Grethe Lise-Hagensen served as Montana State University’s Head Nordic Coach from 2003 to 2014. During her decade as head coach, Hagensen brought the group from a state of near non-existence to ranking third in the nation at the 2010 NCAA Championships. In May of 2014, Hagensen’s contract was not renewed by the university’s administration. FasterSkier sat down with Hagensen in July to speak about her time at the helm of the MSU system and the accomplishments she attained throughout her 10 years as head coach.
Like most Norwegians, Grethe-Lise Hagensen was born with proverbial skis on her feet. As opposed to most Norwegians, she made the decision to bring her productive ski occupation to the United States.
Hagensen grew up in Tromsø, Norway, roughly 300 miles over the Arctic Circle exactly where she found an early introduction to skiing out of necessity. Her family members didn’t have a car and like numerous of the other townspeople, she had no decision but to ski into town every time she needed to go to school, purchase groceries, or check out close friends.
Hagensen’s skiing quickly evolved from a indicates of travel to a type of competitors as she was launched to racing. Her entrance into globe of ski racing would adjust her lifestyle forever, and by the time she was a teenager she had currently won a Norwegian nationwide championship and was on the Norwegian National Ski Team.
In 1979, Hagensen was portion of what she described as the “the largest athletic event in northern Norway.” A relay crew consisting of Hagensen and fellow Tromsø skiers created their way to the prime of the podium, astounding spectators.
“It was a large sensation. It is even now possibly the biggest athletic occasion that has ever took place in northern Norway because we were such underdogs,” she said throughout a recent in-man or woman interview. “For us to win it was a shocking point. Best 10 would have been a sensation, and we ended up winning.”
Hagensen initial ventured to the U.S. to attend the University of Wyoming. For the duration of her time there, she earned all-American honors every single of her 4 many years at the university and was element of its winning crew in the 3 x 5 k relay at the 1985 NCAA Skiing Championships.
Hagensen graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1986. She returned to Norway, where she coached the two soccer and skiing. She then married American John Villar and the couple had two daughters.
In 2002, Hagensen and her household produced the choice to move to Bozeman, Mont. for a year so that her kids, Bjørk and Embla, could discover English. The family’s prepare was changed when a good friend informed Hagensen that the head coach place at Montana State University (MSU) was obtainable.
Hagensen applied for the job, accepted the university’s offer you, and has lived in Bozeman ever since.
“Suddenly they could smell gold”
When Hagensen took over as MSU’s head nordic coach in 2003, it was the initial yr because the 1980s that the university had a male staff. Although women had been component of the team for numerous many years, their outcomes had been lackluster and recruitment was tough.
“You need to have to have final results to get very good athletes — it’s like the chicken and the egg,” Hagensen said of her entry into the program in 2003. “I believed it would consider me five years to build up a winning staff that would be aggressive against CU [the University of Colorado] and DU [the University of Denver].”
The winning combination came earlier than anticipated. Even though a handful of excellent finishes from MSU skiers scattered the results of the Rocky Mountain collegiate series in Hagensen’s early years as head coach, it wasn’t until finally 2007 that the team really started out to excel.
The turning level came in the course of the 1st weekend of Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) races at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah. With a fairly powerful first day of competition, Hagensen was optimistic about the mass-commence races. In the course of the women’s ten k, she was waxing the men’s skis and conversing with a fellow coach.
“I remember I said to a single of the coaches, ‘I may well get a medal today’ and he explained to me, ‘Grethe, you may well consider the leading 3,’ ” Hagensen explained. “After that I really don’t don’t forget something.”
Her colleague was right as a trio of MSU women consisting of Jamie Woelk, Mandy Bowden Axelson and Claire Rennie rounded the corner into the last stretch of the women’s race. The three Bobcats swept the podium, separated by less than a second.
It was the first time in RMISA historical past that a staff had taken all 3 spots on the podium in a single race, but the historic second almost didn’t take place as all 3 skiers had been nearly disqualified.
