Michigan Tech announces cross country skiing awards

Needham, Patten named Most Outstanding Skiers
Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 4:57 PM EDT
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HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) - The Michigan Tech Nordic ski team recently handed out its annual team awards at its potluck banquet with the Nordic Race Organizing Committee at the coaches’ home. Anabel Needham and Skylar Patten were named the Most Outstanding Skiers with Needham earning the award for the second straight season. Coach Tom Monahan Smith and his staff were also named the Central Region Coaching Staff of the Year on the women’s side.

The coaching staff included Graduate Assistant Eric Houck and Program Coaches Kristen Monahan Smith and Tom Monahan Smith. The Huskies combined for the CCSA title as the women placed first. Nine Huskies were named on the All-CCSA teams and Tech had 15 all-region finishes. Monahan Smith also earned the award during the 2019-20 season.

Anabel Needham was an NCAA All-American with a fourth-place finish in the 5K classic (behind two U.S. women who were both top 20 at the Olympics and a Russian skier). She had podium finishes in all but one of her CCSA races this season with wins at Mt. Itasca and the MTU Invite. She skied for Team USA at the U23 World Ski Championships and qualified by winning the classic sprint at U.S. Nationals and getting third in the classic 10K individual.

Skylar Patten consistently led the men’s team throughout the entirety of the season with six CCSA podium finishes in every conference weekend of the season. He wrapped up a storybook ending with an NCAA All-American finish in the 20K skate, finishing 10th place as the fourth American (youngest All-American) on his home racecourse in Utah.

Nea Katajala and Henry Snider were named the Most Improved Skiers. Katajala started with the team in January at U.S. Nationals but was only able to compete in one race due to ongoing injury, and then had to miss racing in the classic at the Mt. Itasca CCSA Invite due to the extreme cold temps. She earned her first podium in third in the classic at the MTU Invite as part of a team podium sweep. Katajala continued to improve, winning the classic at the CCSA Championship and the NCAA Central Regional Champion while also placing third in the skate at the regional. She wrapped up the season with a seven-place NCAA All-American finish in the classic and scored in both events to help the team place fourth in the nation.

Henry Snider became the first male Michigan Tech dual-sport cross country runner and Nordic skier to qualify for NCAA Championship in both sports. Snider had a huge improvement from last season and every race weekend was an improvement upon the last. He earned Second Team All-CCSA honors, two All-Region honors, top 10s in every college race, a pair of top-five finishes at the conference and regional championship, and scored for the Huskies at NCAA Championships in the skate 20K mass start.

Olivia Laven and Colin Freed received the Scholastic Achievement Award. Laven holds a 4.0 grade-point average in engineering management. She qualified for the NCAA Championships for the second year in a row—her first two seasons at Tech. Her best race of the season was at NCAA Central Regional Champs with a fourth-place finish in the 15K skate. Laven provides poise, professionalism, and support as a teammate as a huge reason for the team’s success this season.

Colin Freed holds a 4.0 GPA in engineering. He was the highest academic achieving member of the men’s team and one of the top athletic performers for the team throughout the entire season. Colin knows how to have fun, hucking backflips on his skis, but he is also focused and selfless, helping teammates study in the library. Every day he puts in his absolute best effort in practice and the races. Colin is the prime example of a student-athlete that, as the D2 mantra states, lives “life in the balance.” He also qualified for the NCAA Championships in his first season.

The Harold Meese Sportsmanship Award went to Mary Lyon and graduate assistant coach Eric Houck.

Coach Comments

Eric Houck: I had the absolute pleasure of working with him as a student-athlete and coach through the past five years. He has an incredible passion for the sport, and a true care for his teammates and has been an incredible role model for all student-athletes throughout the entirety of his career. Eric is an incredible coach, possessing the skills, knowledge, experience, and love to truly do everything the job requires. He selflessly went above and beyond for the team in countless ways, driving across the country to waxing skis for 16 hours straight every weekend. He truly gave his absolute best effort every day in practice and every race weekend so that his teammates could do the same on the racecourse!

Oda Hovland: Oda has been an incredible asset to our team through her student-athlete career as a Nordic Husky! She went to the NCAA Championships her sophomore season and has been an instrumental team scorer every season as a Husky. Her All-Region honor in the skate mass start race was the difference for us winning the Overall Combined Team Championship! Oda has been incredibly goal-driven, true to herself, caring for her team, and so solid and committed to this team throughout the entirety of her career. Oda will continue her education next year at the University of Plymouth in England, pursuing a Master’s in International Shipping at one of the highest-ranked Maritime Business Programs in the world!

