Brainerd (Minn.) Dispatch: "Erholtz Hoping to Make a Point, a Lot of Points, for Purple Knights"

Brainerd (Minn.) Dispatch: "Erholtz Hoping to Make a Point, a Lot of Points, for Purple Knights"

This story originally appeared in the Brainerd (Minn.) Dispatch. Also view a PDF on here.

By Jeremy P. Millsop

Grace Erholtz (Baxter, Minn./Brainerd) won't be home for Thanksgiving, but that doesn't mean she's not thankful.

The former Brainerd Warrior cross-country runner and Nordic skier has continued both athletic desires at the collegiate level as a member of the St. Michael's College Purple Knights.

Located in Colchester, Vermont, Erholtz is currently at a ski camp preparing for the upcoming season that starts Jan. 14 at the Colby Carnival. It will be her first collegiate competition since her freshman year when she competed in 11 individual races and one relay event at six different carnivals.

"I really wanted to ski in college and St. Michael's set up really good for me both academically and from the ability to both run cross-country and ski," Erholtz said. "It checked all the boxes. I really love the spirits and I couldn't imagine stopping after high school. I just really wanted to keep going. Cross-country is a good complement to skiing and I use that season with cross-country running to get in good shape endurance-wise for skiing. I couldn't imagine giving up my sports after my senior year. I just wanted to keep going."

Erholtz considers herself lucky and thankful that she does get to continue skiing as there are not many college opportunities.

"It's pretty competitive," Erholtz said. "Not many schools offer it. I was lucky that my coach emailed me back so enthusiastically. I think there are only three conferences in the NCAA for skiing.

"The level of talent is really good in high school skiing, but in college, it's a whole different level. Our college competes in the EISA and we're competing against people on the US Developmental team who could be in the Olympics this year if they get selected for the team. My first year I was racing, we went up against Catherin Ogden who is a member of the US B Team and who will more than likely make the Olympics this year."

COVID-19 erased all of last season, but as a freshman, Erholtz saw her best classic and freestyles come at the Middlebury Carnival, which was the EISA Championships. She finished 59th in the classic and 58th in the freestyle.

"Our events are a little different as they are race weekends and they are called carnivals," Erholtz said. "We do back-to-back days and on each day we do races Friday and Saturday. So at the state meet we would do two races — a 5K followed by another 5K. In college, we might do a 5K on Friday and then do a 20K on Saturday or flip-flop that. The race varies and the distances change. We will either do a 5K, 10K, 15K or a 20K on the race weekend. Even the events change from an individual sprint to a relay."

Erholtz said she's improved in both endurance and technique-wise. She would say she's a better overall skier. Her goals this season are to become a regular team scorer, but to improve her technique and move up the order and have fun.

It might be hard for Erholtz to find time to have fun as she's packed a whole career in her few years at St. Michael's. This season she'll be the softball team manager for the second straight year. She plays violin in the string orchestra and she's a member of the Model United Nations club. She's majoring in secondary education and history with a minor in literature.

"I have a lot of schedules," Erholtz said with a laugh. "I just really like to stay busy. If I didn't have a full schedule I don't know what I would do with myself. I like having things to do.

"It is pretty busy, but if you plan smart and you have a plan you can definitely do it. It's very important to plan everything out."

As a sophomore, Erholtz earned United States Collegiate Ski Coaches Association National Collegiate All-Academic Ski Team honors for the second straight year. She also made the school's dean's list. She was a member of the campus online magazine staff and inducted into Phi Alpha Theta. She was also a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee representative.

"It's been a little crazy with the pandemic thing since my freshman year," Erholtz said. "It's been crazy, but it's also been a great experience. I've never been away from home this long. Being out here is very cool and different. It's a different climate. I've just been able to meet a lot of really great people and do a lot of cool things.

"The athletic side is very similar. Both high school and college teams have similar dynamics. It's like you leave one family situation for another. I do miss my high school coaches. I have great coaches here, but it's hard to beat coach (Mary Claire) Ryan, coach (Chris) Hanson and coach (Eric) Storbakken."

When all is said and done, Erholtz hopes to become a social studies teacher and a coach. She's undecided if she'll stay out east or come back to Minnesota. She said there are so many similarities other than the mountains on the east coast.

Because of the ski camp, Erholtz won't make it home for Thanksgiving. She said it's hard, but with FaceTime and other technology, she's able to talk to her parents and family. She's looking forward to winter break to see everyone, but she's still thankful for having so many opportunities and to have the experience she's had over the past few years.