During the long pandemic slog, there have been times to celebrate small victories. One of those moments was the Lost Nation Roll – a skate rollerski race on October 25 at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. Over a month ago now, during which Covid-19 restrictions have become more restrictive in Vermont, athletes were able to compete and grasp, even for a few hours, some normalcy.
Justin Beckwith, the competition director for NENSA and Ollie Burruss, a person with similar responsibilities at Craftsbury, navigated a labyrinth of safety protocols to ensure the show goes on.
It goes without saying that organized sport right now can seem frivolous. Covering sports even more so. But what the Lost Nation Roll illustrates is that good people can make good things happen. And make them happen safely.
“We opened it up to 100 spots for the rollerski race,” Beckwith said. “And you know, we’ve had plenty of races that are bigger than that in the past, but it’s on this brand new roller ski loop which was cool. We didn’t fill up the start spots and we didn’t have collegiate skiers outside the one’s residing at Craftsbury, and that’s because of institutional regulations at some schools. But the reality is, each competition is a small victory in itself.”
Let’s steer away from results for a bit. We’re bombarded enough with them anyhow. The one result that matters is this: it was a win-win for all those involved. That included Jessie Diggins, Julia Kern, Caitlin Patterson, Katharine Ogden, Susan Dunklee, Ben Lustgarten (he’s maybe not done yet), Adam Martin, Ian Torchia, Akeo Maifeld-Carucci, and Ben Saxton to name only a few starters. Sure, we are talking about a cadre of skiers who are Vermont-based. But they showed up, masked up, sent it around a regional training resource on a state of the art rollerski loop and provided some junior skiers a sense that the world is not all doom and gloom and sixty feet apart. (Just six feet.)
“We’re screening all these folks as well, right as they come in. And so we’re abiding by all the local guidelines,” said Beckwith. “But on top of that, we’re really spending a lot of time having athletes populating forms on-line prior to the race. So if somebody answers a question incorrectly, or has a sniffle, or a slight cough, we can flag that, and we’re seeing really good compliance.”
As we can see on the international level, the stakes are high for moving from region to region. The IBU World Cup last week reported several positive Covid-19 cases whereas Norway, Finland, and Sweden announced their withdrawal from the remaining December World Cups. No positive cases were reported from the Ruka round of racing, thus far, which included not only cross-country skiing, but ski jumping and nordic combined. As everybody has been expecting for months, more of our time has been spent indoors with the onset of winter. With that, globally, we’ve witnessed a corresponding uptick in cases.
Vermont too, despite their hard line safety mandates, and what appears to be good fidelity to mask wearing and social distancing, has experienced their share of Covid-spikes as well. Some are related to youth hockey in the region.
Like many across the country, Beckwith and Burruss and the scores of volunteers in Craftsbury, make us see what is possible. However, this is not news, the possibility of racing has become more fleeting as the early part of the winter season drifts in. News this week from Canada and the slew of cancelled races up north is all the ground truth we need.
“Essentially, Vermont just became a sporting Island,” Beckwith said during our conversation. He was referring to the hot-off-the-press state guidelines detailing youth sports and Covid-19 restrictions. As of October 27, as Beckwith claimed, Vermont became a literal sport island as a preventive measure to curb community spread.
The latest guidelines restrict Vermont athletes to competing, practicing, scrimmaging, formally or informally, with only other Vermont athletes within the state. If a Vermont athlete competes or practices out of state – they are looking at a mandatory quarantine when they return. The language is clear:
“Any athlete or team leaving the state to participate in a recreational sports practice, scrimmage, pick-up game or competition must complete a quarantine before returning to work or school; visiting any public facility; or participating in any event outside of their home. This quarantine requirement applies regardless of whether the activity is taking place in a quarantine-free county on the state’s most recent cross-state travel map published by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.”
We could go on, and maybe we should, and list all the fine folks and all the fine athletes who made the Lost Nation Roll safe and sound.
It’s the little victories. The Lost Nation Roll may have been the last best race for awhile.
Jason lives in Bend, Ore., and can often be seen chasing his two boys around town. He’s a self-proclaimed audio geek. That all started back in the early 1990s when he convinced a naive public radio editor he should report a story from Alaska’s, Ruth Gorge. Now, Jason’s common companion is his field-recording gear.