Mark Ousdigian: Mark finished an outstanding career with his best season, and won the coveted Great Bear Chase 50K Skiathlon in his final race as a Husky! Mark has been so incredibly coachable throughout his career, he possesses a true eagerness to learn and improved in his skiing and his results every season. Mark will serve as our Graduate Assistant Coach of the team next year as he finishes his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering.

Mary Lyon: Mary has been the ideal teammate throughout her tenure with the team. She has given an unwavering and selfless devotion to her teammates in all facets of life as a student-athlete. She has led through her true compassion for her teammates. Mary had the best race of her career this season placing eighth in the skate 5K individual at the Mt. Itasca CCSA Invite, and throughout her career has been doggedly determined and courageous in all of her academic and athletic pursuits! Mary will pursue a Master’s of Public Health upon graduation from Tech this spring.

Nea Katajala: Nea has truly embraced the team experience as a graduate exchange student-athlete with the team. She helped lead this team to Conference and Regional Championship titles, as well as a fourth-place at NCAA Championships! We are so honored to have had the opportunity to work with Nea this year and look forward to continuing to watch her career as she continues to ski race back in Finland next year while finishing her Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Oulu.

MTU Race Organizing Committee, our “ski community”: Home meet is always our favorite of the season! The team always races so well at our home meet, and even though some would chalk this up to our team knowing how to race the best on the Tech Trails. I think our true home course advantage comes from the pure enjoyment we have in racing alongside our community that is so invested in this team! It is your team spirit that always lifts this team up to bring our best effort racing at home, and this year was no exception at the MTU CCSA Invite with the women sweeping the podium in the classic, and the team taking our first combined overall team CCSA win, the first of three consecutive wins on the season! You are part of this team, and we owe you so much of the success we achieve as it is the experience you provide that allows us to achieve!

Parents: Thank you for entrusting us with your student-athlete, and the unconditional support we’ve received as a coaching staff and for our student-athletes. Thank you for all of the kick-butt cheering! It was so incredible to have so many families out cheering on our Nordic Huskies at all of the races this season!

Athletic Department: We’re so grateful for the professional resources provided by this Athletic Department, and all the staff that have truly contributed to our student-athletes’ personal, academic and athletic development, and given us the tools to grow this program competitively. Brass tax, we measure program success as program improvement, and there is no question this program has and continues to get better year after year. The resources and support we receive from the Athletic Department are vital to our team’s success. We are confident this program will continue to improve because the resources and support we receive from the Athletic Department also continue to improve.

Student-Athletes: We’ve now coached this program for five seasons, in essence, a full team cycle, and holy wah this team is not the same team that we started coaching five years ago! We owe the success of this program to the student-athletes who make up this team. We’ve challenged you through the past five seasons to own our vision to be the best academic and athletic performing team in NCAA skiing. This season I feel we finally realized how to achieve our mission, by embracing the core values of camaraderie, immeasurable support for each other, and an unwavering commitment to the team!

Season Highlights

  • 14x All-Academic honors
  • 78 percent of team
    Overall Team 3.7 cumulative GPA
  • 6th place Nordic Team at NCAA Skiing Championships
  • 4th place Women’s Team!
    3x All-Americans - Anabel Needham 4th, Nea Katajala 7th, Skylar Patten 10th
  • Combined Overall Team Champions - NCAA Central Regional Skiing Championships
  • Women’s Team Champions
    Nea, Henriette - Individual Regional Champions
    15x All-Region Finishes

    CL: Skylar, Henry, Nea, Henriette, Marie, Oda
    SK: Skylar, Colin, Tryg, Henry, Henriette, Nea, Olivia, Marie, Oda
  • All-CCSA honorees
  • 5 x First Team: Anabel, Henriette, Nea, Skylar, Colin
    4 x Second Team: Olivia, Marie, Henry, Felix
  • Combined Overall Team Champions EVERY CCSA RACE WEEKEND
  • Combined Overall Team Champions - CCSA Conference Championships

    Women’s Team Champions - Butch Ryder Cup
  • Nea - Individual Conference Champion
  • Combined Overall Team Champions - MTU CCSA Invite!
  • Women’s Team win

    Podium sweep classic
  • Combined Overall Team Champions - Mount Itasca CCSA & JNQ
  • Women’s Team win

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