None of us seasoned varsity athletes had any idea what was about to be unleashed that cold February day in 2005 when little seventh grade Jessie Diggins was called up as an alternate at the Conference meet. But the tiny blonde bundle of energy surprised us all by not only putting out a good race, but making the All-Conference team, the Section team, and qualifying for the state meet. I’m proud to say that back then I could still beat her in a classic race. It’s highly unlikely to ever happen again.
Diggins, a recent graduate of Stillwater High School in Minnesota, is among the youngest elite skiers on the racing circuit, and her momentum is just starting to build. As a member of the Central Cross-Country Ski Association (CXC) team, Diggins will finally be able to concentrate fully on skiing without the additional time commitment of academics and other extracurriculars getting in the way. She has been accepted on a full-ride academic scholarship to Northern Michigan University (NMU), but decided to defer for at least one year. “I feel like I really want to give skiing a good shot and see how far I can take it,” said Diggins in an interview with FasterSkier. “A year off is a good way to get solid training and experience without being stressed out all the time.” While CXC coaches are still working on her finalized training schedule, the plan includes a bump up in hours of training, and more SuperTour races than in the past, although the actual number of races will probably be fewer because she won’t be racing for the Stillwater High School team as well as CXC as she did last year. “I did a bad job of getting enough sleep and taking care of myself,” Diggins admitted of her 2010 season, during which she had a stomach flu during Senior Nationals and the Mesabi Invitational and had mono when she won the Minnesota State Meet. After being told she could not attend JO’s due to the virus, Diggins spent several weeks concentrating on recovery and making up for a lot of missed school with the positive attitude, “If I can’t train I might as well not fail calculus.”
Diggins exhibits a remarkable work ethic and devotion to training on a daily basis, but despite numerous successes and enviable results, Diggins remains ineffably lighthearted and unassuming. Her only comment on being featured in the Sports Illustrated Faces in the Crowd section in March (a rare nod to Nordic skiing from the magazine – see the feature online here) is that it was “pretty embarrassing.” She continually displays great devotion to her team and teammates. Speaking of the CXC team, she said, “I see my teammates as older brothers and sisters as well as friends. They take care of me.” She requested that I end the article with her statement, “I really miss my Stillwater girls and alumni and [coach] Kris Hansen.”
Maddy is on the Nordic ski team at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where her majors are psychology, political science, skiing, and being an awesome JA.