TRAVERSE CITY — For Caleb Lewandowski, there’s no sophomore crisis. Only sophomore success.
The awards and accolades keep piling up for the Division 1 state champion skier and sophomore Traverse City West Titan.
In addition to the gold he won in the slalom race, the silver he won in the giant slalom and the overall team title he helped West win in the State of the Michigan High School Athletic Association this season, Lewandowski was also a two-time first All-State team selection by the Michigan High School Ski Coaches Association.
Oh yeah, and he just qualified to compete nationally at the USA Alpine Championships in Sugarloaf, Maine.
And to boot, Lewandowski is also the 2022 Record-Eagle Male Skier of the Year.
“It’s great,” Lewandowski said. “I just hope this can continue for my next two years in high school and maybe beyond.”
Lewandowski had some way to go to qualify for the national races, which take place the first week of April.
He first had to qualify in a race in the Upper Peninsula to earn the chance to race at the Rocky/Central Junior Championships in Vail, Colorado.
Once he did that, Lewandowski needed to finish in the top 15 among 19-stat runners to make it to Sugarloaf.
Lewandowski finished in the top 10.
“It was really surprising because I crashed in a few races,” he said. “I didn’t have the best week, but I still did well and qualified. It was pretty cool.
Lewandowski is one of 45 ski racers in the 16-and-under division to have made it this far.
Fifteen each made it from the Rocky/Central, Western and Eastern divisions.
TC West head ski coach Ed Johnson called Lewandowski a “really special kid” with a “very natural, very raw athletic talent” that he says runs in the family.
Johnson isn’t wrong. Caleb’s older brother, Aiden, won the state giant slalom championship last season.
Johnson said the combination of that talent with the good foundation Lewandowski built while at the Grand Traverse Ski Club and the United States Ski and Snowboard Association along with a “really good hard work ethic” has produced one of the best young skiers not only in Michigan. but in the country.
“He knows what it takes to push it to another level,” Johnson said. “It’s pretty cool to see what he’s achieved at this age and at this level. But he’s not done yet. We’re going to see more.
Lewandowski cut his ski chops on the slopes of Boyne Mountain and Hickory Hills. Growing up, he saw many of his friends ski races and had only one thought.
“I wanted to try,” he said.
What was the key to its success?
“Practice helps a lot,” Lewandowski said. “But you also need to do hard-earth training like running and box jumps to work on your balance. And you also have to get into the weight room to get stronger, which helps a lot.
Balance is a major element, and the reason is quite simple.
“It keeps you upright so you don’t fall,” Lewandowski said.
But Johnson said it’s not just Lewandowski’s physical gifts that make him an elite skier.
The second also has the mental game.
Johnson has said in the past that Lewandowski seemed more interested in having fun, which Lewandowski says is a big part of skiing — the “just fooling around” part.
But something has changed this year.
“With his increased level of maturity this year, it was fun coaching him because he really listens and doesn’t get super frustrated,” Johnson said. “If he has a bad race or a bad day, he understands that’s part of being a competitive ski athlete. There will be plenty of days that just won’t live up to your expectations. He handles it very well. »
A short memory also helps.
“If you’re having a bad day, you have to forget about it and put it behind you,” Johnson said. “If you’re having a really good day, you have to celebrate and be humble and move on. He’s done a really good job with that.
Although he has matured quickly, Lewandowski still enjoys sports.
“When you come down the hill it’s just amazing. It’s really fun,” he said. “I love competition. It’s not a team sport, but you always have your racing team with you to help and push you to do better.
And that’s why he loves the Michigan ski community.
“Everyone who ski races knows each other and are all friends,” he said. “There’s always that competitive aspect – we all want to fight – but at the end of the day, we’re all friends.”