Note: This is the 12th preview in our U.S. elite-team series, the “The 12.” We asked coaches to tell us what’s new and whom to look out for this season. We will be publishing Canadian training-centre profiles in the coming weeks.
Team: Far West Elite Team
Coaches: Martin Benes, August Teague
Roster: Franz Bernstein, Spencer Eusden, Wyatt Fereday, Patrick Johnson; Holly Whitney
Who’s new: Bernstein heads west after a standout career at the University of Vermont, where he was an NCAA champion in 2010. Bernstein remained in Vermont after graduating, as he pursued his MBA from UVM. With Masters degree in hand, the former member of the German Junior National Team will race in Far West colors for the first time 2012-14.
Joining Bernstein as a Far West rookie is Johnson, who wrapped up four impressive years at Middlebury College in 2012, before stepping right on to the professional circuit with the Sun Valley Gold Team. Johnson won his first SuperTour last season, and will join the Far West squad this fall after spending the summer at home in Anchorage, Alaska.
Who’s missing: Beth Taylor; Noah Brautigam, Phill Violett, Gus Johnson
All four of the above have moved on from competitive ski racing. Johnson and Brautigam are coaching, in California and Utah respectively, while Violett has shifted his focus to summer biathlon. Taylor, following a breakout season, has opted not to train full time or travel this year.
Back for more: Both Eusden and Whitney started with the Far West EliteTeam as part of the summer college training program. Obviously they found the mountains of California to their liking, and returned for more.
They attended East Coast colleges, Bowdoin and Williams respectively, and are heading into their second seasons with Far West.
The longest tenured member of the squad, Wyatt Fereday, just completed his master’s thesis at the University of Nevada, Reno, and is looking to build on strong results his third year racing out of California.
Top results last season: Fereday placed an impressive 16th in the SuperTour Finals Hill Climb and 49th at the American Birkebeiner while consistently placing at the top in local events.
Eusden took 2nd at the Great Ski Race, 11th at the Aspen SuperTour in the 10k classic, 22nd at the Boulder Mountain Tour, and 21st in the SuperTour Finals Prologue.
The final returning member of the team, Whitney, won the local Tahoe Rim Tour and just missed the podium in the Great Ski Race, placing 4th.
Johnson did not race for Far West last season, but his results are impressive nonetheless, earning the victory at the Aspen SuperTour in the 10k classic, along with a 5th at US Nationals in the 15k freestyle, and 8th in the American Birkebeiner, where he was the top American finisher.
Bernstein, for his part, placed 8th in the Craftsbury Marathon.
Coach’s Comment: Benes is looking forward to the 2013-14 season with new faces joining the solid returning cast.
“This year’s edition of the team is definitely one of our strongest,” Benes said. “On the men’s side, adding Patrick Johnson and Franz Bernstein will be a big boost not only in training, but also by increasing the size of our travel squad.”
Both Bernstein and Fereday will be more focussed on local racing, though Fereday does plan to hit West Yellowstone, the American Birkebeiner and the Boulder Mountain Tour.
Benes expects Eusden to build off some strong results from last year, and should reap the benefits of some tough training.
“We had a big planned jump in terms of training volume last year, which combined with a move to altitude left him feeling pretty tired at times during the race season,” Benes explained. “This was to be expected, and he ended up with some big fitness gains. This year, we have leveled off his training a little and we should see payoff come winter.”
Like Fereday and Bernstein, Whitney will mainly race locally as she will also be coaching part-time after spending the summer in New England.
Johnson should be battling for top spots on the domestic circuit, and the team looks forward to his imminent arrival.
Other previews: Alaska Pacific University | Bend Endurance Academy |Bridger Ski Foundation | Craftsbury GRP | Maine Winter Sports Center | Methow OD | SSCV/Team HomeGrown | Stratton Mountain School T2 | Sun Valley SEF Gold Team | XC Oregon | Central Cross-Country
— Alex Matthews contributed reporting.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.