USST Nominates 11 for 2010 Season, Focus is on International Success

Topher SabotMay 21, 200917

Last week the US Ski Team announced announced nominations to the 2009-2010 US Cross-Country Ski Team.  Assuming all candidates accept nominations, the Team will decrease in size from 18 athletes to 11.  No new skiers have been added, though several have been promoted from the B Team to the A Team.  The decrease in team size was not financially motivated.

Athletes can qualify through objective criteria or be added as discretionary choices. The objective criteria are as follows:

– Attain top-50 ranking in the 2009 final World Cup overall or FIS distance points list
– Attain top-30 ranking in the 2009 final World Cup sprint ranking list, FIS sprint points list, or 2009 final World Cup distance ranking

The complete 2010 U.S. Cross Country Team Selection Criteria can be found here.

Four skiers qualified under the objective criteria – Andy Newell, Kikkan Randall, Kris Freeman, and Torin Koos. Newell was ranked 4th on the FIS Sprint list and 15th in the World Cup Sprint rankings. Koos was 24th in the World Cup Sprint rankings and Freeman was 45th on the FIS Distance list and 50th in the World Cup Distance rankings. Randall finished the season at 25th on the FIS Sprint list and 26th in the overall World Cup Sprint standings.

Liz Stephen and Morgan Arritola have both been promoted to the Women’s A-Team, joining Randall. This is the first time in many years that there have been multiple women on the A-Team.

Nine of the eleven nominees scored World Cup points last season

The complete list of nominees can be found here.

Athletes who have been dropped from the US Cross-Country Ski Team:

Chris Cook
Leif Zimmerman
Matt Gelso
Lindsey Dehlin
Laura Valaas
Rosie Brennan
Alexa Turzian

Gelso, Brennan and Turzian are all collegiate skiers. Head Coach Pete Vordenberg writes on TeamToday, “By a process of examining who on our team was making the most progress and who wasn’t, we began adjusting the team and program structure to match the pathway most of our athletes are taking.” The USST is now encouraging serious skiers to train full-time for two years following high school, and then decide whether or not to go to college.

Vordenberg told FasterSkier that the lack of collegiate skiers on the team was not an intentional step.  “The change in philosophy came second to the evaluation of the team and the athletes.”  The athletes dropped form the team were not making sufficient progress and/or not participating in required activities.

Said Vordenberg, “College did not enter the conversation until we looked at how the athletes were doing and what pathway they were on.

“It is very important that one understands we are talking about the USST program – not qualification to JWC or U23 or the Olympics.  The US Ski Team is a team and has to set and follow a pathway and develop a program that we believe will lead to success.  It doesn’t make sense for the team to do something it doesn’t believe will work.  That doesn’t mean we are telling people not to go to college.  Our athletes in residency can and do take college courses in the summer.  The main point to what was published on Team Today is that those skiers who want to win internationally take time after high school to train for at least a year and even better for two years.”

The official selection contains provisions for the removal of athletes from the team.  “Athletes remaining on the Team for three years without measurable and appropriate performance improvement will not be chosen to the Team without specific approval of the USSA Nordic Director.” Zimmerman, Dehlin and Cook have all been on the Team for three years, and while all three have some success during that time, none of them have taken a significant step up from the results that got them named to the Team initially. Valaas has had only two years on the team, but like the previous three, has not shown forward progress internationally.

Vordenberg points out that many athletes have been given three or more years after initially showing promise of international success and that such a time frame may in fact be too generous.  “I have come to believe that in most cases three or more years is too long to be off track – something is going on that isn’t working.  The thing is that removal from the team is not the end of a career, or it doesn’t have to be, or it won’t be if the athlete is truly motivated.”

Provisions are made for injury and all athletes are evaluated on an individual basis.  But ultimately it is about winning.   Concludes Vordenberg, “Athletes need to show that they are on track to win internationally.  That is the bottom line.”

Lindsay Williams remains on the Team despite two injury marred years, and will have the opportunity to realize the potential she has demonstrated in the past.

The TeamToday post also notes that the USST coaches reserve the right to add additional “rookie” members to the Team in the fall.  This is part of the overall development plan and is a potential stepping stone to a Junior National Team.  Focus will be on talent identification, not merely results.

