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      Training on the trails

      Winter weather and the early snow have sports enthusiasts strapping on their skis to hit the cross country trails, but some of the skiers take their sport a little more seriously. Members of the Northern Michigan University cross country team have been out in the woods practicing hard for their season.

      Though they were eager to get on the trails again, they don't wait for the snow to fly to start getting in shape--the athletes practice year-round to keep their bodies conditioned.

      And staying fit isn't the only thing they have to take into consideration--trail conditions and the weather are also important. Recent warmer temperatures have made snow on the trails sticky, which impacts their performance as it tends to stick to their skis. This makes their workout that much harder.

      "It's sticky right now, so it's hard to get and keep momentum, and your edges are sticking a little more so you're definitely bogged down a little bit," said men's team captain Phillip Violett.

      Since becoming professional athletes is the goal of most of the skiers, however, they take it in stride.

      "You know, no matter what the sport, it depends on you being able to adapt yourself to all the varying conditions," said women's team captain Laura DeWitt.

      With the team's history of producing All-American winners and Olympic athletes, there are high hopes for this year's team, despite the loss of some strong skiers.

      "This team is really stepping up to the challenge this year and I'm pretty confident that we're going to have a great season," DeWitt said. "I'm excited for it."