The second annual National J2 Talent ID camp was held the first week of August at 6,000 feet in Sun Valley, Idaho. The top 43 14- and 15-year-olds from around the country descended upon the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) training facilities to learn from both their peers and the top coaches from around the country.
Gavin Hess, a Pittsford, NY native, qualified to attend the camp by finishing the week at Junior Nationals this winter as one of the top J2s in the country. In only his first year racing, he notched 10th place finishes in both the freestyle sprint and the 5 k classic mass start, earning him All-American status for both efforts.
FasterSkier caught up with Hess during a Monday night training session in Mendon, NY with his home club, Rochester Nordic Racing (RNR). In between sets of a strength workout, Hess talked about his experience at the camp, winning a U.S. Ski Team (USST) jacket, and his goals for the season.
FasterSkier: How did the camp go? Had you been looking forward to going?
Gavin Hess: I actually didn’t know it existed at first; it was really cool when I found out I made it. I was like, “OK awesome, lets do this!” So I scheduled flights—I figured it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
FS: You got to work with a lot of the best coaches in the country while you were out there. How did the training throughout the week compare to what you’ve been doing?
GH: Yeah, we had really, really good coaching. [Camp Director] Rick Kapala from SVSEF was awesome; a really funny, nice guy. There also were a bunch of college interns skiing with us.
The training was very similar to what I’ve been doing—a lot more strength, but overall pretty similar. There were way more coaches than I’m used to, and we did more technique drills, with coaches watching and stopping you to help you if needed it. The coaching was awesome. That’s why I wanted to go, to get technique work in with the best coaches in the country.
FS: Were you nervous before going at all?
GH: I’d gotten my wisdom teeth taken out the week before, and didn’t do a lot of training that whole week, so I was worried about my fitness level being an issue. But I don’t think it was. The altitude had a bit of an effect, especially with the testing. I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped, but it was a good learning experience. We talked a lot about altitude, since Junior Nationals are in Soldier Hollow next year at like 5,000 feet.
FS: You had some pretty tough tests that week.
GH: Yeah, we did the Canadian Strength Test, which is a minute each of pull-ups, sit-ups, pushups, box jumps and bench dips. They give you a generic score, and they did it at all the REG camps too, so you could compare yourself strength-wise to everyone in the country, which is cool.
They also did an uphill test up on Harper’s Hill on the trails behind the SVSEF training hut. It’s this notorious uphill running test that a lot of the USST guys have done, so it’s cool to compare yourself to their time.
FS: Tell me about this competition you won.
GH: It was a Facebook competition; something to raise awareness for NCCSEF [now the National Nordic Foundation], which funded part of the camp. It just tried spread the word.
You had to like the foundation’s page to vote for a J2, so we had Jason [Hettenbaugh, RNR Head Coach] and [teammate] Reid Likely going absolutely crazy, spamming all over the place trying to get votes for me. Reid went over the top…but I’m glad he did, because I got a really cool jacket and some wax, which was a cool way to finish off the camp.
FS: Now that you’re back, what’s the rest of your summer look like, training-wise?
GH: I’ll just keep training hard. I won’t do as much biking as earlier this summer; in mid-July I finished my bike season so I could focus on skiing. I’m upping my running a lot, as I haven’t done much running in my life, and I think it’s a great way to train.
FS: What are some of your goals for the upcoming season?
GH: This season is really about getting experience racing at the national level more, since last year was my first national experience. I’ll go to a lot more Eastern Cups to get experience, and my really big goal is J1 Scando Cup in 2013, so it’s all working towards that.
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.