Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Skier of the Week: Cowboy Chase and Laramie Loppet

This weekend was one of the hardest for skiers and coaches. We were in charge of timing, organizing and running the Wyoming High School Nordic State Championships AND we hosted our own home races. It takes true grit to just get through the weekend at all and to have a good race is almost beyond imagining.

Despite this we did have some good performances both on and off the trails and there was intense competition for being skier of the week but Leann saved the best race, before Nationals that is, to the last.

Leann was one of only two athletes who came up early to setup the for the State Meet on Friday morning. She helped all morning and then proceeded to be the announcer for the race all day and then went to the banquet that night to recruit the next generation of UW Nordic Skiers. After a short night of sleep she then drove the team up on Saturday morning to start it all again.

The weather was not kind to us on Saturday with wind and extreme cold and after standing and working all morning it was tough to even start skiing the warmup for the sprint. There was some grumbling but Leann warmed up and just decided to see what would happen. What would happen was nothing short of awesome!

The sprint consists of a Preliminary Round where everyone starts in 30 second intervals. The results from this round will place skiers into 5 heats of 6 skiers who will then go head to head with the first two in each heat and the next two fastest times going onto the next round. If an athlete makes it to the final round she will have skied the 1.3km loop 4 times at full speed.

Leann started the rounds in a good spot, finishing 4th in the Qualifier. She skied comfortably in the Quarterfinals and easily moved onto the Semi-Finals. At this point it looked like her heat was stacked with all the fast women but she skied easily into 2nd in her heat which set her up for the Final top 6 women. She was super excited because the rounds had been quite easy for her thus far but the final was a different story with all the big guns in one heat trying for a podium finish.

Leann skied a very smart and fast race making a strong move for 2nd in the final stretch barely edged out for a 3rd, her first ever College podium on her last weekend of College racing! She crossed the finish line all smiles and hugs. An amazing finish after two days of standing in the freezing cold!

Leann is poised for Lake Placid as this event is exactly the format of the sprint at USCSA Nationals. We're all looking forward to at least an All-American finish in this race and possibly others. She's headed into next week in the best shape of her college career and backed-up by a women's team ready for the challenge.

As you can tell Leann is a great skier with potential to shine at Nationals but her ski skill is dwarfed by her leadership and organizational abilities. She has taken a team of people who did not know each other, were new from different places and as the 2018 Team President turned it into a cohesive unit that has surpassed every expectation both on and off the ski trails. She has kept this team moving forward with all the hidden organizational tasks, has lead on the ski trails and has inspired the freshmen.

With this amazing skill set we are excited to see where Leann goes after her graduation in May!


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Skier of the Week - DU Invitational

Morgan finishing the Classic Race.
Photo Credit David James
This week's Skier of the Week has been a long time coming.

Morgan came to us as a transfer student from Lander where she helped coach the High School team and did amazing things in Archeology. She almost didn't ski but a well timed contact from Trevor got convinced her and she's been solid every since. In the first workouts in the fall of her first year she could barely keep up and often had to walk. This didn't sit well with Morgan and she worked hard to improve her fitness and by the time she was on skis she was able to race reasonably. I remember the first time I thought she was really going to accomplish something with skiing was in the sprint race at Nationals last year when I gave her a split and she growled in response and put on a burst. It's been all improvement from there.

She did a much better job of training this summer and came back this fall in a completely different place from last fall. Ready to hit the ground running and take a leadership role on the team.

This winter she started towards the back of the women's team with a couple of slower races but she has gradually climbed up the rankings until her points now rank her 3rd on the team and she has placed in the top 10 for the last two races. We think she will continue to move up the conference rankings and will have great finishes at Nationals.

Not only has she improved every week this season she has improved a truly incredible amount from last season! Her overall points this season are already well below her points from last year and there are many races to come. Her meteoric rise is almost impossible to believe.

Not only has Morgan shown incredible improvement in her skiing but she is the UW Nordic Treasurer, is our representative on the Club Sports Council and is a true leader in the classroom. She is an incredible scholar who excels in the classroom, in research and as an example to the younger athletes.

We are truly excited to see where she goes in the next few weeks and at Lake Placid Nationals and after her graduation in the spring. We secretly hope we can get her into a graduate program so she can ski another year!

Morgan, you ROCK OUR WORLD!!!!

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Skier of the Week! Alley Loop/Western State Colorado University Invitational/University of New Mexico Invitational

Trevor and Mason chasing the leader in the 21km

It was a beautiful weekend in Crested Butte. So little snow for the area but more snow than we've seen for quite awhile! The snow situation in Colorado and New Mexico is so bad that the University of New Mexico had to move their home invitational to join us in Crested Butte. The first joint NCAA Division I AND USCSA Qualifer! It made for an exciting weekend!

