Coaches & Staff

APUNSC’s success is a direct result of the dedication to mission, team work, a systematic training regime based on science and sport specific training on snow. The club believes that U.S. Nordic skiing can be the best in the world, and is attacking that mission as a team with the tagline, “We are stronger as a Team”. APU has a strong tradition in Nordic skiing producing some of the best skiers in the US and the world.

Erik Flora

Program Director & Head Coach

University Elite Team 

Erik has pursued a life of ski racing through being a coach and competitor. As an athlete, he skied at National and International levelErik has been with APU Nordic Ski Center since 1996 as an athlete, then coach and now Director. As a coach, Erik has helped athletes achieve their goals. A three-time Olympic coach and personal coach to World Cup and World Championship medalist, he has been recognized by the United States Olympic Committee for National Coach of Year (all sports), National Coach of year for Cross Country Skiing, and Development Coach of the Year for Skiing. United States Ski Association recognize Erik with Cross-Country Domestic Coach of the Year, Cross-Country International Coach of the Year, and Development Coach of the Year awards while directing APU to two USSA Cross Country Ski Club of the Year awards. When he isn’t coaching, Erik loves to spend time with his wife, Gretchen, and their three young children in the mountains of Alaska.  

Contact Erik Flora

 

Eric Strabel

Program Manager 

Head Coach – Junior Program & Tour Group  

Eric has been coaching with APU Nordic Ski Center since 2009. Eric grew up in the MatanuskaSusitna Valley and had a successful athletic career before becoming a coach. In high school he won the overall state ski championship three times and had a top 10 finish at World Juniors. He later achieved 2nd place finishes at NCAA and USSA National Championships. Eric graduated from UAA in 2005 with a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. Eric is a competitive mountain runner, winning the Mount Marathon race three times and held the men’s race record from 2013 to 2015. He loves to spend time with his wife Denali, often exploring Alaska’s wilderness. Eric enjoys coaching junior skiers to enjoy the sport, pursue their goals, build character, and bond with teammates. 

Contact Eric Strabel

 

Galen Johnston

Head Coach – Devo, Grom, Master & Tour Program 

Galen was born and raised in Talkeetna, Alaska. He first learned to ski as a mode of transportation from his home, to the nearest road a mile away when he was two. Galen grew up climbing, skiing and travelling with his parents from a young age. His family often camped out in venue parking lots the night before Besh Cup races (even in Fairbanks.) At age 11 Galen became the youngest person to summit Denali. This upbringing instilled an adventurous and playful spirit in Galen that he still holds onto. Galen skied for Susitna Valley High school until his senior year in 2008 when he enrolled and raced for APUNSC through the Early Honors program. Galen then pursued studies at UAA and raced for the Seawolves for two seasons. Now, Galen loves coaching a spectrum of ages and abilities from Jr. Nordic age kids as young as five, to APUNSC masters pushing 90. Galen has been coaching full time for APUNSC since 2014. If you don’t find Galen on the trails coaching, or somewhere waxing skis for the next race, you’ll likely find him off gallivanting in the mountains with his wife Cheyenne and dog Norten.

Contact Galen Johnston

 

Eliza Rorabaugh

Assistant Coach – Junior & Women’s Program

Eliza grew up skiing and racing in Fairbanks, Alaska. The youngest of three sisters, Eliza was eager to follow in their active footsteps. This led her to engage with the outdoors regularly. Eliza learned to ski as soon as she could walk, and grew to love racing even in the cold Fairbanks temps. After going to West Valley High School, she continued her ski racing career at Williams College in Massachusetts. After college, she continued to pursue a future with cross country skiing by becoming a coach. Eliza began ski coaching in 2017 for Auburn Ski Club in Truckee, California. In 2019, after two seasons in California, she moved to Anchorage and began coaching with the APUNSC Junior program for the 2019/20 season. Eliza also assistant coaches for the APUNSC Women’s group and West High School. In her spare time, Eliza likes going for long runs in the mountains with her dog, Poppy.

 

Jack Novak

Program Coach – University Elite & Masters Program

Jack grew up in Anchorage, Alaska and began skiing with his mom at age 2 after being pulled behind in a pulk sled during his infancy. Soon after, Jack was hooked and started skiing with APUNSC as a Devo.  He grew up training in the APUNSC programs racing nationally and internationally achieving numerous Junior National Podiums and 2012 Besh Cup champion. Jack attended college at APU and skied for the University and the Elite team. He graduated from APU in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Counseling Psychology and has been coaching with APUNSC since 2017. Jack is now a full-time coach working with and coaching all programs from Groms to Masters, while also providing wax support at local, national and international/World Cup races for our athletes.  When Jack is not coaching you can find him outside exploring every nook and cranny on and off the map system filled with wildlife. Whether it’s on foot, bike, skis, boats, planes (or any other way you may try and move through the outdoors bushwhacking), Jack is out there enjoying what Alaska has to offer! 

