Updated: March 24, 2021 11:34 PM
Created: March 24, 2021 11:30 PM
Earlier in March Jessie Diggins once again etched her name in cross country skiing history. One former College of St. Scholastica (CSS) Saint traveled with her overseas and helped make it happen from behind the scenes.
From 2013-2017 Chris Hecker spent his time training with the CSS ski team. This past winter he clicked out of his own skis to become a wax tech for the United States ski team during the World Cup circuit in Europe.
"We were in Finland, Sweden, was supposed to be in Norway this year but those got canceled," Hecker said. "Then Germany, Switzerland, Italy."
Joining the team was something that impressed his former college coach Chad Salmela.
"I think it's a huge vote of confidence and trust by the U.S. ski team to put somebody with Chris' ski background from a DIII school like ours on their staff," Salmela said.
From late November to early March Hecker and five other technicians traveled alongside American athletes testing their wax and skis.
"We're trying to kind of beat the other wax techs and all the other coaches and have the fastest skis for our athletes," Hecker explained.
His work helped Scott Patterson earn a top ten World Championship finish, the best result for Team U.S.A., and Katherine Ogden nab a spot in the Tour de Ski's top 20.
Team U.S.A. capped off the circuit helping Minnesota's own Jessie Diggins become the first female ever to win the International Ski Federation World Cup in cross country skiing.
"Knowing that all of us coaches and even all the athletes, like even if you're not Jessie Diggins, you have a huge part in that because of how much we work together and train together. It's all one team," Hecker said.
His journey was a fun one for Salmela to watch. The CSS cross country coach also followed Diggins on the international stage, calling her historic gold medal finish at the 2018 Pyeonchang Olympics.
Sometimes shooting Chris notes of encouragement, Salmela was happy Hecker was the one by Diggins' side this time.
"Anybody would love to have that picture with Jessie on that day and the fact that Chris from Minnesota, from our program, was there, it's pretty special," Salmela said referencing Chris and Diggins standing together with the World Cup globe trophy.
Hecker and the rest of the team will get a couple of weeks off before roller skiing into summer training starting May 1st.
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