“We nearly acquired disqualified due to the fact a person said that I skied next to them,” Hagensen explained. “I do not remember skiing but I need to have due to the fact I was in shock. I was so content. Maybe I skied perhaps I did not, who is aware of.”
Despite the alleged incident, the women’s benefits stood and Hagensen was issued a warning. The second, nonetheless, was a key turning point for the plan, which had existed on a small scale four years prior.
“Suddenly they could smell gold. After you do it, you have broken the barrier,” Hagensen stated.
She credits the fast rise of the MSU nordic staff to a target on American athletes who may possibly have been overlooked by other universities, some of which heavily recruit European skiers and only the greatest American juniors.
“I always had, not the very best juniors in the U.S., but perhaps the ones who were a small bit behind,” she mentioned. “I attempted to get them to turn into the greatest. You have Ryan Scott and Tyler Reinking, these guys had been Okay and then we just developed them. That is what created me the most proud more than my years: taking care of the Americans.
She also made positive to focus on creating technique before anything at all else.
“We tried to tap into what ever edge they had. Strategy was some thing that we had to operate on a good deal,” she explained. “You can not be the very best if your strategy is a handicap. I inform everyone to target on their method and then we get them to the next level.”
Soon after joining the big display in 2007, MSU continued to progress at an unprecedented charge. With recruitment soaring and a tight-knit group, Hagensen entered the 2009/2010 season with large hopes.
With their eyes on the NCAA Championships in Steamboat Springs, Colo., the crew experienced a complete 6-man or woman squad for the event: Scott, Reinking, Bernhard Roenning, Kaelin Kiesel, Mellie Park, and Casey Kutz.
Underdogs from the starting, MSU wasn’t expected to be overly aggressive, let alone make a run for the podium. Nonetheless, they did just that with all three males putting in the best ten in the second day of competition. The outcomes propelled the squad to third place general at NCAAs.
“We had a phenomenal 12 months, and all of a sudden we had three [males in the] top ten and Kaelin Kiesil was fifth,” Hagensen said. “Sometimes everything lines up.”
Later that yr, Hagensen received the Intercollegiate Coach of the Yr Award in recognition of her contributions to MSU.
Termination With no Cause
Right after 2010, both Hagensen and the MSU nordic staff continued to locate achievement with best finishes in the RMISA and NCAA race series. In 2012, for the first time in college background, MSU qualified a complete team in the two alpine and nordic for the NCAA Championships that took location on their residence programs in Bozeman, Mont.
Hagensen also obtained the RMISA Coach of the 12 months Award that year.
Throughout the 2012/2013 season Hagensen took a sabbatical yr so that she could invest time with her mom in Norway who had just suffered a stroke. For the duration of that season, assistant coach Chad Andersen took in excess of the obligation of the staff.
In what would be her last season as MSU’s head nordic coach, Hagensen lead her group to qualify a total NCAA Championships squad as soon as again. At the 2014 NCAAs in Soldier Hollow, MSU saw two athletes — Jessica Yeaton and Sawyer Kesselhiem — earn all-American honors with fifth- and ninth-spot finishes.
Incorporating to the season’s milestones, the nordic crew won each the men’s and women’s awards for crew of the 12 months at the Montana State Athletics’ 2014 ALL (Academics, Leadership and Lifestyle Expertise) Banquet in April.
Not lengthy following, Hagensen stated she acquired a good review from her athletic department and was provided a mandate to retain the services of a new assistant coach. The new assistant coach, Andrew Morehouse, had each a verbal and written agreement with Hagensen for his place that was but to be created official by the university.
In Could, she said she was summoned MSU Athletic Director Peter Fields’ office for what she assumed would be a conversation about the assistant-coaching place.
What she experienced was far from what she anticipated.
As an alternative of discussing the assistant coach position, Fields told Hagensen that her contract would not be renewed in the coming year.
