Note: This is the seventh preview in our series on U.S. elite teams, which we’ve dubbed the “The 12.” We asked coaches to tell us what’s new and whom to look out for in the coming season and will publish additional previews in the coming weeks in no particular order.
Team: Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) Gold Team
Coaches: Rick Kapala (program director), Colin Rodgers (head coach), Shane MacDowell (service tech, formerly of Boulder Nordic Sport East)
Gold Team roster: Mikey Sinnott, Miles Havlick, Matt Gelso;
Chelsea Holmes, Rose Kemp, Mary Rose
Who’s new: Havlick (University of Utah), Kemp (Utah), Rose (University of Colorado-Boulder)
Who’s missing: Patrick Johnson, Reid Pletcher, Simi Hamilton, Alexia Turzian, Mali Noyes, Lucy Garrec, Clarke Sullivan (former service tech)
According to coach Colin Rodgers, Johnson, who nabbed his first SuperTour win (and podium) in his rookie season after college last winter, is home in Anchorage, Alaska, for an environmental internship. Pletcher is working as a river guide on the Salmon River about an hour north of Sun Valley in Stanley, Idaho, after stepping back from racing last season due to lingering effects of a head injury. Noyes is also guiding on the Salmon River, and Hamilton – a Colorado native – moved to Vermont to train with fellow U.S. Ski Team sprinter Andy Newell and the Stratton Mountain School T2 Team.
A Sun Valley local, Turzian is in Boulder, Colo., Garrec is in nearby Ketchum, and Sullivan, Sun Valley’s former head wax tech, is “ripping lips, building single track [mountain] bike/hiking trails, blasting ducks in Bozeman, MT,” Rodgers wrote in an email.
Top results last season: Let’s start with Sinnott: the overall SuperTour winner last season with two SuperTour victories (both classic sprints; one in Minneapolis, the other in Aspen, Colo.) and a runner-up finish at U.S. nationals (also in a classic sprint). Sinnott’s finish atop the SuperTour leaderboard secured World Cup starts this fall, which won’t be a new experience, but he’s not taking them lightly.
“In the past you kind of set up your season to get World Cup starts, so you’re kind of hitting that early season performance and then you’re kind of coming down from it when you get to the World Cup,” the 28-year-old Sinnott told FasterSkier in June. “This year I’ve got months beforehand where I can build and really organize it so that I’m hitting the World Cup in my top fitness.”
Gelso, 25, podiumed at U.S. nationals in January, placing third in the 15-kilometer freestyle at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah. That same week, he placed fourth in the 30 k classic mass start at nationals. Gelso started the 2012/2013 season off with a second-place finish in the 10 k freestyle individual start in West Yellowstone, Mont., which elevated him to the World Cup in Canmore, Alberta, where he was 36th in the 30 k skiathlon.
Fresh out of college, Havlik is one of the most promising rookies entering the pro scene after racking up his second-straight national title in the 20 k mass start at NCAA Championships in Ripton, Vt. Havlik placed fourth in the other race at NCAAs this season, the 10 k classic individual start, and helped Utah finish second to the University of Colorado in the overall team results. Throughout the course of his senior collegiate season, he won four invitationals.
Holmes, 26, finished second twice on the SuperTour last season (first in the 10 k freestyle in West Yellowstone, and soon after in the 10 k classic in Bozeman). At SuperTour Finals in Truckee, Calif., she was third in the freestyle hill climb.
Kemp achieved All-American status at NCAAs this year, placing eighth in the 15 k freestyle mass start at Rikert Nordic Center. She placed third in two 5 k classic races on the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) circuit, and Rose was fifth in a 5 k skate race and seventh twice in collegiate events last season.
By Rodgers’ estimations, the Gold Team is well on its way to a successful racing season.
“We are a mix of old and new faces, but all of the current athletes have roots in Idaho,” he explained. “Mikey, Matt and Chelsea have been a part of the program for many full years while Rose is a Boise native. Combined both Miles and Mary have trained in the Wood River Valley for quite some time so in a sense all are local talent.
“Although we are a small squad, 3 men and 3 women, ambitions are high for this crew and collectively we are aiming at SuperTour Titles, National Championship Titles, an NNF Cup, World Cup Competition and Olympic starts all this winter!” Rodgers continued.
The team started the training season in Bend, Ore., in May and met up again in the Wood River Valley in south-central Idaho for a few weeks. The SVSEF recently returned from Canmore, where it had its first dryland camp of the offseason, and has big plans for training on snow at Eagle Glacier in Alaska (Aug. 8-20), working out in Park City and Moab, Utah, in October, and getting back on snow in late October at Frozen Thunder in Canmore.
“The Gold Team strives to work closely with its younger XC programs,” Rodgers wrote. “We have spent time working in conjunction with the summer collegiate/post-graduate group during weekly sessions. While we were in Canmore, we were just a small part of a large American contingent from the Intermountain West that consisted of junior athletes from the Intermountain Region including Park City, Jackson Hole and Sun Valley.”