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Fjeldheim retirement a real loss to NMU community at large

An amazing career at Northern Michigan University is coming to an end with the retirement of Sten Fjeldheim, which was announced earlier this week.

Fjeldheim is the most decorated coach in NMU history, guiding the Nordic ski team for more than three decades and also leading the cross country running team at times.

A news release from NMU Sports Information says Fjeldheim has coached 102 All-American award winners and seven national champions in skiing. He was a great recruiter, finding young athletes who fit in to the program he established and guided for all these years.

Fjeldheim said in the release: “If you have a culture of having a strong work ethic, knowing how to win and how to lose, and of being good at everything you decide you want to do, then that’s the type of kid I wanted in my program.

“I always rolled up my sleeves and tried to do the best job I could. It’s precious cargo I was hauling around. It’s people’s families and kids and I’ve always had that in the back of my mind.”

That culture led to immense success, including 15 consecutive men’s Nordic skiing NCAA Central Region titles from 2007-21. The final eight years of that streak also included women’s Nordic skiing NCAA Central Region championships every year.

“Sten’s accomplishments are legendary and what I will always appreciate most is his positive impact on coworkers,” NMU Director of Athletics Forrest Karr said.

“Sten often says, ‘First you form an attitude then it forms you.’ “For decades, he inspired everyone around him to be and do more. Sten’s attitude and work ethic built NMU skiing into a nationally recognized program and he did it the right way, prioritizing student-athlete wellness and encouraging academic excellence.”

Sten Fjeldheim’s accomplishments are many. We think these quotes from him in the release is a good indication of why he had such amazing success for so long: “I’m fortunate in many ways to have met all of my student-athletes and also fortunate that their parents put their trust in us. I made sure that I always kept the rubber down on the road and made sure that I had my thumb on the heartbeat of the team.”

And “One of the things I am most proud of is that the grade-point average of the ski team has been the highest or tied for the highest with the women’s running team for the 35 years I’ve been here,” Fjeldheim said. “We’ve had several outstanding graduating seniors in their departments, and really if I didn’t have such a great group of young adults to coach I’m not so sure I would have stayed in coaching.”

The skiers, the university and the community are the fortunate ones for having Fjeldheim be a part of the athletic program here and for staying with it for so long.

His success will be remembered for all times and his presence will be missed.

We wish Sten and his wife, Pam, the happiest of retirements.

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