Introducing Nome-Beltz School’s new varsity-level ski team

Ski team students lined ip outside in snow with coaches

Nome-Beltz Middle High School added a new varsity-level sport to its list. Before spring semester 2022, cross country skiing only existed at Nome-Beltz as a club sport. Now, it is a school-sponsored and funded sport: the Nome-Beltz Ski/Biathlon Team.

“Nome has attended WISA for many years, that’s the Western Interior Ski Association Championships. Nome has always participated as Nome Nordic, and so now we are just participating as a school sport as the rest of the Interior Schools do, and as Bering Strait does as well,” Coach Rosa Wright said.

Wright and the other ski coaches at Nome-Beltz had to seek approval from the administration and the school board. Upon approval, the school agreed to fund coaches’ salaries and equipment. With new funding from the school, the team was able to get extra equipment, and uniforms featuring the team’s new Nome-Beltz logo, Wright said.

While the ski season was in session, the team practiced 3 times a week on some new trails around the high school.

“But, the kids actually have been participating in helping groom trails, clear brush, all that kind of thing as kind of a community service thing. They’ve been working on creating those trails to offer them to community members as well,” Wright said.

The Nome-Beltz Middle and High school students practiced with Anvil City Science Academy. The practices started off gently but focused more on workouts as the season progressed. They described this season as their “maiden voyage.” Wright explained the coaching team as still figuring out what kind of training works best for the team.

The practices were open to everyone, and the number of skiers could be anywhere from six to 15. From young children to high schoolers, kids showed up with skill and interest levels ranging from experienced competitors to kids who just want to have fun.

“We have a couple kids from the team this year who had never seen snow before moving here, and so they skied for the first time. And then we’ve had kids that have skied previously, maybe in other villages or have been skiing through Nome Nordic as well. We’ve had kids who’ve skied with us for two days and then decided that skiing wasn’t for them, and we’ve had kids who’ve stuck it out all season,” Wright said.

Wright added that the team’s first meet helped to spark some competitiveness in kids who’d initially just joined for fun.

As for the coaches, their main desire is to get kids outside in a “human-powered way,” showing kids that they can face and enjoy Alaska’s wintry outdoors without the help of snow machines or the like, Wright said.

During their season, the team attended two meets: the Western Interior Ski Association’s Championship in Unalakleet, and an invitational, with teams from Brevig Mission and Teller, right here in Nome.

We just hosted a ski race on Friday, and then we paired our kids with the Brevig and Teller kids and had them do a relay race the second day,” Wright said.

The kids did great in both meets, but what makes Wright most proud of her team is the sense of good sportsmanship they’ve displayed throughout the season.

“So one of the things that we’ve really been focusing on this year is really having that sportsmanship piece and just being good people. We celebrate when we fall because it means we are learning. And whenever we race, the kids cheer for everybody, it’s not just our team. They really showed a level of maturity and respect for other people they were racing with. Winning is awesome, but these kids really did more than just winning and that was to conduct themselves with such grace and sportsmanship,” Wright said.

The Nome Beltz Ski/Biathlon Team ended its inaugural season last weekend with the home invitational. The team’s goals for next year include fundraising and traveling more, Wright said.

Image up top: The team at the Nome Invitational. Image courtesy of Nome-Beltz student activities. Used with permission (2022).