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Exceeding expectations

UNH alpine ski coach Brian Blank readily admits that when he recruited sophomore Lisa Wedsjö from Saltsjöbaden, Sweden, he didn’t expect her to perform at the high level she’s been competing at.
“When I recruited her from Sweden, she had some good results from Sweden,” Blank said. “Nothing quite as good as she’s doing now.”
What Blank expected may not be clear, but it’s clear through two years that Wedsjö is establishing herself as one of the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association’s—and, indeed, the NCAA’s—top alpine skiers. At the moment, Wedsjö is the No. 2 giant slalom skier in the conference, and her slalom ranking is not far behind at eighth. For Blank, the improvement, while unexpected, is not too difficult to explain.
“I think last year was a bit of an adjustment for her, coming over to the US,” Blank said. “Every hill was new to her, every weekend it was at a new hill that she had never seen. So now she’s got another year of strength and conditioning under her belt, and she’s more familiar with the mountains and the terrain.”
The early results this season have been incredibly promising. At the team’s first carnival, at Bates College, Wedsjö recorded a sixth place finish in the giant slalom and a seventh place finish in the slalom. Since then, she’s placed third in the giant slalom at the Colby and Dartmouth Carnivals, and was the top overall finished in the event at the University of Vermont Carnival on Jan. 29.
“It was very fun,” Wedsjö said of her first career win, continuing with a laugh. “I did not expect that, and it was very fun.”
Unexpected has been the word that best describes the sophomore’s career with the Wildcats. It was actually Wedsjö who reached out to American schools, as opposed to recruiters trying to woo her, and by answering her emails, Blank and the UNH program soon stood out as the “best offer,” according to Wedsjö.
“We don’t have that many options if you don’t pursue a career,” Wedsjö said of European university education. “The universities over there for skiing are not that great.”
With friends studying and skiing at college programs in the US, Wedsjö decided to give American schools a try, and began emailing the coaches at most of the Division I and Division II programs around the country. Blank convinced Lisa to come to UNH without even visiting the campus.
“It started with just a couple emails,” Blank said. “I think she actually emailed me first, and was interested in coming to school in the US. She wasn’t really sure where, and we emailed back and forth and talked with her on the phone a few times, kind of told her about the program, told her she’d be a great fit here and she ended up coming here.”
Now that she’s here, Wedsjö has become a welcome addition to the team for both her prowess on the slopes and for her humor and easy going personality, something that Blank said makes it easy for everyone on the team to get along with Wedsjö.
Last season, as a freshman, Wedsjö helped the ski team by placing sixth at the NCAA Championships in the giant slalom, earning a nod to the All-American Second Team. This season, the business major is hoping that a more carefree attitude, as well as the support of her teammates, can help her achieve her goals.
“I’ve learned to not take myself or everything too seriously,” Wedsjö said. “If it doesn’t go well, it doesn’t go well.”
Wedsjö says that she’s already accomplished some of the goals she’s set for this season.
Other goals, however, are still a work in progress, including her season goal of once again placing as an All-American.
“We got a little bit lucky with her skiing as well as she is and doing as well as she has,” Blank said. “I’m obviously really happy with the results she’s had this year, and she’s pretty much exceeded my expectations this year already.
The team will travel to Williams College this weekend to compete in the final regular season contest before heading to Middlebury for the EISA Championships, which begin on Feb. 26. While Wedsjö’s goals are modest, her coach listed some higher goals that he’s hoping Wedsjö will accomplish.
“Going into NCAA Championships, you’re always hoping for an individual national champion,” he said. “I certainly don’t expect it, but that’s always the goal and my hope for any of our top skiers.”
If one thing is certain, it’s that Wedsjö has become one of UNH’s top skiers, and expectations haven’t stopped her yet.

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