Vordenberg again: “We need to expand our notion of how to recruit athletes and how to decide who, and even how, we develop youth and junior athletes.”

Topher Sabot

Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.

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  • Martin Hall

    May 22, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Hello Pete and congratulations on this interview, as I have and I think many other people have wanted, to see how you really pick the “team”. Black and white criteria—then there are no discussions or arguements, discretion is for the top guys, and this takes away the personality accusations (favoritism).

    Also, a definitive explanation of your position on the USST’s position on college skiing. There is too much pressure on your dollars to be compromising their expenditure on careers that are compromised in so many ways when a skier is in school—they are no longer skiers, but, they are now called students.
    I think this will help you in both the short run and for the team in the long run. The message is out there loud and clear. For those people over the years that chose the college route first, there is a 99% failure rate. For those of you that are out there who want to discuss this with me—name me the last college skier to have made it?
    Pete, a 3 year window, is debatable, but with attention (meaning a good USST program towards them) to the WJCs and the U-23s, if they are not in the top 15 at this level, the bell is ringing.
    On talent ID that should be left to the academies and educational foundations to develop and funnel thes IDed people to you guys. Andy Newell (in his interview elsewhere on this page) hit the nail on the head when he talked about coaching at those levels and good training volumes being under taken by those people. Another thing you could publish—international hours for all skier by age and especially for juniors.
    If you want to see what I think on what international hours are—send me an e-mail . (that’s for anyone)
    Pete, this is a very tough business, and we here in NA have a weakness in not understanding this and take too long in learning the hard way—you have now set down the direction for the future.
    I know when I took this direction back in the 70s I slept a whole lot easier knowing we could now have a real chance of making it. And by God we did!!!

  • sac

    May 23, 2009 at 7:43 am

    Garrot Kuzzy, Middlebury

  • Mike Trecker

    May 23, 2009 at 9:03 am

    Need to define “making it”, because I have faith in Garrott and he might “make it” but I’m not sure he has “made it” yet. However, keep your eyes out for Simi Hamilton also. Todd Boonstra was pretty damn good having gone to school.

  • Mike Trecker

    May 23, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Let me add that even though I talked about some college skiers doing well, I’m 100% in favor of Pete’s direction. It doesn’t make it impossible to “make it” going to college, it just focuses on the current crop of skiers that are totally dedicated to the USST. By the way, couple of others, Carl Swenson for sure “made it” and the Petty sisters were both pretty damn good.

  • dougherty.andrew

    May 25, 2009 at 3:07 am

    As a junior skier that aspires toward the USST, I feel that it makes more sense to take a couple years to train full time after college rather than between high school and college.

  • Martin Hall

    May 25, 2009 at 10:06 am

    On making it—you could go a couple of ways—ask the skiers that have been referenced—Boonstra, the Pettey’s etc. if they met there goals —or have a model—Sara Renner is a great model as is Devon Kershaw ( I feel they have both made it)—Andy Newell and Kikkan are getting there–longevity is an issue with those two.
    Andrew, that is the trap, waiting until after college—you are so far behind—in hours, racing at the higher levels, missed time on snow, length of season, number of races per season too low, training level if not down, with the teammates you have in college, it might be level, too much time in the sick pit that colleges are, and training too much when you are tired, missing the maturation development in becoming an international racer that goes with doing it full time, do not get proper rest and recovery in the college environment, and too much socializing (hard partying).
    The other thing I can guarantee you is that when you do go to school, after your are done chasing your international dream, your maturation devlopment will let you know what you are really there for. Your education!
    Just look at the battle Mike Sinnott and Garret Kuzzy are fighting to make it, and they were very excellent college skiers. I know there is the thought that Kuzzy is there—he’s had one so-so international result–his sprint finish in Canmore, but it was in a very soft international field—2 yrs ago. Has he done it since? Don’t get me wrong–I’m cheering for these guys—I WANT them to make it. It’s just that I’ve been there on that stage for a ton of years and I know what the battle is like.
    One skier that did it your way and is looking like he’s headed towards being successful at the international level is Lowell Bailey in biathlon. In his 3rd year out of college I think?
    Andrew, don’t miss the intent here—for any junior or pre-college skier tomake this decision you need to be showing international junior type results like Noah Hoffman did and doing international type hours like Noah Hoffman was doing to make your decision as to which way to go. Noah is now deferring for his 3rd year on his college career.
    My question to you is, are you there yet–if not—go to school.
    With all the convient ways to communicate now days—write some of these guys like, Noah, Sinnott, Kuzzy, Newell and ask them for some feedback.
    Like I said earlier, I commend Pete and his staff for making this declaration—they went the school route when they were chasing their dreams—it now clarifies the best chance at getting it done for the limited USST dollars they have to spend. That is why the criteria for getting named to the team are so tough. THEIR APPROACH IS– NO COMPROMISE.

