National team naming for American cross-country skiing tends to roughly correspond to the overall rhythm of the training year. Team nominations come out in May; World Cup Period I starts are (at least these days) announced in June; American professional skiers then know where they stand early in the summer, and can plan out their training and racing seasons accordingly. So far, so good. A total of twenty athletes were named to the U.S. Cross-Country Ski Team, or USST, for the 2019/2020 season in early May. June 11 brought a formal announcement of the official starters and alternates for the first seven World Cup races in November and December, a mix of national-team members you would expect (Jessie Diggins, Erik Bjornsen, etc.) and non-national-team skiers who may have garnered more World Cup points or lower FIS points last year than you realized (Andy Newell, David Norris, Kelsey Phinney, etc.). And everyone moved into summer training with this in mind.
But before we get too excited for the current crop of USST members, it’s worth taking a quick look back at who’s no longer on the team: Ian Torchia, now 23, aged out of being on the D-Team; Katharine Ogden no longer meets age-graded D-Team criteria by dint of being ranked “only” 123rd in the world on the last FIS Distance List; Ida Sargent retired after seven seasons on the national team to become a teacher at GMVS; and Paddy Caldwell retired after five seasons on the national team to work in the renewable energy sector.
FasterSkier previously profiled Sargent’s career and retirement plans earlier this spring. In this series, FasterSkier catches up with the other three athletes not currently on the national team to find out what’s next for them. First up, Katharine Ogden, universally known as KO.
KO answered questions via email earlier this summer. Her responses have been reprinted verbatim. FasterSkier’s email questions have been expanded and rewritten somewhat from what was originally asked, to provide better narrative and context for this article.
KO has had a successful college ski career so far, to put it mildly. As a freshman, she won both the 5-kilometer classic race and the 15 k freestyle at 2018 NCAA Championships, taking the first of those by a staggering 46.9 seconds over 5 k. As a sophomore, she defended her title in the classic race at 2019 NCAAs, then finished “only” fourth in the skate race for her worst finish yet in four NCAA Championship races. (The fourth place at NCAAs marked the only time Ogden was off the podium in ten college races last season. She is undefeated in her last eight individual NCAA classic races, going back to early last season.) She was FasterSkier’s women’s collegiate skier of the year in 2018, and has garnered multiple awards from Dartmouth Athletics, the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association (USCSA), and the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Ski Association (EISA).
Ogden is nonetheless asked whether collegiate skiing is working well for her at this stage in her life and career, and if so, why. She wrote:
“Skiing at Dartmouth is working really well for me at this stage. It is very important to me to get an undergraduate degree and Dartmouth is an amazing school with lots of opportunities. I am pursuing a degree in Psychology focusing on adolescent development with a minor in education and I have a goal of working in the field of education. This is something that I am passionate about and I am incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to pursue this path at Dartmouth. On top of that, skiing for the Dartmouth ski team is the most fun I have ever had pursuing the sport. My teammates are talented, motivated and inspiring and I am fortunate to get to train and compete alongside all of them.”
KO is currently a junior, one of ten women nordic skiers on the Dartmouth Ski Team. She is asked whether she foresees two more years of collegiate skiing, and if she knows what comes after that. Here’s Ogden: “In the next few years my priorities lie with the Dartmouth team and with finishing school. After that I have no idea what I will do. After graduation I will of course remain connected to the sport whether by racing professionally or by skiing on the side while I pursue teaching certification. The next two years will be telling as to my trajectory in the sport and I honestly have no idea what the years following will look like for me.”
Finally, and back to the point of this article, KO is informed that she ranked 123rd in the world on the final FIS distance list from the 2018/2019 season, which is hardly “bad” but also, in light of her 1997 birth year, placed her 23 spots back from a top-100 ranking that would have qualified her for continued membership on the USST D-Team.
Ogden is asked how much attention, if any, she gave to her FIS points throughout the race season, and how much effect, if any, not being on the D-Team will have on her day-to-day training going into this winter.
“All of this ranking information is news to me,” her candid response begins. “I have never in my career paid any attention to FIS rankings or points and this year was not an exception. When I compete I focus on the competition itself and on doing my best no matter what the race is or what is on the line. In my opinion, spending the season eyeballing rankings lists takes every scrap of joy and fun away from the sport that I love.”
Ogden continues, “Being on the Development team for the last few years was an honor and an experience that I will always be thankful for. I met and became close with some incredible people and role models and benefited from world class coaching. That being said, at this point in my career, I am not poised to gain much from national team status because my plan the past two years and for the next two going forward is to prioritize my classes and competing for Dartmouth over international racing and national team camps. On top of that I receive incredible support from the SMS T2 team that complements my position on the Dartmouth ski team rather than competing with it. Being on the development team came with many obvious plus sides but at this point in my life I need more flexibility to pursue non-skiing interests and priorities. I will miss being a part of such an incredible group of women but right now this is the best scenario for me.”
KO’s 2019/2020 EISA collegiate racing season begins with the Harvard Carnival in mid-January on the ski trails at Dublin School, a private prep school in southern New Hampshire that claims it was the first high school in the world to have a FIS-certified homologated ski trail on its campus, although fellow New Hampshire private school Proctor Academy also has a legitimate claim to that title.