Steamboat Springs There are four athletes, but two ways of looking at things.
Haley Piske and Michaela Frias, two of the four Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic skiers beginning competition today in the U.S. Cross Country Championships in Rumford, Maine, have huge goals.
Competing against the nation’s best, two of Steamboat’s best hope to shine. They could pave the way for their futures with strong performances.
Two others, Emily Hannah and Max Scrimgeour, are making their first trip to nationals and are intent on skiing well and soaking in every moment of their first stay on the big stage.
“There is a lot on the line, but that’s what makes racing fun,” Frias said.
For Frias and Piske, experienced Steamboat J1 skiers with plenty of success under their belts, the week of competition is an opportunity to take the next step.
If they finish among the top six J1 women, they will qualify to ski on the Scando Cup circuit in Europe. If they race well, they could also attract the eye of college coaches, many of whom will be on hand looking for athletes to stock their programs with.
“The whole year, I’ve been training so I can make Scando Cup,” said Frias, not afraid to acknowledge the gravity of the week. “My mental attitude needs to be right on. The person who can cope with their emotions and the pain, that’s who’s going to win.”
Piske, meanwhile, said she’s taking a more relaxed approach. She said she hasn’t been dwelling on her chances to make the Scando Cup circuit.
Instead, she just hopes to put down a good series of races.
“I don’t like to think about it. It won’t change how I ski,” she said. “I’ll ski, and hopefully it will end up well.”
The athletes begin competition today in classic-style skiing sprints.
On Tuesday, the women will compete in a 10-kilometer classic skate race. The men will go 15 kilometers.
On Thursday, the women will race in a 20-kilometer skate ski race while the men will go 30. Things wrap up Saturday with 1-kilometer sprint skate races.
There’s still plenty for Hannah and Scrimgeour to strive for. All racers will be able to prequalify for the Junior Nationals.
“I’m just going to have fun and get to feel what it’s like,” Hannah said. “I’m sure it will be really cool to see some of the Olympians and World Cup skiers.”
Scrimgeour set making the prequalification mark as one of his main goals.
“I’ll definitely be a little nervous. I’m always nervous before I start a race,” he said. “I just trust that I’ve trained enough to get through the race.”