  • Klaus K.

    May 25, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    ”You are so far behind-”

    ”in hours” -Dedicated college skiers have proven that with the proper training base it is possible to train upwards of 700-800 hours in college, which seems to be a more than an adequate level for ages 18-21.

    “in racing at the higher levels” -An 18 or 19 year old in college has the opportunity to race against an older field, consisting of numerous talented European skiers. By age 23, this field is probably not at high enough level. But from 18-21, college skiing combined with trips to WJC/U23, National Championships, and early or late season Super Tours would seem to be the proper level for developing international skiers.

    “in missed time on snow” -This can be a challenge whether or not you are in college, but luckily there is an easy solution. Train. If there is not enough snow, then rollerski or run. A lack of snow is no excuse for a lack of fitness.

    “in length of season, number of races per season too low” -West Yellowstone, December regional races, US Nationals, college races, WJCs or U23s, more college racing, NCAAs, Canadian Nationals, Distance Nationals. It is possible to race a full schedule in college. Perhaps not solely with a collegiate team, but if you work with your home club it’s far from impossible.

    “too much time in the sick pit that colleges are” -Take care of yourself. It is impossible to avoid all sickness, but for excessive sickness it generally is not. Wash your hands, go to bed early, don’t party right before the most important races. Sickness happens regardless of whether you are in college.

    “training too much when you are tired” -Manage your time well, get enough sleep, and be smart about your training.
    “in missing the maturation development in becoming an international racer that goes with doing it full time” -It doesn’t seem like any of America’s non World Cup racers are racing full time in Europe. Besides, try moving away from home and managing a college course load with full time ski training to promote maturation. It probably will go a lot further than training a couple hours a day and sitting on mommy’s couch playing xbox the rest of the time.

    “too much socializing (hard partying)” -This is a choice. Individuals can choose the proper level and activity of social engagement in order to ensure that their development as skiers is not inhibited.

    The fact is that the vast majority of skiers who enter college are unprepared in terms of training and commitment. But with the proper training base and a hard work ethic, it is very possible to continue developing as a skier, while gaining a quality education at the same time. Though the USST may be giving up on the collegiate system for the time being, it is still valuable option for juniors like Andrew. The resources found at most D1 schools are often as good, if not better than those available for World Cup skiers in Europe- easily accessible weight rooms and training facilities, doctors, physical therapy, and financial support. The problem is that too many collegiate skiers are too lazy to give the commitment and put in the work to take advantage of these resources. When it comes down to it, the vast majority of previous failures in developing skiers in college are the result of a lack work ethic on the side of the athlete. Excuses can be made, coaches can be blamed, but the reality is that if an individual can have the resolve to train and rest properly while in college, they can excel both academically and athletically, and graduate much better skiers than they were when they entered. If the work ethic doesn’t exist to succeed in college, it seems that the same problem may also deter the athlete taking postgrad years.

  • Martin Hall

    May 26, 2009 at 8:38 am

    Klaus–agree with everything you say—colleges have everything going for them–coaching, programs, facilities, medical support, money, training ( 700 hrs is a stretch—800 hrs I’d like to see this persons name), you name it—they just don’t have the history of producing top international candidates when you think of the hundreds of skiers in these programs year in and year out. So, something is missing for sure!
    Andrew, I checked your JO results and think your best option is to head to college, especially if you are a senior in high school. It will give you four more good years of building the necessary base to be ready to give it a try at making the USST after college.
    I would recommend that you read very carefully, the last paragraph of Klaus’s comments (above)—, as it may be the key, such words as committment, work ethic, and resolve are all very much linked to success or failure.
    The USST is interested in “internatuional excellence” and that is very clear in the article above. There are very few people endowed to make it at this level.