“They asked me to come in and I believed they had been going to ask me about the new assistant coach that I was to retain the services of,” she mentioned. “… Ten many years of my life was canned in two minutes.”
The university declined to comment on the selection due to its personal nature, according to Sports activities Info Director Tom Shutlz.
“I’m nonetheless traumatized,” Hagensen explained. “You would feel that an institution would carry you in and give you a reprimand or warning or one thing, but the fact is that there is no work guarantee. You would think that Montana State University would be bigger than this and that they would talk.”
Hagensen claims that Fields gave her no indication as to why her contract was not renewed and failed to even thank her for 10 many years of services to the university.
She quoted from her prepared statement relating to her departure from MSU:
“I was amazed that soon after a decade of robust overall performance as a head coach, my boss Peter Fields produced no comment to me about all the success that the nordic ski teams that I have coached have brought to MSU. Most surprising was the reaction of President Cruzado, who has as properly reported record on workplace problem and excellent management practices. I realize that most of us have 1-12 months contracts and that MSU management can make alterations as they see fit. But after a decade as an MSU coach, to be tossed aside with out any reason…”
MSU issued a press release on Might 22, which read in its entirety: “The contract of Montana State head Nordic ski coach Grethe Hagensen will not be renewed, announced Bobcat Athletics Director Peter Fields, Thursday afternoon. Hagensen recently finished her tenth yr at Montana State. A national search for the place will be performed.”
There had been these who weren’t stunned by the move. Three former skiers of Hagensen who wished to continue to be unnamed, claimed that coach was distracted and absent throughout her final 12 months of coaching.
When asked about these claims, Hagensen stated she manufactured a aware work to consider a back seat in the 2013/2014 season due to the fact she did not want to overbear the atmosphere that assistant coach Chad Andersen had developed for the duration of her sabbatical yr.
“Last year I wasn’t there and this year I was easing back in so that I wasn’t too strong or also controlling,” Hagensen stated. “Maybe I should have carried out it differently but those are little items. Not enough to get fired. It is an adjustment.”
Regardless of some athlete discontent, Hagensen has acquired several positive critiques from former athletes, which includes Scott who graduated in 2012. Even though Scott had not but returned an inquiry from FasterSkier at the time of publication, he was quoted in a 2011 Montana State University press release saying that, ”she (Hagensen) cares about you personally as properly as how you are doing as a skier. She taught me how to seek out out my strengths and capitalize on individuals, which carries above to all aspects of my life.”
In the same write-up, Axelson (member of the podium sweeping crew in 2007) is quoted saying, ”Grethe taught us that in buy to be effective, you have to be self-motivated you have to know what you want and go following it. When you are driven, opportunities come your way–that’s Grethe’s legacy.”
On July eleven, MSU announced the employing of new head coach Kristina Trygstad-Saari, a Bozeman resident and former Dartmouth skier and coach.
Hagensen was pleased that Trygstad-Saari was tapped for the place, insisting that Trygstad-Saari could attain the one purpose Hagensen in no way did with MSU.
“My dream whilst at MSU was usually to win the NCAA Championship,” Hagensen wrote in an e mail soon after the announcement. “As the new head nordic coach, Kristina Trygstad-Saari brings knowledge in racing and coaching to the staff. With each other with MSU Alpine coach Kevin Frances, I feel the MSU ski crew has the possible to obtain that aim, winning the NCAA Championship. I want them all the very best.”
Unsure of what precisely lies ahead of her, Hagensen explained her future will probably involve traveling amongst the U.S. and Norway. In the course of her sabbatical 12 months she taught at the University of Tromsø which could be a long term probability for the Norwegian.
She’s planned a journey to Oslo with her oldest daughter, Embla, who’s taking a postgraduate year at an outdoors school. Her youngest daughter, Bjørk, has a year left at a boarding college in Park City, Utah.
Wherever Hagensen finds herself, she’s specific of one particular factor: she will constantly keep in mind her time at Montana State with fond recollections and will carry on to be proud of the athletes she coached.