Kramer Eyes More Success In Running, Skiing At Alaska
Kendall Kramer was a 14-time Alaska high school state champion in cross country, Nordic ski and track and field. She is also a member of the U.S. Ski Team.
Kendall Kramer was a 14-time Alaska high school state champion in cross country, Nordic ski and track and field. She is also a member of the U.S. Ski Team.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020
by Blake Timm, Assistant Commissioner For Communications

FAIRBANKS, Alaska – Kendall Kramer could have attended college anywhere she wanted.

In the end, she clicked her running shoes and ski boots together and decided there’s no place like home.

“I realized that being comfortable in the place I am and not being scared about being a new place is important to me,” said Kramer. “My mental state affects my athletics, affects my school. I wouldn’t be able to focus and put 100 percent into anything that I would be doing if I wasn’t emotionally feeling good.”

A lifelong resident of Fairbanks, Kramer decided that there was no place she would rather be than in her hometown where she is in her freshman season as a member of Alaska’s cross country and Nordic ski programs.

It is a strong statement for someone who was sought after by Division I schools for both her running and skiing abilities. During her prep career at West Valley High School, Kramer was a 14-time state champion in cross country, Nordic ski and track and field and established herself as one of the top female athletes in state history in each of those sports.

Kramer was also named to the U.S. Ski Team during her senior year, closing her first season on the national team with a bronze medal in the women’s 5-kilometer classic race and a silver medal in the women’s 4x3.3-kilometer relay at the 2020 Youth Winter Olympics in Switzerland.

Kramer’s presence on the roster is a boon for both the Nanooks’ cross country and Nordic programs. She holds the potential to be both the program’s first top-10 finisher at the GNAC Cross Country Championships since 2011 and a title contender in the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association’s Nordic disciplines.

“As the quality of performance snowballs on, so does the support for the team. That is why we are so excited to have Kendall on two teams at once,” said second-year Alaska cross country and ski coach Eliska Albrigtsen. “Both of the teams are already starting to see these benefits. We believe that as she grows as a student-athlete, so will grow the performance standards and top-ranked results of her teammates.”

When asked about why she decided to attend UAF, it is hard to get Kramer to stop. The decision felt right from the start.

“I really love talking about this because I feel so strongly about UAF,” Kramer said. “You have to be a little crazy to live here and I feel like these are my people. I feel so supported.”

Kramer comes by her athletic ability and competitive nature naturally. Her father, Mike, ran cross country and track and field at Washington State. Her mother, Susan Schwartz, is a marathon runner.

So when Kramer became serious about athletics in the eighth grade, she quickly discovered that the apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree. “I did a few races in middle school and I realized that I was pretty good,” Kramer said. “I really enjoyed the feeling of the work that I was putting in equaling what I was getting out of it. It was quite fulfilling, something that you don’t necessarily get in every aspect of life.”

On the prep courses, Kramer developed a reputation for setting the pace of the race up front and never letting go. In her three Alaska Division I cross country championships wins, Kramer won by no less than 28 seconds.

Kramer’s winning time of 17:38.3 over five kilometers at the 2019 Alaska Cross Country Championships is the second-fastest winning time in meet history. Only three-time NCAA steeplechase champion Allie Ostrander, who is now a volunteer assistant coach at GNAC foe Seattle Pacific, has run faster. Kramer would have competed for last year’s GNAC title when her 5:41 per mile pace is figured over six kilometers.

As a Nordic skier, Kramer’s two freestyle titles came by no less than 37 seconds. Her three classic crowns featured gaps of no less than 51 seconds, including a 1-minute, 23-second win in 2019. She was a three-time winner of the state meet’s Skimeister Award, presented to the skier with the best combined time in the two disciplines.

Where many endurance athletes like the nature of dueling with someone up front, Kramer is much more comfortable with a larger gap between her and second place.

“Maybe it’s a control thing. I really like being in control,” Kramer said. “I get really stressed out if I am near another person because I don’t want them to be in control of the pace. I know that it’s really difficult for a lot of other people because someone is not right there next to them. They can’t feed off their own pace. They can’t feed off the surges they get from one another. But it is best for me.”

Kramer believes that her successes in running and skiing go hand in hand. So the fact that Alaska essentially operates the cross country running and skiing teams as one program was attractive to her. Division I schools courted her for both running and skiing but it was clear in the recruiting process that the two sports operated mutually exclusive of each other.

“It is amazing that the cross country running coach and skiing coach are the same person,” Kramer said. “I wouldn’t be the skiing or running athlete that I am without the other. I needed my running to be incorporated into my skiing and my skiing to be incorporated into my running.”

Her new coach agrees in not changing what is already working.

“That is what brought her success, so when she had the opportunity to not change this pattern, why not take it,” Albrigtsen said. “Lots of our dual-sport athletes have goals in only one sport, but Kendall has high goals of NCAA championships in both running and skiing. That makes it so much more exciting for her teammates in both sports. She pushes everyone to go harder every step by showing her hard work day-by-day.”

After spending the summer in Anchorage for both skiing and running training, Kramer has had a long getting-acquainted period with her Nanooks’ teammates. With the GNAC cross country season postponed, the squad has been separated into smaller pods with the emphasis on strength training and skiing with snow now flying in The Last Frontier.

Despite the changes in training regimen by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kramer feels she is getting the training she needs to be ready for both her first NCAA ski season and a potential spring cross country season.

“I am getting all of the necessary training that I need without many inconveniences at all,” she said. “I am so grateful that I am doing outdoor sports. In that way, not much has changed for me.”

The sports of running and Nordic skiing are known for building character. So is living in Fairbanks.

The northernmost major city in the United States, Fairbanks is located just 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Residents endure average high temperatures of 10 degrees or less through the winter months and as little as four hours of daylight. Snow often arrives in late October and stays until as late as May.

Kramer says that you have to be a little crazy to live in Fairbanks, which lends to a tight community atmosphere.

“It takes a lot of character to endure what we have here,” she said on a wintry November day where temperatures pushed minus 30 degrees. “You have to not mind (the weather) and you have to get over that threshold of comfort. Once you are over that, not having to be comfortable all of the time, you can live here.”

Kramer said that the community support Fairbanks lends to its own was apparent throughout her high school athletics career. And while the Alaska Fairbanks campus is central to the community, she had always experienced Nanooks Nation from a distance. She is looking forward to immersing herself more in the experience.

“While I have lived here all of my life, the UAF community is something that I have never been part of,” Kramer said. “Of course, the UAF ski team has always been big role models in the community but I have never been involved with UAF. It’s a new experience for me.”

There is something to be said for location, too, for a skier and runner. Kramer can walk two minutes from her residence hall to ski trails, giving her quick access to not only a solid practice ground but to a place where she can be one with nature.

“I really love the feeling of gliding on snow, the silence of the woods when it is super snowy,” she said. “I love the snow. It’s something that I have to have to be fast and competitive.”

Despite all that the community has to offer and all that the Nanooks’ community has done to make Kramer feel even more at home, she is still asked if she might still leave Fairbanks for a better opportunity. The short answer is there isn’t a better opportunity.

“I am feeling supported here. It’s a really good community,” Kramer said. “There’s a ton of reasons that I chose UAF and I definitely couldn’t see myself anywhere else.”

Copyright ©2024 Great Northwest Athletic Conference. All Rights Reserved.