As is the case every weekend several people could have been named Skier of the Week. Maddy, Rylie, Kat, Ben & Michaela who all finished their first 21km with flying colors. Ella who crushed the USCSA field and placed 19th in the Division I field. Mason who has started feeling a tad more healthy and won the 5km Classic USCSA race by just 2 seconds.

All these were great performances but we are going to focus on Trevor, his fantastic race and his journey to get there.

For the past two summers Trevor has done all he can do to become a better skier. Last summer he had to return to Casper for a job but still traveled to Laramie to train with the team as much as possible. His trips with the team were magical as we finished long bike rides, 5 hour runs and adventures all over Colorado! While this was amazing and fun he wasn't around all the tie and he spent much of his time training on his own with dedication and determination.

While he has had a stellar season, the best yet, he had yet to have that amazing breakthrough race. He need wait no longer, this was the race!

He told us after the race that though he often thinks he can win a race he didn't think about this one. He just wanted to get in the race and see how it went and it went well! He started at a good pace, not too fast but fast enough to keep him in the race. He relaxed and skied and watched as skier after skier fell to his raging pace. After one lap he had caught the entire USCSA field except for one person and he was doing damage to the Division I field. In the last 5km he caught the last USCSA skier to take the lead. He didn't stop there but kept pushing to see how close he could get to the Division I leaders. He won the USCSA race by 20 seconds

It was a brilliant race that showed in a wide variety of ways as he had his very first win in USCSA, best place in the Division I race (only 9% back!), and had his career best points in a skate race! Everything he has worked so hard for was achieved!

The 5km classic was on Sunday and Trevor was back in action. While it didn't go as well as the day before he still had a stellar race with his best classic points of this season placing 4th in USCSA, 34th in Division I and he broke the 200 point mark for the first time this season in both races.

We know this is just the beginning of a beautiful peak and we are excited for the next two race weekends and Nationals!

Trevor you ROCK OUR WORLD!!!!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Skier of the Week: Colorado Mesa University Invitational

Ella finishing the Classic Race
Photo by David James

This week there is a large group of athletes who could have gained the title of Skier of the Week. It could be Trevor who placed 3rd only 4 seconds out of 2nd and 2 in front of 4th. It could be Sydney who won the classic race and took control of the Leader Bib. It could be Nick, Maddy, Leann, Michaela or Morgan all of whom had some of the best races of the season!

Winning the Skier of the Week took something special and Ella definitely had it. After turning 21 on Thursday and having her best classic race of the year on Saturday Ella was NOT satisfied until she crossed the finish line in the skate race and looked back at the huge gap to second place.

We watched her at 1km as she was stuck in a pack of women a full minute out of the lead and shook our heads. She really needs to get out faster if she wants to win. Imagine our delight when at 8km we looked up and Ella was free and clear, over 20 seconds in front of second place and skiing like someone with a mission.

This has been a long time coming. First learning how to ski race, building the muscles to support good technique, building the base with hours of OD over the summer, hours of rollerski technique as the sun rose over the mountains, biking to build skate strength... Ella has been waiting two years for this moment. The 5 hour runs up mountain passes in the summer, the extra exercises with physiobands to strengthen weak muscles, the endless technique work and hours of roller skiing and skiing lead to this amazing accomplishment and it is only the beginning.

As coaches we know that you can't fake fitness, in the end it will show. There are no surprises and there is no magic bullet. Just getting it done day after day as Ella showed us this weekend!

Ella is the perfect example of a UW Nordic athlete, dedicated both on the skis and in the classroom. Exploring through skiing and school to reach the pinnacles of both.

Congratulations to Ella. You ROCK OUR WORLD!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Skier of the Week: Stagecoach Classic

Leann sporting the J Diggs Socks in the Team Sprint!

The Skier of the Week for the Stagecoach Classic is having an amazing year! Not only is she starting to ski like a God but she is also doing an incredible job of leading the team.

She started her college career as the only freshman girl. She liked that role, being the young one, the baby. She reveled in having the older skiers watch out for her, help her, inspire her. She followed them and learned and through it all kept smiling.

Then this season came and suddenly she is not only the only graduating woman BUT she it the Team President. And what a Team President! Her organization, planing, advocating, encouragement, and just plain positive attitude puts her among UW Nordic's best every Presidents! 

Following Sam was a tough place to be but she learned a great deal from him, kept it going and brought her own brand of leadership and inspiration.

Now is it her turn to be the leader and the mentor and she has stepped up just when we needed it most. With 6 new freshman who need nurturing, mentoring, teaching and inspiring Leann has been kept busy but has thrived under the pressure. The team is an incredible unit due in part to her tireless ability to bring a smile and excitement.

