Many local youth and adults enjoy cross-country skiing as a great form of exercise and a way to enjoy winter thanks to the Vasaloppet, the Nordic Ski Center, snowmaking, the Fast Track youth ski program, the Mora High School ski team and great local ski trails. Several youth do not only enjoy Nordic skiing as recreation, but have taken their love of the sport to a higher level.
One such individual is Mora High School senior, Cooper Lennox. He earned the honor of becoming an All-American for the second time by placing seventh out of 100 of the best 17- and 18-year-old male cross-country skiers in the United States. He did this in the 10 kilometer Individual Start Classic ski race on Monday, March 9, at the Junior National Championships at Donner Pass, California.
Unfortunately, he only got to ski in one of the three races that were scheduled. Lennox missed qualifying for the 30 spots in the second race of the week which was a sprint race by finishing 32nd in the qualifying time trial. The third race was to be a mass start 10K freestyle skate race on Friday. However, to everyone’s disappointment it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. So, the 500 skiers at Nationals had to go home. “It was kind of a tough end to the season that’s for sure,” said Lennox. “The awards ceremony was canceled. The medals and certificates were given to the coaches to give to the skiers.”
Donner Pass is at 7,000 feet in elevation. The 50 Midwest skiers went to California two days early to get better acclimated to the elevation. Lennox found that it was a big change and much different than skiing around Mora.
He said that he was kind of nervous the day before the first race knowing that it was one of his last races for the year. “I tried to stay relaxed because I had confidence in the wax techs and knew that I would have fast skis,” he added. “I knew that I had trained all these years for this and that the wax would be running great. It was a long race so I started out carefully and made sure that I had enough left for the second half. I felt good the whole race. It was an exciting and fun atmosphere. Parents and coaches were running around everywhere. There was always something going on.”
Lennox ended up being the top placing skier of the 50 Midwest skiers in all of the three age groups. They were U16-14 and 15-year-olds, U 18-16 and 17-year-olds and U20-18 and 19-year- olds. The finishing times in the 10K Classic race revealed that if he had been one year older and in the U20 age group, he would have been a national champion. That is because all seven of the top U18 male skiers had faster times than all of the U20 male skiers.
This was the third year in a row that Lennox has earned a trip to the Junior Nationals. Two years ago, he earned his first All-American honor by placing fifth as a U16 skier in the mass start 5K freestyle skate race at the Junior Nationals held at Soldier Hollow Olympic Ski Area in Utah.
The Junior Nationals are sanctioned by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. Lennox qualified for Junior Nationals by skiing in qualifying races on four different weekends between December and February. He and other Mora youth skiers were in some or all of the races held in Duluth; Houghton, Michigan; Coleraine and at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis. Each skier earned points towards Junior Nationals trips from their best four out of eight qualifying races.
Lennox got his start skiing by skiing with his mom and in the Mora Fast Track program. He skied six years on the Mora High School Ski Team and went to state five times in Nordic skiing, five times in cross-country running and three times in track. He has found that being on a team has been beneficial to help him to stay motivated and to want to go out and train.
He credits his parents, coaches, Fast Track, his school, the Vasaloppet, the Nordic Center and snowmaking for support and for playing a role in his interest and success in skiing and running. “I always loved skiing. While growing up, it was my favorite thing to do outside to get exercise. We had great teammates in high school, and our coaches made it fun. It was never boring with those people,” he concluded.
Lennox has earned a partial first year scholarship to ski at Northern Michigan University this fall. In college his goal is to make it to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Championships. This summer he plans to help the Mora High School skiers to do summer training and to help with Loppet Foundation ski camps.
His advice to younger youth is to find something that you enjoy doing and to be sure you are happy doing it.
His Mora High School ski coach Peter Larsen said, “It’s really been fun to watch Cooper develop as an athlete and as a leader on the team. Cooper has always been a talented skier, but what sets him apart is how he has paid his dues, put in the effort and time training as well as studying the sport. It’s been a real pleasure to coach Cooper through high school. I am immensely proud of all he has accomplished so far and I am excited to watch him race for the Wildcats next winter.”
Mora youth who competed in Junior National races this winter in addition to Lennox include Tommy and Ben Mulford, Johanna Schwinghamer, Tayah Anderson, Nora Kerr and Zethan Schultz. Tommy, Johanna and Cooper all qualified for Junior National trips this year. Tommy Mulford placed 22nd overall out of 101 U16 skiers at the New England Nordic Ski Association Championships at Mountain Top Inn & Resort in Chittenden, Vermont March 6-8. He finished 29th out of 106 in both the 5K Freestyle and 5K Classic races, 13th of 105 in the sprints and his Central Cross Country team placed 14th of 51 relay teams.
Mora youth who continue to enjoy Nordic skiing on college ski and club teams include Tom Woolhouse and Sadie Peterson – University of Wisconsin Green Bay; John Schwinghamer – St. Scholastica; Emma Rossow – Gustavus Adolphus; Caleb Weinand – North Dakota State University; Kaden Halvorson and Jordan Woods – University of Minnesota Duluth. Peterson was the first UW Green Bay skier to make it to the NCAA Championships last winter.