With his four years of NCAA eligibility completed, Sam Tarling will return to his roots to begin his professional career. The Maine native and 2011 NCAA 10 k freestyle champion for Dartmouth College will again race in the white and blue of Maine Winter Sports Center next season, joining a roster that includes the likes of Kris Freeman, Annelies Cook and Russell Currier.
“MWSC offers and unparalleled level of support that will enable me to pursue my goals,” Tarling wrote in an email. “I’ve worked with the program in the past and it seemed like a great fit for me.”
The 23-year-old has been a force for Dartmouth on the eastern college circuit for the last four years, racking up two individual classic EISA wins in his final season with the Big Green and taking fifth in the 30 k classic U.S. Nationals in January.
Tarling has taken a unique path through college skiing and put considerable thought into choosing an elite program. For the past few years he’s taken advantage of Dartmouth’s flexible academic schedule and trained or traveled with most of the elite teams in the U.S. during the fall. This both gave him insight into how each team operates, but he says it also made choosing one to ski for next year more difficult.
“Throughout my years at Dartmouth, I’ve taken a good look at almost all of the professional programs in the country,” Tarling said. “Part of the reason I’m so behind the ball in joining up with a program is that I wanted to give each team a good look. There are a ton of great programs out there, and I’m lucky to be coming out of school at a time where there are many strong skiers looking to keep skiing.”
Will Sweester, MWSC’s Director of Competitive Programs, is happy to have Tarling back and representing Maine once again.
“He’s an interesting guy in that he’s a self-directed athlete,” Sweester said. “He knows what he wants to do, and I’m glad we could do that back in Maine… We have a mandate to put most of our resources into this state, so it’s always a plus when our top-level athletes are from Maine.”
Other additions to MWSC’s roster for next year include National Development Team member Omar Bermejo to the adaptive program and Casey Smith to the biathlon Olympic development team.
“I’m really excited that we’re as close to a full-service program as there is in the U.S.,” Sweester said. “We’ve got athletes from 12 years old to Olympians, and cross-country, biathlon and now adaptive, with Omar joining our program. So I’m pretty excited about that. If there was any way for us to add jumping, I would.”
For the summer, Tarling plans to split his time between Maine and Hanover, N.H., while continuing to work off the training program he’s followed for the last few years. His semesters off means that he still have classes left to complete before finishing his undergraduate degree at Dartmouth. But for the first time since beginning college four years ago, Tarling’s winter season will be free of the academic obligations that are a necessary part of competing in the NCAA.
“For the most part, not a lot is going to change for me,” Tarling said. “The biggest difference is going to be flexibility in the winter race season. I’ve always been obligated to take classes in the winter — which really isn’t too big an issue it just means you have to focus on managing your time a bit more. I’m looking forward to a little break from the regimented lifestyle of being a student-athlete, although I’m sure I’ll miss it.”
His goals for the coming season involve both racing well — “strong international results, race World Cups, podium at U.S. Nationals and SuperTour Finals,” he said — and giving back to his home state.
“Working with the MWSC also gives me the opportunity to give back to my home state of Maine, and hopefully I’ll be able to inspire the some future Olympians in the strong youth and junior programs that the club supports,” Tarling said.
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.