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CEC Nordic coach Arne Maijala steps down

The 1986 Esko grad cited personal health issues and the time commitment coaching requires as factors in his decision to resign from the position.

3979122+Nordic boys team cmyk .jpg
Arne Maijala, left, poses with the 2018 Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys Nordic ski team after they clinched the Lake Superior Conference Championship in January 2018. Maijala took over as head coach in 2019, leading the boys team to back-to-back state meet appearances in 2020 and 2021.
2018 file / Cloquet Pine Journal
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CLOQUET — After guiding the Lumberjacks to the state team meet twice in four years as head coach of the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Nordic ski teams, Eskonative Arne Maijala recently announced he’s stepping down from the position due to personal health concerns and the time commitment.

Members of the Cloquet School Board officially approved Maijala's resignation at their Monday, Aug. 22, meeting before granting Cloquet Activities Director Paul Riess permission to post the vacant position.

Riess later thanked Maijala for all of his contributions over his four-year tenure as head coach.

“Arne did a great job with our Nordic program. He continued building a strong competitive program that CEC is known for,” Riess said in an email to the Pine Journal. “He built an atmosphere that kids wanted to be a part (of), and he will be tough to replace.”

Maijala’s coaching career with CEC began under longtime head coach Glen Sorenson, whom he credits as a major influence in his path to becoming head coach in 2019 when the position was vacated.

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Under Maijala, the CEC boys teams earned back-to-back trips to the state meet in 2020 and 2021. The trip in 2020 was the first in 30 years for the boys' programs.

A key member of those teams, 2021 Cloquet High School graduate Benjamin Bauer spoke glowingly of Maijala and his coaching ability.

Benjamin Bauer nears the finish line in the Section 7 Nordic classic pursuit race on Feb. 7. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com
Benjamin Bauer nears the finish line in the Section 7 Nordic classic pursuit race on Feb. 7, 2019.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

“You always knew Arne was there for the team,” Bauer said in a message to the Pine Journal. “When our team grew to over 100 skiers, Arne organized all of us with ease all while being a kind, encouraging coach.”

The decision to step away was especially difficult, according to Maijala, and stems from personal health issues, along with a desire to spend more time with family.

“I just really want to spend more quality time with my dad … I also have some other health issues that have developed that I just don’t know when I’m going to have to deal with those,” Maijala shared. “I decided I don’t think I have it in me to put all of the time and effort that I want to spend to keep the program going like I’ve had it going.”

Maijala’s experience with the sport came second-hand through the participation of his daughter, Anja Maijala, who starred on the team during his stint as assistant coach. She went on to earn a scholarship to compete at the Division II level at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Arne’s son, A.J. Maijala, was another standout in the program who competed at the 2020 and 2021 state meets.

Anja Maijala celebrates the end of a successful high school Nordic skiing career just as her younger brother, AJ Maijala, bursts upon the scene. The eighth-grader skied on the varsity team several times this season and competed on the section team. Photo contributed by Yvette Maijala
From left, Anja and A.J. Maijala.
Contributed / Yvette Maijala

“I got into skiing more because my daughter got into it and did phenomenal,” Maijala said. “She excelled in it, and I just really had fun watching my kids in that.”

The upcoming 2022-2023 season will be noticeably different in the absence of Maijala family members. However, Arne Maijala said he is comfortable with where the program sits thanks to volunteer assistants like Ben Croft, among others.

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“I also felt very comfortable that we do have a strong coaching staff as it is, and I’m confident no matter what happens one of those (individuals) will step up if nobody else in the area wants to take the job,” Maijala said.

In the meantime, Maijala shared that he will continue to teach seventh grade math at Cloquet Middle School, and resume his duties as the coach of mathletes in the MathCounts program. Maijala will also remain the varsity assistant distance running coach for the Cloquet track and field team.

With his newfound free time this winter, Maijala said he plans to participate more in the sport he’s grown to love.

“I joke about this but it’s true, I think I’ll actually ski more myself when I’m not coaching. I plan on doing a lot more skiing on my own,” Maijala shared. “When you’re running a program, you’re too busy with this and that. You’re involved with every angle that it’s hard to take care of yourself, and I really enjoy Nordic skiing just for my personal benefit.”

Maijala thanked the Cloquet Athletic Department, Cloquet Transit Company, the city of Cloquet, the Cloquet Ski Club, the Sons of Norway, Ken Ripp and Pat Marciniak for all of their contributions to the teams over the years.

Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
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