  • nordic_dave

    May 26, 2009 at 9:24 am

    Well Mr. Klaus, umm maybe that also might be Coach Klaus, raises some very good points. That being said then the college skier would have to have total dedication to the college program and not simultaniously with the USST Development program and or especially the A team, particularly on snow. To attempt both it would seem to be difficult as what the skier’s goals are especially during racing season. Additionally I am curious if there are any limtations (NCAA rules) on training hours as there are in other NCAA sports that place importance on the student/athlete vs. just the athlete. Then there is the disparity of the academic work load that can be quite demanding at one school vs. another so again the demand on time aspect challenges the student/athlete as to just what are the goals? I am also quite curious as to what the average training load is at more than one
    competitive ski college as Marty has challenged the notion of 700 to 800 hours as the norm.

    Making the decision for a very talented JO skier who has the potential to ski at an international level or go to college, ski well and or develop there is just another one of those life choices kids have to make. Doing more than is possible often may mean that the effort(s) comes up short, besides Duncan Douglas any masters skier can tell you that!

    Another possible alternative for this very talented skier would be to go to college part time and or on a limted basis, eliminating the “xbox games on mommies couch”. Obviously it precludes racing NCAA as they have chosen a different path.

  • skibee

    May 26, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    One important thing to point out is that here in the US there is a lot of pressure for skiers, no matter what their skiing ability is, to go to school right away and “have a life waiting for you after skiing”. It’s a completely different culture than in Europe.

    Parents and coaches here should make it clear that every skier has to make his own decision. And they should let skiers make that decision without saying that college is the only way to go…It doesn’t matter whether skiers go directly to school or defer 3 years. In my opinion 3 years is not even enough if you’ve got the talent and training to succeed.

    Getting to the World Cup and actually having good results is only available for a small window of time but college is an option for your entire life. I agree that some of the best developing years as a skier are during college. I have seen so many skiers go to college with the hope that after 4 years they will start quality training again and miraculously be fast. They are already 4 years behind the people who didn’t go to college and put all their effort into training. I have even heard from a few fast NCAA skiers that they were only able to fit in 400 hrs during their last few years in school-and they were at a well known skiing college too.

    So if a college skier does 500 hrs a year for 4 years vs. an athlete who trains only and completes 800 a year for 4 years…the math says that the college skier already has 1,200 hrs to catch up on. Of course hours are a small factor, since you have to look at talent, training history, etc but that’s an important point.

    Why not encourage everyone to follow their dream and train and by doing so provide the US Ski Team with a lot more skiers reaching higher levels internationally?

  • Scott Jerome

    May 26, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    This is a very interesting discussion, one that has, I am sure, sparked even greater conversations among groups of coaches, athletes, and parents around NA. This is not a loaded question: why have some sports in the USA thrived at the Olympics with NCAA sponsorship while others (skiing) have not? Specifically, I am thinking of track & field, swimming, and rifle. Volleyball is another example, and I am sure that there are still more. Why have some sports and NGBs “mastered” the NCAA pipeline while some sports have not? Is it the nature of the sport, training requirements, off-season commitments, etc.? Is it the number of participants? Is it history and tradition? Is it leadership? Again, this is not a loaded question. I am just curious if anyone has any thoughts on this.

    Regarding the specific question of foregoing college, I have one basic premise: if we produce enough competent skiers in NA at the J2 and J1 levels, there will be more than enough skiers to go around when these skiers turn 17 or 18. The US Ski Team will have a strong group of development skiers ready to commit to the challenge each year and colleges & universities will have plenty of skiers to recruit and coach. We, as a skiing continent, need to focus on producing a far greater number of competent, fit young athletes to fill the top of the funnel.

  • nordic_dave

    May 27, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    I think snow is the common dominator here Scott, you don’t need it in the other sports mentioned. It sort’ve cascades from there.

