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EHS Qualifier

People like to use baseball analogies to describe waxing. It makes sense for the most part: a lot of variables, plenty of glory when it goes right, and a serious sting when it doesn’t. Fellow coach Jeremy Nellis described some ways of thinking about it a few weeks ago while we were conversing in the wax room.

“You can’t start out chasing a home run,” he said.

“[Coach X] would always start out going in all sorts of directions looking for a home run, without focusing on the basics and the process. When you hit a home run everybody knows it, but you can’t start by chasing that elusive one. You get a solid foundation, and build from there.”

I relate that story because on Sunday morning, at the EHS/U16 qualifier race, we did not hit a home run. In fact, if we’re sticking with the baseball analogy, we struck out swinging. In some ways we struck out swinging so poorly, we almost let go of the bat and flung it into the crowd.

But we didn’t get there by chasing home runs, or swinging blindly. We focused on the process, tested as well as we could, and made decisions based on reason, experience, and process. And we still got it horribly wrong for the men’s race, the first event of the day. Despite getting things on a better track for the rest of the day with both the women’s race and both afternoon skate races, all I could really focus on was how poor the skis were. A timely article has recently been going around from the New York Times with an apt title and subject matter:

Tough Job: Norway’s Ski Wax Chief Is Only Noticed When He Fails

Yikes…painfully relevant.

The testing we did was focused, and we emerged from that testing with a few options. It was weird snow, but it was weird snow for everyone. This was kick waxing, and we have some of the best products available. We may have been hindered by having fewer staff than usual, meaning we had to make a call earlier in order to begin application. We were also hindered by a lack of being able to ski the course that much, but so was everyone else.

We were using a unique and nontraditional combination for kick, but it was a combination that had already worked well in similar snow this year. It was tested against every other possible combination of wax types and application methods, and we chose it as the best option…it just ended up being the wrong choice.

It sucks to look at a results sheet and know our skiers were handicapped for that first race. But it also happens. What stings most is that it happened on a one-day qualifier event that is make-or-break for many. It might seem like I’m dwelling on this subject, but mainly I am hoping to convey some key thoughts:

  • Our skis in that men’s classic race were not good. Staggeringly so, in fact
  • I take ownership for that fact, although I am confident that poor skis were not for lack of effort and quality testing
  • MNC skiers kept at it, raced hard, and continued to push themselves and not let poor skis keep them from sending it

With that little personal essay complete, it’s time to talk about the RACING itself. The men’s slip-fest was highlighted by Baxter who has continued to carefully ease back into hard skiing after a winter battling a few large illnesses. Baxter has been operating at less than 100% since all the way back in the fall when pneumonia had him in it’s grasp. He gradually got back into racing recently by opting into one event at each of the final 2 Eastern Cup weekends. He looked like he was coming around in EC3, looked even better in EC4, and started to really turn it on during Sunday’s races. With 2 solid races he made the top-18 cutoff and got himself a spot on the EHS team! This is really great, and having more time to get back to full strength gives some great motivation for the end of the season.

For the women’s classic race, we altered the skis and had some more positive reviews, and also results that were a bit more representative. Ali continued her recent streak of strong classic races, Magda is consistently able to classic ski near the top of VT and even New England even when the race doesn’t go perfectly. Rose and Sammie were solidly in the top-30, and things were looking up!

In the skate race, there were some banner performances for sure. It’s somewhat ironic that skating went so strongly, as it seems that as a whole on group has raced slightly stronger in classic this season. I think a few things contributed to stronger skate racing, but one theory I have is that the stronger training background of our group (summer, fall, and winter all in the picture here) means that skiers in programs like MNC have a lot more fitness to fall back on when it comes time to race for the second time in a day.

In the men’s race Tim Cobb had what might be the race of his career so far. He absolutely smashed the course and came in 5th, just behind Isaac and ahead of 6 skiers who are bound for JNs in a few weeks. Baxter, Aidan and Kai also notched up there strongly. Unfortunately Kai’s back gave him a bit of trouble in the skate race after having to “force it” a bit during the kick-less classic race so he had to back off the pressure and speed. Dakota skied very strongly to assert himself in the top third of the whole field (100+ racers) and it was great to see some new MNC skiers like Brook and Peter really give it their all and get after it in this tough event!

