Note: This is the first of a quick-and-dirty preview series on elite teams in the U.S. 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 name: XC Oregon
Coaches: J.D. Downing (coach/program director, 15th year)
National /International Elite Roster: Santiago Ocariz, Oliver Burruss, Matt Briggs;
Carolyn Ocariz, Stephanie Howe, Sarah Max, Jamie Woelk
Who’s new: Santi and Carolyn Ocariz (as the two confirmed additions, 1-2 more possible. Carolyn arrived just over a week ago on June 9).
“We are super excited to have them both here,” Downing wrote in an email. “Their addition obviously allows us to significantly boost our national/international elite presence, but just as important to us is the quality of the individuals. Just look at what these two did this spring [rollerskied across the country] — and more importantly why they did it [to feed impoverished children]. There’s also a big comfort level in that Santi has spent several summers in Bend and has a brother living here so the transition should be very smooth. It’s really a perfect fit all the way around.”
What else: With a PhD and all, Howe will likely compete in more marathons this winter after studying at Oregon State University in Corvallis last year on the western side of the Cascades.
While it’s unclear how much Marshall Greene will race, Downing was excited to welcome him back to Bend this summer with his wife and new baby. Greene spent the last couple of years in Wisconsin earning his Master’s degree.
XC Oregon (XCO) is also expecting to add 12 to 15 members to its associate roster.
Who’s missing: Zoe Roy will likely make the full switch to Rocky Mountain Racers (RMR) in Canmore, Alberta, in an attempt to make Canada’s international teams. She was affiliated with XCO last season while completing her undergraduate degree in Utah and also raced in Canada with the support of RMR. Given that Roy is from Bend, Downing will try to incorporate her whenever possible.
Top results last season: Burruss was eighth in the Boulder Mountain Tour and 20th in the American Birkebeiner 50 k skate, and both Burruss and Briggs had career-best SuperTour results last season. Max was the 19th woman the in the Birkie this year, and Roy notched four top-10 performances on the Canadian NorAm circuit, two of which were on the podium.
In all, a dozen XCO skiers tallied best-ever results last year, which “radically improved on anything they had done before,” Downing wrote. “We really take our role seriously as positive ambassadors for the sport in Pacific Northwest and there is no question last year was one of our best ever in that regard.”
Coach’s comment: XC Oregon is proud to celebrate its 15th season this year. According to Downing, it’s either the longest or second-longest continuously running elite-development program in the U.S. Aside from the high number of athletes that represented XC Oregon over the years, at least two dozen went on to coach nordic skiing.
“That more than anything probably reflects the 100% athlete-based approach of XC Oregon,” Downing wrote.
As for spring training, XCO skiers can enjoy at least another week on snow up at Mt. Bachelor, less than a 30-minute drive away.
“That’s a huge upside as athletes can maintain normal routines and yet still get the same quality of on-snow workouts as if we were shelling out thousands of dollars sending them to some remote spot,” Downing wrote. “I feel really good that the vast majority of the crew is in a comfort zone of how they’ll structure their training around everything else in life. We’ve also got some good training partner options this year that should be a big help. Bend itself is often a huge asset since there is a deep and incredibly talented pool of endurance athletes here.
“For the season I think we’ll find 2012/13 looking very much like the average year over the past decade,” he added. “We’ll have a nice mix of some notable SuperTour/Nationals results, some domestic and international marathons, and then the steady drumbeat of regional activity.”
Down the road in 2013, the team may restart a summer internship program for collegiate skiers, especially for graduating seniors interested in racing after college.
“We’ll be fundraising for that this summer and hope to roll out specifics this fall,” Downing wrote. “It’s also likely we’ll want to add 2-3 funded-level athletes in Spring 2013 so that’s always exciting to look forward to.”