he had his only bad race of the season at the Mesabi Invitational, coming off a bad cold, or the Elks would done even better there. “I really think we could have been state runner-up,” he declared, “if we had been in another section and gone to state.”
Webster, who’d been a swimmer previously, decided in ninth grade to make Nordic Ski his winter sport. Asked if their was any family history in the sport, he said, “My parents skied a little, and I’m Norwegian, so there must have been some skiers back there.”
Webster is also in cross country and track but skiing is his best sport.
He lettered in 10th grade and placed 34th at the section meet, then started to make his mark as a junior, placing 10th in the conference and 20th in the section. This year he made a big jump, finishing third in the conference meet — helping the Elks win the NWSC championship — and sixth in the section to earn his first state trip.
“I really started to work at skiing in 11th grade with summer training. I did roller-skiing for technique and running for endurance,” said Webster, who worked out with other Elk leaders on the bike paths at Elk Creek and Woodland Trails.
At state, the 6-foot, 160-pound Webster was 45th after the skate portion, then moved up 17 placed to 29th in the classic portion, his stronger race.
“I was pretty tired at the end. I sprinted the last kilometer to try pass a kid from Ely,” said Webster, whose time of 31:49.6 missed all-state by 10 seconds.
Webster also made big strides in cross country this year, improving from 55th in the conference as a junior to 30th as a senior, third-best on a team that finished sixth. He then placed 27th at Section 7AA, fourth on the team that peaked that day to capture the championship and advance to state. “It was an awesome experience,” he said of the Elks’ surprising rise to the section title.
Mike Niziolek, CC coach, said of Webster’s career: “He got better and better. He has tremendous focus when he puts his mind to doing something.”
Webster didn’t have a good state CC race, placing 159th, but did much better in his second state meet of the year at Mesabi.
Anderson said Webster was an excellent asset to the team in many ways.
“He has a good sense of humor and will do anything you ask, and helps the other skiers. He’s been great to have on the team. A very good captain.”
Webster carries a 4.0 GPA, serves National Honor Society vice-president and Spanish Club president, and has a keen interest in government and politics. He plans to continue skiing next year at St. Olaf and major in political science.
THE WEBSTER SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 17 … Family: parents Nancy and Mitch; brother Collin, 14 … Sports: cross country, Nordic Ski, track … Other activities: National Honor Society (vice president), Spanish Club (president), LINK … Academics: 4.0 GPA … College plans: St. Olaf, political science, skiing
Favorite stuff — Class: AP Government … TV show: “Modern Family” … Movies: “Princess Bride” and “Lincoln” … Music: Imagine Dragons (alternative group) … Food: Chipotle fare, especially burritoes … Drink: water … Team: Twins … Athlete: Jessie Diggins … Reading: “Hunger Games,” “Walden,” Newsweek and National Geographic … Kickback activities: reading, playing piano, fishing, tubing, water skiing …. Would like to visit: the monasteries of Tibet