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Salmela Switches Sports to Coach Running at St. Scholastica

Chad Salmela with a College of St. Scholastica athlete. The Saints' head nordic coach for the last 10 seasons of the program's existence, Salmela announced Monday he was stepping down to coach the cross-country running and track and field teams instead.

Chad Salmela with a College of St. Scholastica athlete. The Saints’ head nordic coach for the last 10 seasons of the program’s existence, Salmela announced Monday he was stepping down to coach the cross-country running and track and field teams instead.

After leading the men’s and women’s cross-country ski teams for a decade, Chad Salmela, head coach of The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn., announced Monday that he was leaving the nordic team to coach the college’s running programs.

“Salmela is the only Nordic coach the university has ever known, coaching the men and women for the past 10 season,” the Duluth News Tribune reported. “Competing against scholarship schools, the Saints won the 2015 Central Collegiate Ski Association men’s and women’s championships and finished 15th as a team at the NCAA championships.”

He will become head coach of the cross-country running team as well as an assistant track and field coach.

In an email to FasterSkier and another U.S.-based nordic website, Salmela provided the following statement:

“The past ten years are the most personally rewarding of my professional career.  The athletes, coaching staff, alumni, and supporters of the St. Scholastica ski program are extended family to me.  The program feels like an appendage.  It is as much a part of me as it is perhaps synonymous.  It requires reflection and deliberate intention that one can step away from something they so love, care about, and are identified with.

For ten seasons I poured myself into all aspects of the job, from developing an effective training system, to coaching the athletes with great care, to race-day details, to recruiting for and marketing the team.  Ten years is a significant stretch of time, yet a relatively brief tenure as a collegiate ski coach if you look around the country for context.  The past ten years was an intense journey for me personally, to put and keep the Saints ski program on the competitive map in collegiate skiing.  I am proud of what this program has achieved.  

A decade, however, feels like it’s time for a change.  With the team on solid footing within the St. Scholastica community as well as that of NCAA and Nordic skiing in the United States, I feel the program needs an injection of fresh enthusiasm, excitement, and perspective in the head coaching position.  While my love for and interest in the program is still strong, I believe that a change in leadership will prove good in numerous ways.  

I simultaneously feel the need for a new challenge in coaching.  Few may know that I have worked as a high school running coach in the past, was the assistant cross country and track coach for my first few years at St. Scholastica, and more recently have consulted with success, several elite and master’s-elite marathon and distance runners.  Healthy, effective, progressive, injury-free distance running continues to interest me to great effect, as my recent side projects have caused me excitement to coaching runners.

The recent retirement of our successful, long time cross country running coach, Steve Pfingsten, opened an avenue right at St. Scholastica, to make a directional coaching career tack with which I have experience, success, and great inquiry, as well as an immense amount of motivation.  Coach Pfingsten has placed the cross country program in a great position in the NCAA Division III cross country realm, coaching our college’s only NCAA DIII national champion, and one conference championship after another for years on end.  He has left big shoes to fill.

After strategic discussions with our administration, I have been offered the head coaching job for cross country and assistant distant coaching job for track and field, and I have accepted.  I am inspired to continue and grow upon the great tradition of Coach Pfingsten, as well as work with head track and field coach, Kirk Nauman, to steer our distance running system towards a cohesive unit across competitive seasons and sports, opening even greater opportunities for our student athletes.

In my new position, I want to collaborate and work closely with the new head skiing coach to transition smoothly to continued long term success.  Our intention is to continue progress on the training system we’ve developed in conjunction with our exercise physiology department.  We see this as a unique strength as an institution offering endurance sports, and believe in the system’s success.  Our department aspires to develop a great amount of synergy in systematic development across the endurance sports we offer in intercollegiate athletics.  This will usher in some new and exciting initiatives across the endurance sports for our student athletes.  This coaching personnel shift feels to us to be an optimal development to that end.  

With this synergistic concept as a goal, our administration will work diligently in the coming weeks and months to find the right successor for the next head coach of the Saints ski team.  We are confident that the final choice will take the Saints ski team into a successful second decade.  

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of Saints skiing under my tenure; who have helped build a ski culture that by all accounts is robust and deep.  I am excited about my own course as well as seeing the bright future for Saints skiing unfold under new leadership.”

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