The last two days at US Nationals have been a flurry of preparation, racing, repeating. We had some strong results in the race on Wednesday. The current schedule at US Nationals is always tricky. We come headlong out of Christmas break, roll up into the toughest races in the year and have to duke it out with strong skiers who have been working towards this with laser focus since June. It isn’t that we don’t put our best foot forward, train hard and get psyched for Nationals, it is just that bigger races for us come later, so the mind games begin. But let me not get too far ahead of myself.
While not every detail of organization has been flawless in Rumford, the racing has been solid, the skiing has been good and the competition has been fair. So let me take apart a few things in our skiing starting on the men’s side: Over the last five years, Patty J’s take on skiing has been a huge boon for our scene: he takes training seriously, but he isn’t isolated, compulsive or awkward. He is even keeled and low key to the point where his teammates suck up his affect and it helps their racing. Because of this and a tireless attention to training, he has steadily climbed up in the results. His strong races this week at US Nationals (13th, 9th and 11th), no doubt come as a result of his consistent training with APU last winter in his year off and a good transition back to school this year. Patrick is off to a fantastic start and we’re thrilled to be along for the ride.
Our sophomore boys tell a story that’s somewhat intertwined: both Lusty & Austin came in last year a touch wide-eyed to the nature of college skiing, both hit last summer with a renewed focus on training and a better idea of what to do to prepare for the season. Both have lit out for this season with a great start. In addition to Austin’s strong sprint on Wednesday, he cobbled (yep) together a great pair of distance races finishing tenth yesterday in the junior 10k classic. For his part, Ben was nearly vibrating when he picked up his skis at the back of the trailer. You can tell when a kid is in a place to have a good race. Ben was clearly in that place taking the win in the junior 10k by a scant 3 seconds over UVM’s Scott Patterson, qualifying him for the World Junior Championships (more on this in a later post) and laying down a great start to the season.
After a bout with a long illness this fall, Chase came into the racing season a touch nervous. The good news is that the training he’s done with Sun Valley and with our program over the last few years has accumulated enough to help him put together a good day of race on Wednesday and 2/3 of a great 30k race. Chase raced with a ton of heart (doesn’t he always?) and put his doubts about preparation to rest.
The last sprint race of the week hasn’t happened and though we’ve pulled up stakes and soldiered back to Middlebury for some training time this weekend, Doug & Patrick have stuck around Rumford for the final classic sprint. So I can’t quite say that Doug’s strongest race of the week was a distance race (but allow me to say it for now). What was great about Doug’s 15k skate was that he skied it pretty evenly. It is not a secret that Doug has a tendency to start races, shall we say, REALLY HARD…. He didn’t do that and increasingly, Doug is putting together more and more consistent races. (A long time goal and an awesome thing to see.)
For much of our men’s crew, this was a great series to open up the year with. Danny, Eliot, and Dylan put together solid, though not spectacular races, and leave Rumford with a great week of high end training to advance them for the upcoming season. Lander knocked down his first 30k with clean technique and consistent skiing. Greg jumped into the fray and saw the highest levels of competition in the country. Likewise, Noah Brautigam came back to racing after a term away in Nepal and we’re glad to have him back.
On the women’s side, we had a good week of racing as well. The team’s first years had a fantastic opening to 2012. Stella Holt proved to be the team’s most consistent finisher with some even racing and smart tactics. After qualifying in the senior sprint heats on Tuesday, Stella put together two solid distance races. Heather Mooney and Annie Pokorny improved each race as the week went on. Heather notched our top finish in the Junior Race on Friday and Annie said the effort was her best feeling of the year so far, “It felt like I was racing.” The transition from junior skiing to collegiate skiing is a tough one with every system (coaching, sleeping, eating and training) changing. To come into the season with solid racing is a huge boon for the year ahead. Likewise, Rachel Hall left everything on the course for the 10k skate. “It was tough.” She said of the three trips up high school hill.
Sophie McClelland is no stranger to the rigors of US Nationals. Over the last few years, Sophie has worked through injury and sorted out a stronger approach to training. This week her races looked great: self-possessed and even with good energy. Similarly, sophomore Emily Attwood found a rhythm to her racing which bodes well for the weeks ahead.
For the rest of the crew, US Nationals was a chance to knock out the kinks whether coach induced (as was the case with Hilary’s slippery skis in her 30k) or just naturally occurring. Keely Levins caught the Rumford cold dashing her chances at a good week of racing. Cate Brown worked through race jitters to stronger technique and focus. Anna B skied smoothly through her races, working through this level of racing. Emily Stitt got a few more race starts after a year away last year with mono.
It’s easy to look at great races and tough races in this much hyped week of skiing and hope to hang the season on whatever the results might say, but there’s a lot of work to be done, a lot of skis to be prepped and a lot more bibs to pick up.
Many, many thanks to Colin and Patty for awesome support this week and to our network of parents who kept us fed and fired up. Here’s to 2012!