For the women, Rose had a big race skiing with amazing tempo up every hill to finish 14th! Ali looked super strong to take 8th, and Magda had what might be her strongest skate race since the sprint at Fort Kent for 16th. Sammie had a strong skate race after working to find those freestyle gears a bit this season, and Lily narrowly missed the top-30, finishing 35th out over 114 racers and showing just how strong she is within this combined VT field!

In the end the skate races were a little bittersweet after the morning races although Baxter, Ali, and Magda will all be repping VT within the top 18 of the combined results. Sammie qualified for the U16 championships and has a great shot to bump that up to an EHS qualification within the State Meet quota. The same goes for Kai, Aidan, and Rose.

I would be remiss in discussing this event without mentioning how it is somewhat of an informal measuring stick for VT clubs, teams, and academies. Taking a glance down the top 30 finishers in each race (and in the combined results) it is exciting to see MNC well-represented. It’s also telling to see the number of strong club and academy programs that are competing at a high level. The level of skiing in our state is incredibly high, and competitive events are a huge part of what makes our sport develop at a stronger and more professional level. I’m proud to see that MNC skiers are part of the main group of top competitors at this event, but our goals are even higher. I think this year we are leaving this qualifier feeling like we could’ve had even more top finishes, and as a comparison I glanced back at last year’s results. My own analysis? We’ve set our own bar higher, and raised expectation. Even if we don’t all meet these expectations, this year has definitely been a rising tide and I think there’s still a whole lot of impressive skiing still to come from the Pugs before the end of the 17/18 season!

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Final Eastern Cup and JN Pugs!

The final Eastern Cup weekend was a blast, with amazing snow conditions and two fun races at some “old school” New England courses. Last year this final weekend was a tough one for us…not everyone handled the more remote and (for many) unknown venues, and it ended our Eastern Cup adventures on a bit of a mixed bag.

Things started out with a bit of a mixed bag on Saturday at Oak Hill. I think my comment to some was that we were “emotionally, physically, and motivationally all over the map”. That being said, I was really impressed with how everyone got after it. We’ve done more work this year on honing our pre-race psyche and post-race analysis. Being self-reflective both before and after a competition really helps you grow as an athlete, and I’m impressed with how much some Pugs have learned, after good races and poor races alike. That kind of ownership and thought is was elevates you from “a skier who races” to a “ski racer”.

The U16 Pugs have rarely been off the podium this season! Saturday’s skate podium with Aidan and Ali each in 3rd

The U18 men and all of the women were racing against a full college field as part of the Dartmouth Carnival on Saturday, and the strength of our group was impressive for sure. Rose, Lily, Jenny, Kai, Dakota, and Isaac all held their own against some of the nations strongest NCAA athletes! We had a good crew again joining us from “MNC South” like Evan, Henry, Isabella, and Adam C which was always fun…and even alum Charlie Cobb crushed it with a great skate race.

Not to be outdone, we also saw some great racing from U14 racers Ava and Esther as the Eastern Cup Adventures of Toads and BunBun continued! Look for those two to tear it up at the BKL Festival next weekend.

On Sunday, it was time for an epic New England day…a little bit of dry snow and a nice layer of saturated wet snow, with some falling precipitation to make it extra spicy. Earlier in the week I had put out the call for any and all zero skis, and boy did our crew deliver. A HUGE thanks to those that let their skis be shuffled into the mix for this one. During our quick team meeting on Saturday night I warned that things were probably going to get frantic, probably stressful, and probably a bit wild. That definitely happened, and everyone held strong with flying colors.

In the U16 race, Ali and Magda skis on zeros that belonged to Jenny and Rose, respectively. Sammie rocked a klister-covered combo, and everyone had solid races. Sammie skied right into the top 10 and Ali and Magda joined Quincy on the podium for a really sweet 1-2-3! Camille in 6th for another super-solid Eastern Cup race meant a lot of blue, white, black and green out crushing.

