InterviewsNewsA Talk with National Champion James Southam

FasterSkierNovember 29, 2005

One of the top U.S. skiers not on the national team, Alaska native James Southam has been moving up the results for many years. Last season at Soldier Hollow (UT) he finally captured his first national championship.

Right now James is training in West Yellowstone, MT along with a majority of the rest of the elite racers in the country. We talked earlier in the week about his training, goals, path through college and more:

How did this summer’s training go?

– It went really well. I was healthy all summer and I was able to pretty much do everything I wanted to, and made some pretty big changes to the training program. It seems to be working. I’ve been feeling in better shape now than I was last year.

2005 Nationals 10k Classic

So you’re living in Anchorage still?

– Yup, still there.

Are you having to work at all or are you able to get by financially just through sponsors?

– No, I definitely have to work. I work at skinny raven sports, a local running store, and then I’m the race director for the local road bike club. So between those things and training it keeps pretty busy.

Have you done a lot of biking as training?

– Not this year. Last year I did a lot, and mostly because of injuries. This is actually the first year where I’ve been able to do everything—like run, rollerski—without hurting. Well I shouldn’t say that…it’s the first time I’ve been able to do what I wanted any day. Last year I tweaked my shoulder out so I spent 2 weeks biking and skating with no poles. I couldn’t run because my Achilles was bothering me. So this year everything’s finally healthy.

Cool. So, you’ve been out of college for a lot of years huh?

– No I was IN college a lot of years! (laughs) I started with a year at Reno, a year off, a year at Western, then I finished at APU [Alaska Pacific University]. I graduated in 2004 out of APU.

With what kind of degree?

– Business. I was accounting but then I realized if I wanted to do an accounting degree I’d have to be there another year and a half. I said I’ll just…stop now! (laughs)

So did you feel like it worked well doing it like that–being at school long-term doing a little at a time?

– I think so. I think I would have liked to have just banged it out. If I could go back I would probably just take a year off after high school, then go to college and get the degree done with. Because I think you can train enough, and if you pick the right school you can get pretty good support training-wise–just having the access to PT’s and things like that that you don’t appreciate until you’re out of college.

So yeah I think I would have tried to just bang it out. As it is, it worked out well for me; I was able to keep plugging away and had the support to keep going for it.

That’s great. It’s cool to see someone your age that’s been making a little progress year by year, finally start to really do well. It seems like a lot of people just aren’t able to feasibly stick with it if they haven’t made the national team.

– Yeah. I always knew… I was always better in training than I was in racing. I’d always have moments in a few races a year that were ok, but generally I knew I was faster than I was showing I was.

So you’re living in Anchorage and Torbjorn’s coaching you…do you have people to train with much?

– Mostly on my own. When Lars or Anders is in town we’ll meet up once, maybe twice a week. But [it’s] mostly on my own.

Do you like that?

– Yeah. I need the time. Training time is like my time alone. The rest of the time I’m always busy doing stuff but I like the time to myself. I spent a lot of time training with people–like at APU, it was team training 6 days a week. I’d had enough of training with people every day. So it was a good change.

How are you feeling about making the World Cups and the Olympics?

– I’ve got one race that’s pretty good. I think I just need another solid one. I’d like to get on the podium, but if I’m in the top 5 I know that puts me on the team. But I’d definitely like to get on the podium. I’ve been getting 4th a lot the past couple years!

Are you thinking about a certain result that you’d like to get at the World Cups or Olympics?

– I’d like to get in the top 30. I try not to think of anything past Nationals; I try not to jinx myself. I’d like to get in the top 30 at the World Cups but right now it’s kind of up in the air on who’s going to show up. So that could be pretty tough or it could be not that tough, it depends who shows and how many people show. But that’s my goal for the Canada races–to score some World Cup points. I haven’t done that before so that’d be nice.

Thanks for talking and best of luck in the upcoming races!

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