Prep newsmaker: Skiing, success all in the family for Duluth East's Tofte

Skiing at the Korkki Nordic Center near Two Harbors is a Tofte family holiday tradition for dad, Jon Tofte; mom, Mary Beth Nevers; and children, Joe and Alena Tofte.

Alena Tofte
Duluth East Nordic ski team senior Alena Tofte classic skis at Snowflake Nordic Center Monday afternoon. [Amanda Hansmeyer /]

Skiing at the Korkki Nordic Center near Two Harbors is a Tofte family holiday tradition for dad, Jon Tofte; mom, Mary Beth Nevers; and children, Joe and Alena Tofte.

They gathered on Christmas Eve last month, although it wasn't exactly a group outing.

"Joe eventually sprinted ahead, and I followed him, trying to keep up," said Alena Tofte, a Duluth East senior.

The family that skis together may not always stay together, but certainly stays fit together.

Joe Tofte, 21, skis for Harvard University, and Alena has been on the East varsity since seventh grade. Their parents are avid recreational skiers, have competed in the American Birkebeiner and at one time were certified ski instructors.


"When the kids were real small, we'd carry them in backpacks while skiing," Mary Beth Nevers said. "It's such a great family sport and community sport. It's a great way for a family to spend time together."

Alena Tofte is ranked sixth among Minnesota high school girls, while East is No. 5 in the team ratings. She finished 27th in the 2008 state meet and will be among the favorites in the Section 7 meet Feb. 5 at Giants Ridge, as defending champion, along with junior teammate Marian Lund. The state meet is Feb. 13.

Tofte's first memories of skiing were at about age 5 in her backyard on 2-foot-long purple and green strap-on skis.

"I love being outside and it amazes me how cool it is to glide along. You take a stride and go six feet," she said. "There's a level of dedication and closeness that you share with teammates in skiing that you don't get in a lot of sports.

"You go through shared pain and joy that is unique. Nordic skiers are hardworking athletes."

The 5-foot-4 Tofte puts in significant time training and racing, but also makes time for school, music and art. She's tied for first academically in East's senior class of 303 students and anticipates pursuing a biology major in college and possibly medical school. She plays the cello in the East symphony orchestra, sings alto in an a cappella choir and dabbles in watercolor painting.

East coach Bonnie Fuller-Kask knows Tofte's summers include rowing, biking, roller skiing and running, including a few three-hour runs. That usually leads to success in the winter. Tofte was on East's state Nordic championship team in 2007 as a sophomore and on a third-place team in 2006 as a ninth-grader. The Greyhounds have won three straight Section 7 team titles and 15 of the past 17.

Joe Tofte was a sophomore on East's 2004 state boys Nordic championship team.


"Alena is a very accomplished, strong skier, with great technique. She ranks with some of the best we've had at East," Fuller-Kask said. "She's so good about training year-round and a lot of that comes from being in an athletic family."

Alena Tofte

Prep status: Senior

School: Duluth East

Sports: Cross country running, Nordic skiing

Age: 17

Height: 5-4

GPA: 4.0


Activities: East symphony orchestra; Sterling Strings chamber orchestra; a cappella choir, Knowledge Bowl

Pet: golden retriever, Ginger

Family: Mother, Mary Beth Nevers; dad, Jon Tofte; brother, Joe, 21

Plans: Attend college and major in biology, and ski

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