Two weeks ago, I had no idea what the rest of my ski season was going to look like. Everything was riding on my race results in Craftsbury, VT at the 2019 US National Championships. I have gone to nationals as a college student for the past four years having high hopes and expectations to qualify for international racing. Growing up, I always dreamt of racing at Junior World Championships, but I also recognized that my entire collegiate season didn't really start until after nationals and I had a lot to focus on with that.
All four years I was able to race well and qualify for World Juniors or Under 23 Championships. Every year, I was proud of this accomplishment, but I only chose to accept the invitation two out of the four years.
During the years that I declined a chance to wear the stars and stripes, I was focused on representing myself as a UVM Catamount. On both occasions this was an extremely challenging decision to make because I was passing up an incredible opportunity. However, the UVM Ski Team had given me so much over my four years in college. The team had grown to be my family away from home and I believe that I owe much of my success to my UVM coaches and teammates. In retrospect, I could not be happier about the choices I made.
Going into the qualifying races this year I felt a lot more pressure. I had been working toward these races all summer and fall so that I could have one more chance to represent USA at the U23 World Championships in Lahti, Finland. I didn’t have a plan for racing after nationals because I had no idea where I would be going. There were no college races or schoolwork that I could fall back on, I just had to race really fast!
Throughout the week I was very content with each of my races. I felt like I had skied pretty well and finished in the top 10 in every race no matter what discipline: skate vs. classic or sprint vs. distance. However, this year there has been a field of U23 female skiers unlike any other. There is such a strong group of girls racing in my age group that most have the potential to podium in Lahti. At the end of the week, I found myself sitting in 6thplace. I was the alternate.
One of the top girls decided to decline the trip to focus on college racing, a decision that I made on numerous occasions. This meant that I was bumped up and selected as one of the top five. At first, I wasn’t sure how to feel about this. I am beyond thrilled to have this opportunity, but in the back of my mind I am still thinking, “you were just the alternate.” This has been hard for me to process. It has forced me to step back from the situation and reevaluate why I am doing this. Am I doing this for bragging rights? Or for the chance just to go on a fun international racing trip? NO! I am doing this to become a better skier. To use this unique skill that I have and to challenge myself to reach outrageous goals. Short-term and long-term goals. Putting this into a big picture perspective I have realized what an improvement I have actually made in just one year.
In previous years at US Nationals I would maybe pop out a top 10 result. This year it happened every race! I have made a jump in my abilities to compete as an overall skier. Yes, in the rankings of U23’s I finished in 6th, but I was always in the mix with those top girls. I can’t expect myself to make this transition from college skiing into elite racing and immediately start winning national level races. It is a goal of mine, but these types of goals take time to achieve. I know that I am getting stronger and faster. I am improving. I am slowly making my way up and I am hopeful that I will continue on this trendline through this season as well as the upcoming seasons.
For now, I am excited to have this opportunity to represent American skiing and do my best to throw down some great races in Finland!
Throughout college I was able to make my way home about three times per year: in the Spring after finals were over, right before going back to school in the Fall, and around the Holidays in December. I love seeing my family and friends in Minnesota and wish I had the opportunity to visit more often, but it’s hard to find the time during school and plane tickets get expensive…
This year I was lucky enough to spend almost three weeks at home over the Holidays. After injuring my back in the last Supertour race in Silverstar, B.C., I jumped into a recovery routine and tried to get it to heal as efficiently as possible. After a few days and a trip to the chiropractor I thought I was good to go and started easing my way back into my normal training. Unfortunately, I pushed my luck, and this only made my back seize up again. I realized that if I didn’t want my back to cause me problems during US Nationals then I needed to take a step back and really rest up. It might seem easy to focus on resting, but with pretty important races coming up in January it was hard not to worry about missing out on key workouts. This tested my patience, but after about a week and a half I was finally ready to get things going again.
Once I was able to accomplish what needed to be done I found myself more relaxed and ready to enjoy the Holiday season at home. I got to see old friends from high school, teammates from the ski community, and had some quality time with my siblings.
My family and I drove up to our cabin in Hayward, WI to find some skiing on the Birkie trails. Although there wasn’t a ton of natural snow, the Birkie Foundation was able to put together a fun little loop of man-made snow for everyone to enjoy. Our cabin isn’t far away from the upper peninsula of Michigan, so we made a day trip to ski on some incredible trails at ABR in Ironwood, MI. My family grew up skiing and it is something we have always done together. Having the opportunity to spend this quality time with everyone really makes me happiest!
While I was home I followed up on a few promises I had made at my Gear West fundraiser. I had the chance to stop by the Mound Westonka and Wayzata High School ski practices to work with some speedy looking juniors in my community. I also hosted a clinic with the Minnesota Youth Ski League (I learned how to ski through MYSL) and had the opportunity to ski, play games, and encourage the next generation of skiers to continue doing what they love! In my spare time I was giving a few ski lessons to some great supporters in the ski community and started working with a new sponsor: Zum Wax.
It’s always sad to say goodbye to home but the time came for me to pack my bags again and head back East. Now I am fired up to be racing at US Nationals in Craftsbury, VT – another place I like to call home. Craftsbury is not far from Burlington and over my four years at UVM I loved every chance I had to ski and race here. The Craftsbury Outdoor Center has done a tremendous job at saving snow and somehow surviving two rain storms in the past few weeks. The conditions are incredible here and it should be a fun week of racing!