You may not see them immediately. We’re all tired, and boy, is the jet lag hard… but twelve athletes have just returned to the US after nearly two weeks of tasting international ski racing on the Scando Trip. For most, it was their first time racing abroad; for many, it was also their first time traveling abroad. Besides the predictable challenges of jet lag, occasional language barriers and a new diet (pickles and mini hot dogs for breakfast?!?), these athletes also encountered new racing experiences: We competed in a night race, we skied through standing water (which transitioned into sheer ice), and we raced head to head against the best J1s from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Lithuania.
New competition and new experience are both the goals and the known entities of this J1 trip. What is not so predictable, however, is how well the athletes will fare at taking it all in –and this group rocked it! They were good sports, they were open to new experiences, they learned from their races, and they were excellent teammates to one another. If this is the future of American skiing, I think things are looking good. We had athletes holding their own in each of the races, and they are exactly the type of people that anyone would want on a team. Here’s the racing recap
The Itinerary: The group flew into and out of Helsinki on January 24th. We trained for several days in Lahti, Finland before taking a ferry to Estonia. The races were in Otepaa, Estonia on Feb. 1st,2nd and 3rd. On February 4th, we went to a Megadeth concert in Helsinki. On February 5th, we went home.
February 1: Night sprints, skating. These races were slated to begin at 4pm and end with the guys’ â€œA finalâ€ at 6:45pm. At 4pm the weather was pretty bad; by 5:30pm the weather was Siberian-winter miserable. It was snowing/sleeting hard with high humidity and high wind tossed in the mix. The humidity was of the freeze you to the bone variety and the wind was, of course, directly in the racers’ faces and about 45mph in the final 300 meters on the sprint course. It was Winter. Fortunately, we didn’t have too much extra time to think about the weather, because we put ten out of twelve racers into the rounds! This was far more racers than we moved through last year and a promising start.
Qualifying highlights were Casey Kutz’s 9th, Kate Dolan’s 14th and George Cartwright’s 15th. The highlights of the rounds included Jessie Diggins [skiing out of 4th position] challenging one of the Swedish girls for the second place in her quarter and watching Kate Dolan and Sam Tarling hit the starting line all the way through the B-Final determined not to back down to anyone based on their fancy suits and/or nationality. Kate ended up 11th, , Sam ended up 12t,. Jaime Bronga (14th), Jessie Diggins (15th) and Casey Kutz also finished in the top twenty.
February 2: Men’s 10km Classic, Women’s 5km Classic: As it goes, klister/fluoro conditions kept me mostly wax room bound, trying to adjust waxes to skiers and conditions. Fortunately, the US National Team had rolled into town on the evening of February 1st, and Andy Newell was out on the course taking race video of this junior event and many other members of the US National Team were also out on the race course to cheer for all the juniors. Check out Andy’s blog and video footage In terms of results, Amy Glen threw down our top showing of the day with a 13th place and George Cartwright had a 17th place.
February 3rd: Men’s 3x5km Mixed Relay, Women’s 3x3km Mixed Relay: This year our ladies’ relay teams ended up in 5th and 6th places. Our guys’ teams ended up in 8th and 13th places. Some of the standout individual results included Casey Kutz skiing the 4th fastest anchor leg among women and Amy with the 5th fastest leg in the scramble. Jaime Bronga and Monica Markvardsen both skied the 6th fastest in their legs. Among the guys, Joe Dubay had the 6th fastest time of his scramble leg and Sam Tarling had the 7th fastest anchor. Plus, the fact that Scott Lacy raced with a broken rib, so the boys could have a second team, says it all not only about him, but of the spirit with which the whole team participated in every race. After the relay I shouted a â€œnice jobâ€ to Amy Glen as she headed off to ski her cool down. â€œThanks,â€ she said, â€œthat’s as hard as I have ever skied. I think I understand skiing fast a lot better now.â€ Well, that better summarizes both the goal and the reality of the Scando Trip racing experience better than anything I can come up with.
In Summary: This was a really great trip! Take a read back through the results and you’ll see that each of the skiers had a chance to shine. There is also plenty that the results don’t show: Scott Lacy broke his rib in training before the races even began, yet it didn’t stop him from racing all three races. Sam Tarling and Kate Dolan were tripped-up in the same spot of the same hill in their sprint semi-finals.
But beyond the racing, we all come home with colorful memories of the trip:
Chase Marston singing Finnish Karaoke on the ferry ride to Estonia and George Cartwright showing up in the kitchen to help the Estonians make dinner. Kate Dolan and Monica Markvardsen fully embracing their hair preparations for the Megadeth concert and Jaime Bronga’s champion headbanging while there Even though the Finns remained stoic with their hands folded in their laps. Joe Dubay saved a very important Norwegian suit-trade for George, meanwhile, Alex Schulz quietly amassed a posse of not-so-secret female admirers from the Swedish team. Casey will probably miss the mini-hot dogs for breakfast and Travis and I probably won’t have a chance to order bear off the menu again any time soon. We’ll all remember how the US National Team lined the climb to cheer for our skiers on the distance race day, and again the next day for the relay and that’s just the beginning of the stories. I’ll leave it up to these guys to decide how many of the rest make it out
For full race results, check out: www.suusaliit.ee
To read blogs from most of the racers, check out: www.nccsef.org
Ladies: Kate Dolan, Amy Glen, Jaime Bronga, Casey Kutz, Jessie Diggins, Monica Markvardsen
Gents: George Cartwright, Chase Marston, Sam Tarling, Joe Dubay, Scott Lacy, Alex Schulz
Coaches: Abi Holt, Travis Jones, Ingrid Olson