    1. Winter is a short season everything gets compressed into a few months. Few resources, talent, races,etc…all gets compressed.
    2. More population centers involved with the sports you mentioned aren’t regarded as snow towns, in fact it is a hinderence to them.
    3. The Olympics is usually the “second season” to Track and Field and Swimming allowing these athletes longer periods of time to peak. Outdoor Swimming, T&F, and Beach Volleyball
    are pretty much different events compared to their indoor events.
    4. These sports are huge compared to XC easily 100 to 200 countries compete around the world in these marquee events.
    Last I checked about 20 to 25 countries are in the mix for XC.
    The number of events and actual particepants a staggering number to consider by comparison.
    5. On your last point I think everyone on this website would agree that promoting our sport in numbers/particepation is a healthy thing to do. Cheers to the efforts and the award that Andy Shepard from the Maine Winter Sports Center recently recieved from USSA for doing just that! I think Andy’s organization introduces something like 2,000 to 5,000 new skiers to our sport every winter!

  • Mike Trecker

    May 28, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Excellent point. For Track and Field, the Olympics occurs in late summer, many months removed from the NCAA Championships. However, in skiing, the Olympics occurs smack dab in the middle of the school year and the NCAA racing season. Conflict of interest is unavoidable here.

  • Tim Kelley

    May 29, 2009 at 4:39 am

    Hi Marty, I agree with 99.9% of what you say. And I agree with the USST stand on school deferral. But you say a kid should ask: “are [they] there yet – if not – go to school”. Do you really think most kids, and / or their parents, can make a realistic decision regarding their future ski racing potential? I would say likely not. Metrics should be used by the USST to let young skiers know if they should continue training full time or go to school. It would be good to hear the USST say something like: “If at 21 you are not top ten in the WJ’s or have an FIS point level of X, then the USST is not interested in you and you should go to school”. The USST has metrics for making the team. It should also have metrics to make young skiers life decision to continue ski training or move on to school – an easier decision.

    I’d also like to point out too that the economic environment for young skiers is much more challenging than back in the 70s and 80s. Life is way more expensive than back in the day. Competition for jobs is much stiffer and people will now generally have to work longer to have a decent life in later years. Yeah, 3 years is not a big deal. But for someone these days to ski race until they are 30 – 35 and then go to school and start a career … they will likely find themselves very behind in life for their age (pay, employment options, afforable housing, saving for retirement). And it likely be quite a struggle to try and catch up. Of course, the other option is to work until they are 80-90.

  • nordic_dave

    May 29, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Chuckles, Tim I think you are finally showing your age my friend. Didn’t know that you were a “boomer” though. I’m going to send you a survey by Metlife on the generational differences and perceptions of Baby Boomers vs. Gen X and Gen Y particepants in the work force today. ( I still have your email) Although Education is more important today than ever in this increasingly complex world. When someone elects to get serious about their education is another matter. For those probably very few that may decide to delay immediately going to college, the benefits are a more serious student focused on their education. It may even possibly be an advantage to the college ski program as well to have a skier try and take it to another level for a few years and then return to school. Here in Utah we have a school named BYU, their athletic program is pretty good overall even if they don’t know jack about skiing. The point is many of their competitors have commented over the years that it is pretty tough competiting against a 23 or 25 year old college athlete who often took two years off from school to go on a Mormon Mission. They have a lot of NCAA Champions to attest to that. Guess that was the choice they made. The siren song of a free scholarship may be eniticing for a high school senior yet I’m confident that kids today can still follow their dreams and see where it goes. Kind’ve like moving to Alaska eh? Me, I just read Alaska magizine (I digress)
    We haven’t even touched on all the foreign athletes who compete in NCAA skiing and their motivations.

    As for the USST, I’ll bet they pretty much approach someone they see with potential and see if they are interested pursuing a path with the USST just like college coaches do in recruiting.

    Cheers Tim, we should have a beer someday!


  • Scott Jerome

    May 30, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    I appreciate your comments, nordic_dave, but I am skeptical that any of those things are the limiting factor for skiing versus other NCAA sports in the Olympic arena. And perhaps I did not make myself clear regarding the pipeline. I don’t think that NCAA skiers will be competing and medaling at the Olympics while in college. The odds of this are about zero. What I am asking, however, is why other sports use the NCAA as a pipeline for Olympic success (by North Americans) after college while skiing has not mastered this.

