By Tyler Ohmann
After becoming the very first and only Little Falls Nordic ski coach back in the 1995-96 season and running one of
the most decorated program’s in the state, Terry Wasland has decided to call it quits.
Wasland, who retired as the school’s guidance counselor in 2010 after 32 years, said that several considerations went into the decision.
“It is something I’ve taken year-by-year since I left the school system,” Wasland said. “I’m not sure what it was about this year, but it just felt like I was more at peace with saying this was my last year.”
Also included was the fact he was unable to ski most of this winter due to some issues with his neck.
“As you get older, it just keeps getting harder,” Wasland said.
Wasland made the announcement at the Nordic ski banquet, Sunday, Feb. 26.
“He had talked about it previously, but it was surprising when he announced it, because we hadn’t talked about it in a long time,” said Little Falls senior Kendal Hendrickson. “It kind of hit us all, and we were all sad about it.”
Hendrickson was part of a girls team that went to state again this year, Little Falls’ 11th time in the past 12 seasons. The Flyer boys team went to state as well.
“It’s been a great ride, and when you get two teams to the state tournament, maybe it’s just time to move on and turn it over to someone else,” Wasland said.
The state meet was something that really stuck out for Hendrickson when it came to Wasland.
“I’ll always remember him cheering me on, especially at the state meet,” Hendrickson said. “I know he wants it just as bad as I want it, and that’s always something that I loved, having him out there.”
Wasland was not supposed to be the Nordic ski coach when he began 22 years ago. At the time, Wasland was the cross country coach, and after the first coach chosen decided not to take the job, Wasland stepped in.
For a few years he coached both, but eventually ceded cross country to Jacki Devine, and focused on Nordic.
In those days, Wasland said a typical day included getting up at 6 a.m. to come and play morning basketball, work all day, coach after school, get home for supper, spend a few hours with the kids and get them to bed and then at 9 p.m. until midnight go on the snowmobile and groom to get the trails ready.
“It certainly was not easy, but it was worth it,” Wasland said.
Wherever Wasland went, success followed. He recently looked back and excluding the state meet and the Mesabi mega meet, the Flyers girls team lost only three races in the past 12 years. One was a conference race, another a section by one point and an invite to eventual state champ Grand Rapids.
“It’s been surprising when you look at all the success,” Wasland said. “But then you realize all the great athletes that I’ve had, and its not surprising how well they’ve done.”
“That’s been real rewarding to see,” he said.
However, success is not what Wasland said he’ll miss most.
“I’m a competitive guy, and I like to compete, and the wins are nice, but what I really enjoyed are the relationships that you have with kids and their parents,” Wasland said. “The sixth and seventh graders come into the program with that deer in the headlights look, and then they get on skis and they look like deer on the ice. You watch and work with them, and by the time they get to high school you see a confident skier, and they are ready to take on whatever the world has for them.”
Hendrickson was one of four girls seniors and one boy senior (Seth Crocker) who will be Wasland’s final senior class.
“He always calls us ‘gang’ and that’s going to be missed,” Hendrickson said. “He’s kind of like a father to all of us, he is comforting to have around and he just knows what he’s doing.”
However, despite the end as a coach, Wasland said it won’t be the end of his involvement in Nordic.
“Grandparenting will take on a little more of my time, but I certainly don’t plan on being a stranger to Nordic skiing,” Wasland said. “I’ll be at the meets, but I’ll just be cheering from the sideline, volunteering and helping run meets, rather than getting their skis ready and coaching them.”
So really, Wasland’s not quitting, he just stopped getting paid.