Sammie out rocking it!

The zero ski transfer and turnaround happened quick as Rose and Jenny needed to immediately jump right back on those skis to test them for their own races. Rose rocked it to what I’d say was one of her strongest races yet: just getting more and more comfortable challenging the best skiers in New England. Lily and Jenny toughed it out but I think handled it well. Jenny had some problems with her back on the second lap and Lily had a rough go on her first foray into zeros, but the spirits were high afterward!

Lily in the mix and rocking a well-done glitter job to match some solid skiing

Jenny rocking possibly the world’s most versatile and well-loved pair of skis 🙂

Rose looking great! When the snow is slow and soggy you can really tell who has worked on their core in the summer and fall in the double pole sections

In the open men’s race, the sky opened up a little more and rain began to fall. This made me a bit nervous for Isaac and Kai, who had elected to go out on zeros as well. Isaac was in fact racing on a pair that originally belonged to Murray Banks, was passed down to Coach Liam John, and eventually to Ethan John, before being resurrected from the John family basement just before we departed for New Hampshire.

When he came back from trying them, Isaac said “I like them and I think I want to race on them, but is there any way you can try and speed them up more?”

We threw on a somewhat unique fluoro combo, which also went on all the open men’s skis, and off he went. I was actually continuing to apply klister and fluoros to other men starting later when Isaac came back to the tent absolutely drenched and soggy.

“DUDE” he said, and I gritted my teeth waiting to hear a poor report.

“THESE THINGS FRICKIN RIPPED!” he exclaimed.

Then there was a glance at the results on the live timing board: Isaac won the whole race by a minute and a half! So, in the end the gamble to trust the zeros for their kick and speed paid off. Kai also had a great race to end his season, with another top-20 in 18th overall. Not to be outdone, Charlie had another solid one and Baxter skied the best he has all season…after coming back from pneumonia and a mysterious illness known among the group as “Baxter’s Death Rash” (I’m forgetting the exact medical title at the moment) he has been carefully picking races and is starting to emerge strong.

Isaac on course, hungry for a big win!

Baxter on a mission and skiing great!

Kai with another top-20 finish! And another tongue photo captured by Dave 🙂

 

Dakota not letting a broken finger stop him!

After the slush had settled, it was time for the awards where the podium was honored, the U16 JN team was named, and the top-10 JN-qualified older athletes were brought up. Since it was a great day for MNC on all of those fronts we had a lot of cheering to do!

U16 women’s podium: Quincy, Ali, Magda. I owe these three some brooms and dustpans at the Range this week for their SWEEP!

U18 and U20 JN team featuring Isaac. Don’t forget Greg and Conor who are having awesome seasons!

U16 JN team featuring Aidan, Magda, and Ali who will rep the PUGS in UTAH!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To see results and photos, check out the following links:

Photos of Sunday by Dave Priganc (aside from the first one, all photos in this post are from Dave!)

Results (Saturday)

Results (Sunday)

Excited to see what these guys can do in Utah in a few weeks! I also think this photo captures how absolutely exhausted we all were after a long day in the rain 🙂

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Lost Fischer Ski Bag

Jillian Doktor’s black Fischer ski bag was mistakenly taken by someone on Tuesday night from outside the Walker Building. It has multiple pairs of skis & poles and they are labelled with her name. Please check your ski bag and if you find you mistakenly took Jillian’s, please e-mail Jess Doktor at jessdoktor@gmail.com

Thank you!

 

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Banner Junior Weekend

It’s hard to be concise when you have a weekend full of amazing performances, breakthroughs, and races where things just all came together. There’s a lot that stood out on the surface and with a quick glance down the results, and there’s a lot more that was also hugely important.

One way I’d sum it up? Over the course of 2 races, there wasn’t one MNC skier out there who I didn’t watch and say “whoa, they are skiing great” at some point…every single one of the crew had some moment(s) of fantastic racing.

For sure, there were racers who had moments and days that were not 100% awesome, but everyone spent some time in the zone where everything was just clicking.