    Regarding popularity/population centers/number of participants: rifle is not a popular sport, but (former) NCAA shooters (Americans) are always fighting for the podium at the Olympics. Swimming is popular in NA, but NA certainly does not have a corner on the market for swimmers worldwide. And yet (former) NCAA swimmers (Americans) continue to perform quite well at the world level.

    Snow, yes this is an issue, but not an insurmountable one anymore. The volume of training needed for international success is probably the biggest factor. And yet, swimmers (notorious for hours in the pool and the weight room) are able to make it work.

    If other sports are able to use the NCAA as a pipeline for success at the international level I am convinced that skiing can, too. It may be hard, but so what? I’ve been wrong before, and I may have to eat my words on this in 20 years, but I think it can be done.

    It comes down to true commitment, not this fluffy garbage that passes as commitment these days. Most young people (and coaches, for that matter) like to commit to skiing when it’s convenient, fits their schedules, and requires no true sacrifice. (“But my mommy wants me to go to the family reunion in August for three weeks…” “I can’t afford rollerskis, but look at my new ipod…” etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.)

    As my buddy Sten says, “I’ve heard every excuse in the world, and none of them is good enough not to train.”

    Bottom line: the NCAA can be a successful pipeline if the commitment, tools, leadership and support are there. Obviously it is not happening now. And maybe it’s not worth the effort to make it happen. But, I am sure some will keep plugging away.

  • nordic_dave

    May 30, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    Good one Scott!

    Yet I think if you look at stats the world has moved well behind the NCAA level of skiing and or the other sports mentioned. I am not sure what you meant by the swimming hours but I can tell you they exceed that of cross country skiing. I have a daughter in a NCAA D1 swim program. At the “conference” championships another coach convieniantly brought in some swimmers from Hungary who had just taken a break from the Beijing Olympics. Meanwhile her swim club “Nova” in Irvine, Ca. could easily put a lap on her top ranked NCAA swim team. They have produced 6 Olympic medalists. Meanwhile I coached a young lady years ago in soccer who made the podium in the NCAA finals in swimming indoor this winter (3rd). As I heard from her recently, she laments she is miles away from making the Olympic team in the outdoor pool which is twice the size of an indoor pool and pushing off the wall is less of a factor. I also coached on this same youth soccer team a young lady who is on the U.S. Alpine team and you will probably see her compete in Vancouver, she elected to forego regular high school years ago and took classes in the summer. Same goes for Brenna Ellis, whom I also just saw today, who just retired from the U.S. Ski Jumping program, she was also on that same youth soccer team. She elected to not go to public high school as well as it conflicted with ski jumping. She just retired at an early age and was awarded by USSA as a ski “pioneer” in the women’s sport of ski jumping.

    Let me assure you that another Micheal Phelps is not someone you will see come around in the next decade or two, you just watched something special from a very strong club swimmer who took on NCAA swimming because of the coaching connection.

    Since I have run some decent times many years ago,
    I do follow running and Track and Field closely. We have had some great collegiate athletes in distance running lately yet these NCAA Champs aren’t even close to what it takes to make either the finals much less the podium. These guys struggle to make the finals in the 1500 and up. Gone are the days of Billy Mills (circa mid 60’s) winning an Olympic 10k out of college. Even Frank Shorter (circa early 70’s) ’72 Olympic Marathon Champ. can tell you that . As for the NCAA Sprinters that is a different story but not applicable to the subject at hand which is about training volume in the formative years. I don’t have a clue as to how the rifle sports aspect works.

    Since I saw a dad and friend today who’s daughter will attend New Hampshire on scholarship in XC skiing , I was thrilled for him and her as she is a great kid. Then I saw and talked to an old fav. at the same event who skied well in the Torino Olympics (who did in US XC skiing ????? come on guess!) , she had quite an unusaul path in her skiing career and ended it well after many ups and downs. Hint it included a stint with the “Alaska Winter Stars”.

    Cheers, Dave

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