With the 2014/2015 season officially in the rearview, FasterSkier is excited to unveil its annual award winners for this past winter. Votes stem from the FS staff, scattered across the U.S. and Canada, and while not scientific, they are intended to reflect a broader sense of the season in review.
Rosie Brennan, USST B-team, Alaska Pacific University
Rosie Brennan isn’t new to the nordic scene. In fact, she’s been around for a long time and has a list of impressive results to her name. What makes her the 2015 Breakthrough Skier of the Year, you might ask? Her remarkable jump from the continental cup to international success.
“If there is a most improved skier award it goes to Rosie, potentially on the entire World Cup,” U.S. Ski Team Women’s Coach Matt Whitcomb said after her performances at the 2015 World Championships. “I don’t know if any nation has had an athlete show from their continental cup with no prior success and hit it out of the park the way that she has.
“She’s being rewarded for years of hard work. It’s been a tough year for her, and to see all the work pay off and incredible results from start to finish is really neat,” he added.
If Whitcomb hasn’t convinced you, her results from the past season will.
A successful junior skier who earned a top-10 finish at Junior Worlds in 2007, Brennan made large strides in her early career and was named to the U.S. Ski Team in her first two years at Dartmouth College. While her position on the USST lasted only two years, Brennan continued her journey in professional ski racing.
Since beginning her professional career, the APU skier has continually been at the top of the domestic circuit. The 2014/2015 season, however, proved to be a momentous year as Brennan won all but two races between the first period of SuperTour races and the 2015 U.S. Cross Country Championships in Houghton, Mich.
In her first World Cup appearance since 2013, Brennan teamed up with Ida Sargent to take sixth in the Otepää, Estonia team sprint. A week later, Brennan earned a career-best individual result with a 13th place finish in the Rybinsk, Russia World Cup 10 k freestyle. The weekend’s success continued with a 31st in the freestyle sprint and 20th in the 15 k skiathlon. Although the the 10 k marked her best individual World Cup result, both the sprint and skiathlon also surpassed her previous best finish of 35th in the 10 k at a 2012 World Cup in Canmore.
In the leadup to the biggest races of the season, Brennan skied to 33rd and 32nd in the classic sprint and 10 k freestyle in Östersund, Sweden. The best was yet to come, however, as Brennan entered her first-ever appearance in a World Championships.
Brennan raced in three competitions in Falun, Sweden and impressed every time she took to the famed trails. She earned 30th in the 15 k skiathlon and held onto a charging Justyna Kowalzcyk in the second leg of the women’s 4 x 10 k relay to aid the team in a record-tying fourth place finish. Kowalczyk and Brennan would meet again in the 30 k classic mass start, where Brennan out-sprinted the four-time overall World Cup champion to take 16th.
“If you had asked me at the beginning of the year, no way,” she said when asked whether she had expected perform at such a high level at World Championships. “After I came over here and started having a few good results, I was hoping that I could find some sort of peak here and have some good results. So I’m really happy with how it went. I wish I could have raced more races, but it was my first time, so I have to earn my way onto all the starts.”
In the upcoming season, Brennan’s hard work will pay off – she enters the season with a nomination to the USST B-team and will have the option to race in all period one World Cup competitions as the overall SuperTour leader.
Graeme Killick, Canadian National Development B-team
Like Brennan, Graeme Killick had a momentous 2015 World Championships. Prior to the two-week event the Canadian’s best result in the 2014/2015 season was 40th in the Rybinsk 30 k skiathlon, but in his first race in Falun, Killick surpassed the mark with a 32nd placement in the 15 k freestyle.
Killick also raced in Canada’s 4 x 10 k relay which finished 10th, but his focus was on the final race of the Championships – the 50 k classic mass start. The 26-year-old had demonstrated his potential in the 50 k at the 2014 Olympics event with a 28th-place finish and was ready to see what he could do.
“I was just hoping I would hang in there and not cramp on the last few laps,” Killick said to FasterSkier in Falun. “[When it comes to] 50 k’s, it seems like they’re really hit and miss for me. Domestically I’ve struggled to get top 15, but internationally, my best results have been in the 50 k. If I’m in shape, they can go really well, but I would say the focus for me [at World Championships] was the pursuit [skiathlon], which I didn’t end up doing because I got sick in Östersund… When that was out, the 50 became the main focus.”
Killick remained within the top 30 during the entirety of the 50 k, at times breaking into top 10. Eventually he placed 19th for his best-ever international result.
Reflecting on his breakthrough finish Killick said he was excited about his prospects.
“This year I was able to start on the World Cup for the first time in my career and spend a significant portion of the year over here,” he said. “Just seeing the level and seeing how these guys train and race I think has given me a lot of ideas for next year. I’m really excited to try to take the next step and become a contender here on the World Cup.”
In the coming season, Killick will return to Canada’s National Development B-team.