Contact Jack Novak

 

Kaylee Heck

Assistant Coach – Groms & Devo Program

Kaylee was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. She played just about every sport until finding her love for sliding on skinny skis when she was 8 years oldKaylee attended South High School and skied with APUNSC competitively until she graduated. She then moved to Hawaii, but soon after realized she loved the snow too much. Before moving back home to Alaska, Kaylee taught English in the Dominican Republic for four months and then moved to Utah in 2019 where she started coaching cross-country skiing. Kaylee’s other coaching expertise include being a downhill ski instructor throughout high school and venturing out into the villages to coach with Skiku! Currently, she is coaching with the Devos and the Groms! 

 

Naomi Kiekintveld

Assistant Coach – Devo Program

Naomi was born in raised in Anchorage, Alaska. While she didn’t start skiing until middle school, she quickly fell in love with the sport. She earned a varsity letter each year while skiing for South High School and placed 3rd over all at the State Championship her senior year. During high school she skied for Team Alaska in Fairbanks for the 2014 Arctic Winter Games, and in Cable, Wisconsin for the 2016 Junior Nationals. Following high school, Naomi went to Houghton, Michigan to ski for Michigan Tech. Naomi came back to Alaska and started coaching in 2017 for South High as well as the Team Alaska coaching staff. Naomi has been coaching for APUNSC with the Devos program since 2019. In her spare time, Naomi is also a professional photographer and started her photography business in 2018. She spent the summer of 2018 hiking the Appalachian Trail and is looking forward to hiking the Pacific Coast Trail in the future. 

 

Sara Miller

Program Coach – Women’s Group 

Sara grew up racing in Anchorage and skied for the University of Vermont and Nevada, Reno. She has been coaching all ages and expertise for the past 20 years. She loves helping athletes grow and improve both physically and mentally. In her free time, Sara enjoys biking, running, triathlons, and helping the ski community as the VP of the Nordic Skiing Assoc. of Anchorage board. 

 

Ana Jager 

Assistant Coach – Devo & Groms Program

Ana grew up in Anchorage which helped to foster a big love for winter, playing outside, romping in the mountains, and movement! Being a Devo and Junior with APU in middle/high school helped Ana find community and a lot of enjoyment and learning in skiing, outdoor adventure and physical movement. Romping around the woods and trails with the Devo crew was influential for young Ana, highlighting skiing as a fun and community based activity. Ana skied and raced with APU through high school, graduated from college in Washington state, and recently moved home to Anchorage. Ana loves connecting with and learning from kids and young people which is a huge highlight for her as an assistant Devos/Groms coach. 

Thomas O’Harra

Assistant Coach – Groms Program


Thomas, of Anchorage, AK, has grown up in the APU community beginning in 2007 as part of the Devos, Juniors, then the Elite Team starting in 2013. He began taking classes at APU through the Early Honors program, then continued on to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in 2017, and is expecting to finish a Master of Arts this Fall 2020. Thomas’ favorite races are skate 30 and 50k’s, but he is a consistent contender in sprint races as well. Thomas loves crust ski adventures and his favorite one (so far) was up Eagle River from the Nature Center. Thomas is a US National Sprint A Finalist, 2021 Tour of Anchorage 50k 2nd place, Top 5-American Birkebeiner Finisher! Fun Fact: Thomas has spent over 100 days on expedition kayak trips in Prince William Sound!


Anna Darnell

Assistant Coach – Women’s Program


Anna, of Anchorage, AK, joined the APU in 2010 as a member of the Devo team. She skied with the Junior team until the end of high school (2016) before spending two years at UAF and two years at UAA on their respective ski teams. She will graduate from UAA this December with her degree in Psychology. On the race trails, she prefers 5k skate interval starts, though you can find her crust skiing during the spring, particularly in Turnagian Pass. Fun Fact: Anna did ballet for seven years and is an NCAA All-American Skier.

 

Penny Smythe

Marketing & Development  

Penny graduated from the University of Denver in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Communications. Having grown up in Baltimore, Maryland, she moved to Anchorage in 2005 and has worked in all facets of the marketing and communications fields for both privatepublic and non-profit sectorsPenny started working for APUNSC in 2019. She is proud to provide support for APUNSC through fundraising, marketing, communications, and any other help the ski center might need. Penny grew up in Baltimore, MD figuring skating and playing every type of sport available to her. She along with her ice dancing partner were the 1998 U.S. Novice Ice Dancing National Champions moving onto compete internationally on the World Junior Circuit for the U.S. Figure Skating Team. While skating competitively, she trained at the University of DelawarePenny learned to crosscountry ski when she lived in Colorado and thjuxtaposition between skating and skate skiing was natural transition. She grew to love applying her skating abilities on snowPenny also has a love for coaching and working with the young and young at heart. Penny has coached ice skating since 1999, has been a sailing instructor working on cruising camps for kids in the summers in Baltimore, and has since been a soccer coach with the Boys & Girls club in Anchorage. In her spare time, Penny loves to spend time with her 2 children, Eloise and Abe, and husband, Dale campingboating, fishing, skiing, skating and anything else that revolves around fun in the outdoors. 

Contact Penny Smythe