A year ago, Sierra Foster was the lone nordic skier in the Oregon State University-Cascades’ fledging club sports program.
In a sense, she was THE team.
“It was interesting to be the only one on the team,” says Foster, now a sophomore who is dually enrolled at OSU-Cascades and Central Oregon Community College.
OSU-Cascades hosted its own nordic and alpine races last weekend at Mt. Bachelor ski area between club programs from the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association’s Northwest Conference, a group that includes larger universities such as Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Washington State as well as some smaller schools.
Just a year after the program’s birth — a year when OSU-Cascades suited one alpine skier and one nordic skier — Foster was one of OSU-Cascades’ four nordic and four alpine racers at the Mt. Bachelor event.
“This year it was amazing to be actually part of trying to recruit people into the club,” says Foster, a 19-year-old Redmond High School graduate who is also the student president of OSU-Cascades club teams. “It’s a very neat experience to be a part of, especially since it is growing. It is really interesting to watch and try and get people as excited as you are out there on the slopes or on the trails.”
OSU-Cascades, a branch campus of Corvallis-based OSU that is moving toward becoming a four-year campus, began offering club sports for the 2012-13 academic year in four Central Oregon favorites: mountain biking, cyclocross, and alpine and nordic skiing.
The teams were the first ever to represent the Bend campus. And they could be the first step in one day building an intercollegiate athletics program.
First, though, OSU-Cascades is trying to get its club sports program off the ground.
It was slow going in the first year with just one alpine skier, one nordic skier and a single cyclist, Foster says.
So to see growth in the ski programs despite limited funding has been heartening, says Bruce Petersen, coordinator of internships, employment and alumni relations for OSU-Cascades, who also leads the school’s sports task force.
“Just like with anything else, you have to have a foundation,” says Petersen. “Alpine and nordic skiing, the mountain biking and the cyclocross will be foundational sports. And as those are developed we will be able to add on others because we will already have the infrastructure: student leadership, process, and all the things it takes to run something like that.”
The sports OSU-Cascades chose to offer were no accident.
Central Oregon produces skiers and mountain bikers in droves. But more than that, OSU-Cascades did not have to incur a cost to build proper facilities to house the sports.
For a university without its own campus — at least not yet — facilities and their costs are crucial elements in deciding how to start a sports program, Petersen says.
“Facilities are a factor in every sport and a significant consideration in the cost of fielding a sport,” Petersen says. “When looking at Central Oregon, we are blessed with incredible natural facilities just out the back door. This is a very significant factor in looking at viable sports.”
Petersen says that this region provides one more advantage: expertise.
Club sports teams do not employ a coach, like, say, an NCAA team would.
But Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation provides coaching and coordination services for the OSU-Cascades club teams.
“It’s just been a wonderful partnership,” Petersen says of the club teams and MBSEF.
In addition, the participation fees — $200 per season for alpine and nordic skiers, $75 for mountain biking and cyclocross — are reasonable for most students, Foster says.
“The club really helps me engage in college life better than just the community college would,” Foster says. “Our goal in OSU-Cascades club sports is most definitely to promote that student life.”
That is precisely what OSU-Cascades wants.
And for Foster, getting in on the ground floor has made the experience all the more special.
“I think it should have been jumped on a long time ago, but it wasn’t,” Foster says of a club sports program at OSU-Cascades (COCC has had a club sports program for years). “And I think it is just a wonderful opportunity to be a part of the coming up of this club. I think Central Oregon needs something like this to really initiate a proper college community.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7868, firstname.lastname@example.org .