All of this leadership doesn't seem to have affected her skiing. Her season started a little slowly with some physical issues that kept her from skiing well but this last weekend she busted it out. She skied 215 points and 10 minutes faster in the race this year! We generally hope for improvements in the 10-30 point range and she shattered that! In fact we had an entire team of huge improvements from last year and she beat the improvements of the next person (who was Syd with 158 points of improvement ) by almost 60 points!

Finally, as if incredible work as a leader, organizer and skier weren't enough, Leann is leading the team in the classroom by showing the youngsters how to balance skiing, school and fun. 

She truly has become a Phenomenal Woman, Leader and Skier.

Congratulations Leann Bentley! 


Monday, January 08, 2018

Skier of the Week: Casper High School Races

Sydney in the Classic Race

Wait... Did you read that correctly, Casper High School Races? It turns out you did read that correctly.

This past weekend we had hoped to go to Colorado for a citizen race but the snow conditions were poor and the race was cancelled. We were left with little option for a race, which is super important to our peaking plan. We realized that Casper was having a High School Race and Casper head coaches, UW Alumn Justin and Cassidy were gracious enough to let us forerun their races.

We are on a pretty high training load and our athletes are tired so the races weren't our fastest but they were very good for training.

The races were a freestyle sprint and a 8.5km classic. We had almost our entire team racing this weekend and it was fun to get together after the long break.

While we didn't really have any meaningful results we did have some good performances and one person stood out for not only this week but for her four season races thus far.

Sydney Wiswell came to us as a freshman in a hole from overtraining in high school. Her body was crushed but her spirit was invincible! She struggled through last season and then spent a summer focused on healing and base fitness. This is the hardest training an athlete can do as it often starts with having to walk/hike to stay at the training level required.

We all thought Syd had done this well during the summer but the proof of her dedication would not come until she raced so the fall was a time of hoping and waiting.

We are excited to say that the wait is over and Syd's training this summer was perfect! In the first race she skied like we have never seen her ski. Strong, powerful and with a smile on her face. It was followed by a race in which she was tired BUT a normal tired and a solid finish. In this first race her NRL points were 75 points lower than the average of her best 4 from last season AND for 100 points better than her best skate races from last season! This is stunning considering that she will race faster as the season continues.

This weekend she stepped up even further by finishing two sprint races and then a punishing 8.5km classic race. She is getting stronger and fitter in every race. We are truly excited to see the stunning smile and the raw power on display as she heals.

We know there will be better days coming this season and Syd may well be a logical choice at a later date but we just need to get a shout out to the phenomenal job of healing and training Syd has done.

Syd is the perfect example of the power of mindful healing.


Monday, December 18, 2017

Skier of the Week: Frisco

Kit Kat raging up the hill in the Mass Start Classic!
The first race of the year brings many things, nerves, excitement, relief...

This year the first race of the year brought renewal to the UW Team.

Graduation was not kind to us last spring in that we were left with only 3 returning men and 4 returning women. Of these 7 returning athletes only 2 of them had ever been in the top 10 at USCSA Nationals. This is a rough place for the USCSA Mens Team 3-time Defending Champions  and the USCSA Women's Team Runners-up.

Earlier this fall we were encouraged by a new crop of 5 new women and 1 man.These new skiers have been amazing this fall, engaging in practices and fundraising alike. Slowly through their dedication we began to realize we had an amazing team who work together and have the impact across campus and around the community of a much larger group.

Despite the incredible good nature and cohesiveness of this group we still didn't know how they would perform until this weekend and the first race.

This race was a Rocky Mountain Conference USCSA Qualifier with Western State Colorado University, Colorado Mesa University and University of Wyoming attending. The other teams were unable to join us due to final exam schedules.

We were fortunate with all the hard work put in by the Frisco Nordic Center to create a 2.2km loop in an incredibly low snow year. The track was hard and fast and in great condition.

This was the first college race for 4 of our 11 athletes and the first race EVER for our lone freshman man Ben. It was exciting and stressful but they all skied fantastically!

This time of year we are not looking for stunning finishes we are just looking for a solid training race but our skier of the week didn't seem to get the memo.

Katherine (AKA Kit Kat) Gruner (Freshman, Casper) started the interval start skate race with a bang and just pushed on through the weekend with flying colors by winning the USCSA college races on both days!

Kit Kat told us before the weekend that 4km was her idea distance and she sure backed that up with confidence as she squeaked out a win in the 4km skate race over her teammate Ella DeWolf (Junior, Laramie) by only 4 seconds and held off fellow Casper Freshman Maddy Tinker's run up the field from the last row by 30 seconds. Stellar performance for her first ever college ski race! We hope this is the beginning of an amazing season.

Kit Kat is a sparkle both on and off the tracks and we are extremely lucky to have her smiling face.

For these reasons and, we believe, many more to come, Kit Kat Gruner is the Skier of the Week!