St. Olaf skier finds success as a national champion
When Lily Hubanks ’25 was first applying to colleges, she had no intention of skiing competitively.
Then she found St. Olaf — and became a national champion.
At the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USCSA) National Championships this March, Hubanks swept three individual titles — the 7.5k classic, skate sprint, and 15k skate — leading the St. Olaf women’s Nordic skiing team to a first-place overall finish. She also received an Academic All-American title, recognizing academic excellence in competitors with a GPA of 3.3 or higher.
This continues a successful streak for the women’s Nordic ski team, which also earned four national team titles at the 2022 USCSA championships.
For Hubanks, skiing was first a beloved family tradition that started at a very young age. She transitioned into her first competitive experience with skiing in middle school, joining a team of athletes from several different schools within the Madison, Wisconsin region. Having spent most of her life in sports teams with varieties of people, she finds the close community of both the Nordic ski team and St. Olaf as a whole to be comfortingly familiar.
“Being part of the team has been a great experience for me, mainly because of the strong sense of community we share,” Hubanks says. “The environment is very positive and encouraging, and I love spending time with everyone. I especially look up to the captains who have taught me so much about how to be a leader, how to create and foster a community, and how to be there for others. We have shared many fun adventures as a team over the last season. One thing I have really enjoyed about going to St. Olaf is that with the small size I feel like I have been able to make a lot of connections.”
We have shared many fun adventures as a team over the last season. One thing I have really enjoyed about going to St. Olaf is that with the small size I feel like I have been able to make a lot of connections.Lily Hubanks ’25
Hubanks has been a high achieving athlete since her first year at St. Olaf, winning her first national title in the 15k classic at the 2022 USCSA National Championships. In addition to her national titles, she won the 5k classic and 10k skate at the MCSA Regional Championships earlier this year. These successes motivate Hubanks’ goals as both an athlete and as teammate as she hopes to strengthen her own mental stamina while supporting others.
“Two of my goals are to become a stronger athlete and to be the best teammate I can be,” Hubanks says. “Something I am working on is developing mental toughness during races, especially during ones where I don’t feel at my best or that have especially challenging conditions. I’m learning to not dwell on setbacks or disappointing races. That is not to say that I never feel disappointed or upset after a race that doesn’t go the way I planned but that if I do feel that way I try not to let those feelings get the best of me. Instead I can process a few things I could’ve done better and move on.”
In reflecting on her experience at the USCSA National Championships, Hubanks thinks fondly of the spectacular scenery of Mammoth, California, that she says made every race feel exciting. An environmental studies major with a concentration in educational studies, Hubanks has always found solace in the outdoors. She hopes to build on her interest in environmental education through volunteer work this summer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison arboretum.