From fun to Fairbanks
In today’s ultra-competitive society, many parents push their children into sports with dreams of college scholarships and pro careers dancing in their heads.
Not Joe and Mary Lammers, who got their kids into skiing as a way to get them out of the house.
“It’s something we picked up to stay busy as a family,” said Joe Lammers.
What began as a fun way to enjoy winter in Alaska paid off handsomely last week, when Isaac, a senior at Chugiak High, signed a National Letter of Intent to join the Nordic ski team at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
"I’m very excited about it," said Isaac Lammers, who will join fellow Chugiak graduates Krysti and Alyson McPhetres on the UAF squad.
Though they’re both lifelong Alaskans, Joe and Mary didn’t start skiing until their eldest son, Isaac, was ready to strap on the boards.
“We started skiing when he started skiing,” Joe said.
Since then, daughter Sarissa — a sophomore and a top skier for Chugiak in her own right — and son, Eli, 6, have also taken up the sport. But rather than hoping their three children would turn the hobby into something bigger, Joe said he wanted his family to simply enjoy life outdoors.
“Our main goal was a life skill,” Joe said.
As it turned out, their son was skilled, indeed. Isaac — who also plans to run cross country at UAF — finished third in the freestyle race and seventh in the classic at last seasons ASAA Alaska State Nordic Skiing Championships to earn All-State honors. This fall, he finished 11th at the state cross country running meet.
Even as Lammers began to show promise as a young skier, Joe Lammers said local coaches were content to let his son progress at his own pace. He credited the Alaska Nordic Racing program — whose coaches Ja Doris and Stan Gretchen Carrick, along with Chugiak head coach Mikey Evans (also an ANR coach) were on hand for the signing — with bringing Isaac along at his own pace.
“The ANR program was key for us,” said Joe. “It kept it fun.”
Isaac said the choice to ski at UAF was an easy one. First, he’ll be joining a program with several friends from the junior ranks already aboard. In addition to the McPhetres sisters, UAF’s Nordic program also includes nine men’s skiers from Alaska, including many Lammers has raced against since he was in the junior ranks.
“It’ll be nice to have a lot of people like that to work with,” he said.
There were other factors that made the school a good fit, as well.
“They had my degree, they had a ski team and lots of time to get on the snow,” he said.
Lammers wants to study mechanical engineering with an emphasis on aerospace engineering.
“I like planes,” he said.
First things first, though, and Lammers still has some flying to do out on the trails. He’s hoping to contend for a state title later this winter before putting in even more work to get ready for the leap to college. Although he’s likely to be one of the best around at the high school level, he said a recent trip to Fairbanks — during which he skied with some of his future teammates — proved to him that the hard work is only beginning.
“It was a struggle just to keep up with those guys,” he said.
But it’s a challenge he’s looking forward to.
“It’s gonna be a blast,” he said.