Grand Rapids sophomore Elsa Viren has already found a great deal of success competing in Nordic ski. She has a pair of top 30 finishes in the state the past two seasons and was the Section 7 runner-up this year.
That success has come from a lifelong love of the sport, something she was introduced to by her parents as they pulled her around in a ski cart before she could stand on the skis herself.
She eventually joined the youth ski league and her continued passion for the sport evolved.
“I started in ski league probably when I was around five and I went through those levels,” Viren said. “After I had gone through all those levels I just skied around for fun. I have always skied so I just love the sport and iIve always loved competing.”
For her efforts this season, Viren was named the Girls Nordic Skier of the Year by the Grand Rapids Herald-Review, Hibbing Daily Tribune and Mesabi Daily News.
A large part of Viren’s success can be attributed to her older sister, Annika, as both skiers finished near the top of the field in regular season races.
“My sister is almost always faster than me and that really helps both of us because we really push each other. We’ve been skiing together for so long,” Viren said.
Although Annika mostly had the edge, Elsa put together her finest performance of the season at the section meet in early February.
Battling through unfavorable weather conditions, Viren opened the freestyle race with a time of 23:15 which put her in third place just six seconds behind Duluth East’s Clara Kramer.
“We had some rough conditions for the first race,” Viren said. “I was just concentrating hard on getting through that first race. It was exciting to see I finished third. That really helped me mentally prepare for the next race, if I could get through those conditions I could do much more.
I started behind a Duluth East girl, Klara Cramer. I was not too far behind so that gave me something to chase.”
Viren quickly passed Kramer into the second position and ended up finishing in a combined time of 43:09 which was 35 seconds clear of Kramer, while East’s Gretchen Haggenmiller won the event in 41:51.
Viren’s performance was also a key catalyst in helping the Thunderhawks team earn a second place finish and a chance to compete at state.
Viren ran into a tough field at the state meet the following week and came away with a 29th place finish in 38:15.
“As far as my performance I think I performed pretty well,” Viren said of the race.
Viren also competes in biathlon during the winter as well as swimming in the fall and track in the spring. She also trains extensively in the summer for skiing and biathlon.
“In the summer I’m training six days a week with a summer ski training program and with biathlon,” she said. “That’s very high intensity. There’s a saying that skiers are made during the summer.”
With two more years left to compete Viren said her main goal next season is to get into the top 25 at state and earn All-State honors.
“This next year I will really be pushing myself to finally get All-State. There’s some girls coming up behind that will really help push me.”
Additional skiers named to the All-Area team include: Annika Viren, Lucia Wyland and Samara Schlauderaff from Grand Rapids; Lydia Skelton and Natalie Fultz from Mesabi East; and Zoe Devine and Kalyssa Eilrich from Ely.