It’s already July and UAA coaches are working to secure last-minute signers to their teams. Head Ski Coach Sparky Anderson has been successful in his attempts, adding four official athletes to his alpine ski team.
Two Canadians, one Alaskan and one Norwegian will be joining the rest of the team in the fall.
Didrik Nilsen will travel the farthest to join the Seawolves; the Olso, Norway native is coming to UAA with a ton of experience from Europe.
Nilsen has been skiing for as long as he can remember, ever since he started visiting his family’s cabin in Kvitfjell, Norway in 2001. He was eager to choose an option for college that allowed him to continue competing.
“I sent Sparky [Anderson] an email just to see what my possibilities were… I knew a few people who went/are now attending UAA and they told me a lot of good things and I’ve seen a ton of cool stuff of social [media,]” Nilsen said in an email.
Nilsen explained that coming from Europe, he wanted to choose somewhere unique. He didn’t know anyone else from his country who had been come to UAA. Experiencing this new adventure on his own was something that was appealing to him.
“[I want to be] an all-American, hopefully, win some races and do a couple podiums at the NCAA finals and represent UAA and the ski team the best way I can,” Nilsen said.
Coming from Canada are Liam Wallace and Kristina Natalenko.
A talented skier and recent member of the Canadian National Team from Alberta, Wallace is a pick that Anderson worked hard to get. Wallace decided to end up at UAA for both the environmental and social aspects.
“I have been to the campus once earlier this summer to check out the scene… I really felt drawn to Alaska due to the person I am,” Wallace said. “Also, the ski team has lots of people I get along with and can see myself progressing there.”
Wallace has ample experience that he will be bringing to the Seawolves. He won the Canadian U18 slalom championships which earned him his national team spot, after already being named to the Alberta Ski Team in 2016.
Both Anderson and Wallace’s current coaches are working together for his transition to UAA.
“As far as skiing goes, I just want to progress my skills and enjoy it as much as possible,” Wallace said.
In addition to Wallace, another Canadian will be joining in the fall. Natalenko comes to UAA after being a previous member of the British Colombia Team.
Anderson is excited to have Natalenko join the team. He expects her to progress well after recently winning the British Colombia FIS Cup Overall Championship in both 2017 and 2018.
In addition, the health sciences major to-be is the 2018 champion of the U19 super-G national race and finished in the top-10 of the Nor-Am Cup super-G.
The final addition joining this fall is the first local that Anderson has successfully recruited since 2009. Sky Kelsey is an Anchorage resident that has seen success on a national level.
Anderson first caught a glimpse of Kelsey years ago and had his sight on pursuing him to the team since. However, Kelsey has always been motivated to stay in Alaska.
“I hope to inspire the next wave of racers and give back what I can to my community to continue the tradition of racing in Alaska,” Kelsey said.
Kelsey said that Anderson’s perseverance and dedication will help the team become competitive on the NCAA circuit this upcoming season. In addition, he hopes to bring some enthusiasm back to Alaska for alpine skiing.
With his experience, Kelsey believes he has the ability to bring competitiveness to the Seawolves. When he was 16 years old, he was recruited to a national skiing team to race in the North American Cup Circuit in the wintertime.
While the new four recruits have plenty of training with the Seawolves ahead of them, the season doesn’t take off until November 2018 for the Alaska Cup.