Midsummer is upon us, and that means it is time for the annual Regional Elite Group (REG) camps.
The annual Western REG camp recently concluded in Park City, where 30 athletes took advantage of excellent training opportunities to log 18 hours for the week. The schedule also included Medals Testing (a set of exercises including pushups, pullups and situps, performed in a controlled environment) the famous Agony Hill Time Trial, as well as talks from the likes of US sprinter Andy Newell.
USST Coach Pete Vordenberg viewed the camp as a success, continuing a positive trend since the REG camps were launched in 2002. Vordenberg told FasterSkier that he has seen good improvement in the level of athletes attending the camps – in both in technique and fitness.
As the name implies, REG camps include the top young skiers from a geographic region and are an integral part of US Ski Team (USST) talent identification.
The top athletes from each REG camp will be invited to attend the National Elite Group (NEG) camp this fall in Lake Placid. The NEG camp is run by top national club coaches alongside the final USST dryland camp of the year.
Athletes wear numbered bibs during the camp, and coaches rank athletes based on various criteria throughout the week, all in an effort to pick out the most talented skiers.
Agony Time Trial
Russell Kennedy claimed victory in the Agony time trial, posting a time of 15:55 while edging Will WIcherski by one second and Erik Fagerstrom by two. Kennedy’s winning time was 55 secdons slower than Scott Patterson’s mark at the National Training Group camp of several weeks ago.
Annie Pokorny led the women, besting Jessica Jortberg by four seconds with a time of 19:34.
Vordenberg sees time trials like the Agony hill climb as an important part of measuring fitness and progress, and encourages athletes to create tests that they can perform at regular intervals during the training season. If improvements are not evident, athletes need to make adjustments to their training.
“I really like the uphill running test or double pole test,” Vordenberg said in an interview. “It is something the kids can do on their own, and is not really any different form what we (the USST) would be doing.”
Vordenberg picked the talk by Newell as one of the high points of the week. One of the top sprinters in the world, Newell presented detailed information on preparing for sprints, but Vordenberg saw the greatest value in Newell’s general approach.
“People see Andy, and he is a cool kid with a skateboard. They don’t usually see how dialed in he is.”
Vordenberg pointed to Newell’s professionalism and commitment as demonstrated by his preparation. Some athletes might find it a bit of a turn-off, but, said Vordenberg, for those who are motivated, it is an inspiration.
Not Just for Athletes
The REG camps are not solely about the athletes – though that is the focus. The camps also provide an opportunity for top regional coaches to work together and with USST staff.
“Beyond the benefits for the athletes right then and there, the REGs have been successful getting coaches working on the same stuff, and focused on international level success,” said Vordenberg.
He was pleased with how the coaches worked together and the consistency of message. Coaches were on the same page, using similar language, and extensive pre-workout discussion was not needed.
“This year I was really happy with the other coaches, how we work together – how organized it has become, and how focused the workouts have become. There are good fun times, but within the workouts people are extremely focused.”
And while it can be more difficult to measure the benefits of the REG camps on coaching, in part because the same people often attend, and are clearly highly motivated, Vordenberg has been encouraged to see a steady stream of new faces.
More Work Ahead
Ultimately, while the Western REG camp was highly successful and the overall level has been on a steady trend upward, there is still much to do.
Said Vordenberg, “I am encouraged by the improvements, but I think in terms of general fitness we have some progress to be made. There is another level that these athletes need to reach – they just need to get to a higher fitness level.”
And that is one of the reasons for time trials and testing. Vordenberg notes that overall fitness can be easily measured with such tests, and the Agony time trial this summer reveals the steps that must still be taken to compete at the international level.
The Eastern REG camp also wrapped up last week, and the Midwest version is currently underway.
More photos, comments from Pete Vordenberg and top-5 results of the strength test can all be found on the NCCSEF website.
Western REG Agony Time Trial Results
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.