Note: This is the seventh preview in a quick-and-dirty series on U.S. elite teams. We asked coaches to send their 2012/2013 rosters and tell us what’s new for the coming season. We will be publishing additional reports over the next few weeks. Teams are presented in no particular order.
Team: Methow Olympic Development (MOD)
Coach: Scott Johnston
Roster: Sam Naney
What’s new: Brian Gregg as a training partner. Gregg will spend much of the summer in his hometown of Winthrop, Wash., working with Johnston and Naney in the Methow Valley. Naney tied the knot in June, marrying massage therapist Alison Hanks in his parents’ backyard.
Top results last season: Naney, 27, notched a career best of 13th at U.S. nationals in the 15 k skate. In the Tour de Twin Cities that followed, he tallied three top-five finishes and ended the season with a slew of SuperTour and NorAm top 10s. He made the podium in St. Paul, Minn., placing third in the 20 k freestyle pursuit.
Coach’s comment: According to Johnston, last year was an important building block for Naney, a sprinter with aspirations of being a better all-around skier.
“We chose to take a slightly different approach with his training and focus more on building a better aerobic base training. We did this at the expense of his Sprint specific training and his results bore this out,” Johnston wrote in an email. “We had to make decisions to deviate from his traditional strengths of sprinting and power in the training, and those decisions cost us in the season; despite qualifying 5th in the Nationals skate sprint, Sam did not move on through his quarter and went on to have similar disappointing results in sprinting, usually his strongest event.”
This year, they’re working “to bring the whole package together,” Johnston wrote, adding that the progression was already happening.
“This winter should be Sam’s strongest yet,” he continued.
In an email, Naney explained that he specifically wanted to boost his speed and anaerobic power by the start of the season.
“The hope is to carry the training well all the way through to November and the Canadian World Cup trials,” Naney wrote. “Last season we built a great ‘cake’ but didn’t have time to add the finishing touches.”
It can’t hurt to have Gregg, 28, training alongside him. Entering his seventh year with Central Cross Country (CXC), Gregg will continue to compete for the Midwest’s elite team, keeping his home base in Minneapolis. His wife and CXC teammate, Caitlin, will stay there, training between a series of five-week intensive anatomy and physiology courses at Normandale Community College.
Reflecting on his performance last year and goals of improving, Brian Gregg decided to return to Johnston, his high-school coach in Winthrop, Wash., as a personal coach.
“Scott and I have discussed his training philosophies a lot and we have identified a number of areas that I have to improve,” Gregg wrote in an email.
Gregg detailed the move on his blog, explaining that he’d return to the Midwest for training camps while working individually with Johnston and Naney out West. He aimed to minimize travel, training in long blocks, and liked Johnston’s scientific approach with speed and intensity monitored by GPS, lactate and heart rate. Gregg is currently training most days with the two-man MOD crew and loving the coach-to-athlete ratio.
“Scott’s coaching style is very hands on and individual and requires a small group,” Gregg wrote. “For Sam and me, our individual strengths complement well with opportunities for the other to improve. We are able to push each other and are making notable improvements.
“It is tough to be away from Caitlin but I do get to spend more time with my family, and I believe this will help me make that next jump in performance,” he added.
His childhood friend, Naney is excited.
“It’s been a great change from last season in which I spent the whole year training solo,” Naney wrote. “Brian offers distinct qualities as a training partner and his distance skiing focus contrasts well with my sprinting, allowing us to feed off each other and push each other in our weaknesses.”
As for Johnston’s method, Naney has always liked its unique and out-of-the-box ideas.
“Scott has made a concerted effort to look outside traditional ski training and into other sports to find better ways to train endurance and speed athletes,” he wrote. “Currently we’re working with a mixture of marathon runner training and swimmer training. Instead of maintaining a cyclical-style training plan where we repeat the same workouts all year, we operate off progressions of workouts, increasing workloads and intensities all the way into the fall. We’ve found that in this manner, we can continue stressing the various physiological systems such that they respond faster and stronger than before.”