TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City’s loss will be Rowmark Ski Academy’s gain.
Rowmark, one of the premier ski programs in the United States, is getting one of Traverse City’s top skiers in Madison Ostergren, who has been accepted to compete with the prestigious academy and attend Rowland Hall College Prep School in Utah beginning this summer.
Ostergren, a sophomore at TC Central, was granted admission this week and will begin her journey when she leaves June 6 for a training camp at Mammoth Mountain in California.
“It’s a big decision, especially because I’m in the middle of high school,” Ostergren said. “I’m leaving my friends and everything, but I think that if I want to further my career it has to be done.”
With a push from her USSA coach Dan Janowiak, Ostergren applied to Rowmark in April and then went through rigorous testing and interviews to gain admittance to the private Salt Lake City school and affiliated ski program. She will be one of eight girls in the U18 age group at the school under the tutelage of head coach Todd Brickson. She considered a few other academies as she was exploring her options, but decided to aim for Rowmark.
“I think what stuck out about Rowmark was their school was really good and the location in Utah,” said Ostergren. “I have a lot of friends that go to the University of Utah, and it’s close to there. Just knowing coach Dan had connections with Rowmark, that was good.”
Janowiak, who has 38 years of coaching experience under his belt, has been coaching Ostergren since she was 12 years old. He felt a move like this was a no-brainer for an athlete like Ostergren, who was seventh in the downhill event at the 2013 Junior Olympics in Colorado.
“She’s really the first athlete that I’ve had that it was very easy to go to the family and say, ‘Your daughter is doing very, very well. She’s very competitive statewide, in the Midwest. If she has higher goals, here’s what you need to do.’ It was something I always said I would do. It’s easy for coaches to get real possessive. Sure, I’d love to hang on to Maddy for the next two seasons and watch her win races here, but that would be the selfish me speaking. All our decisions need to be made based on what’s best for the athlete. That’s what I’m doing here.
“If she’s going to try and chase the dream of skiing collegiately at the Division 1 level she needs to be elsewhere because we just don’t have the terrain for her in the Midwest.”
Janowiak isn’t the only coach who suddenly finds himself with a big void due to Ostergren heading west. TC Central coach Jerry Stanek also must figure out a way to replace the reigning Big North champion in the giant slalom and slalom, as well as the regional champion in the giant slalom. In her first year of high school racing, Ostergren also finished 11th in the slalom at the state finals, overcoming a mistake in her first run that had her in 30th place early.
“For our team it’s a loss, but for Madison it’s a huge opportunity,” said Stanek, whose team captured the Division 1 state title this year. “Ski racing is really her passion and she’s such a competitor. Probably she needs to be in an atmosphere like that if she wants to move up the ladder in ski racing. That’s what kids do in sports today when they have that desire to really further themselves. It’s great for Madison. Of course we don’t like losing her, but we’re a high school team and even though she was a huge contributor and loved the high school atmosphere, this is a great thing for her.”
Both of her coaches describe her as a fearless skier, a major part of what makes her so good. They also feel that year-round training will allow her to improve by leaps and bounds.
“There aren’t many girls that I’ve coached over the years that are not afraid of speed and she’s one of them,” said Stanek. “Speed doesn’t bother her.
“She’s going to be in a much better caliber of skiers training every day. It’s a ski racing atmosphere year round, not just November until the end of March and then you’re done with it. That’s ski specific out there. I think she can improve a lot. That’s why she’s going there because that’s what they do.”
Rowmark was founded in 1982 and since then has honed the skills of 15 members of the U.S. ski team, as well as Olympic medalists, collegiate All-Americans, world, national and junior champions.
Ostergren said when her friends in Traverse City found out she had been accepted to Rowmark there were a range of emotions.
“At first they were like, ‘You’re kidding,’” she said when recalling the reaction of hearing she was leaving. “They were so excited, really happy. But then they were like, ‘You have to leave.’ They don’t want me to leave. They’re always happy for me, but they’re also sad that I’m leaving.”