The biggest story of the weekend came in the very first race, when Magda WON the U16 girls 5k classic! We had a feeling this was coming together, and everything seemed to fall right into place. What’s more, Magda’s win led a killer performance by the U16 ladies with Ali in 4th and Ava in 5th, followed by Esther and Sammie just outside the top 10.

Magda putting the hurt on the field as she heads toward VICTORY!

We had skis that were good, and we had cheering and support that was maybe the most intense it’s ever been. But more than that we had confidence in the ability to hammer on a tough course and not be afraid to push the envelope. People were tired going up Screaming Mimi, the course’s “signature” climb, but all of the MNC girls looked great: Magda, Ali, Sammie, Ava, Lily, Rose, Esther…the whole squad was kicking like bosses and rocking turnover and speed that was catching the eye of lots of other coaches and spectators.

Some 2-way radios were a new addition to the coaching toolkit this year, and we really put them to use this weekend. Sara was at the 3k mark and I was near 4k a few hills and corners later. Sara was able to radio me the split that Magda was in the lead by 1 second over Quincy, so I could yell that at her for motivation and to keep the hammer down. In the end it was super close, with Magda winning by 2 seconds over Adrienne Remick and just another 2 seconds ahead of Quincy. Pushing right to the line, even after the big climbs, was super important and Magda held to the pre-race plan of “going Klaebo for the last 2k”.

I think it was a near-perfect day for coach cohesiveness and tech work: from the morning through the last men’s race Sara, Liam, Kate and I were operating with a great rhythm and able to keep the bus driving fast and furious…metaphorically. Really cool to see, and something not always noticed when it goes right (but definitely noticed when it goes wrong!). Magda has put a ton of work into her skiing these past 2 years and seeing that win was I think my most excited moments as a coach ever! The fact that so many other people we pumped by it, and so many others had great races themselves, was really exciting and powerful for our group. There are going to be more moments like that one for sure.

The exciting Eastern Cup adventures of Toads and BunBun…these two tore it up!

In the men’s race, Kai also stuck to the game plan and had a super consistent effort that netted him his best points of the year and some solid cred as he duked it out among the college racers. Resident biathlete Timmy even had himself a sub-200pt classic race and put that fitness to use out there.

 

The following day, the spirits were riding high as everyone was still pumped from the day prior. Things started out well for the U16 girls with the Pugs making a big bid at the front of the pack, although the pace strung out the field at the 3k mark and not everyone was able to hang on. Ava and Camille hung tough, with Ava crossing the line just a few bootlengths behind Quincy for 3rd place!

This is a mass start scene to be excited about: lots of MNC suits up there!

In the U16 men’s race Aidan fought to 4th in a tough battle. Things started out as chill as they could be, but Aidan hadn’t been feeling well (sitting out the day prior) and didn’t quite have the turnover and fresh legs to hang with the breakaway up Screaming Mimi. Really good to get that effort in though as the mass start race at JNs is in the freestyle technique just like this!

Jenny had a solid Supertour last week but it seems like the stress and travel caught up with her this weekend. M.O. for the next week is to find some de-stress and relaxation time 🙂

For the open women, Jenny, Rose, and Lily battled it out with some of the best Juniors in the country. Rose had a killer race! In skiing of course it’s hard to measure objective success based on things like times for a 5 or 10k. More often than not you’re always comparing yourself to other racers you know and compete with. While it’s not always the best way to gauge performance, I think it showed how strong Rose was this day, as I saw the pack she was skiing with and immediately though “heck yeah!!”

Lily skied with confidence and, after getting that first big mass start in the books at Fort Kent she moved up and ticked up in the results sheet. Lily has great fitness and as she continues to translate that to the snow look for that climbing to continue!

The final race of the weekend was the men’s 15k mass start, and I think that it provided a great close to the weekend. The men’s team is pretty strong in mass start events and I think they had some good confidence. What’s more, we were sort of in “chase” mode with the skis all day, I think about one race behind as we kept reacting to the changing conditions. For this men’s race we really had something that I think brought our skis from “good” to “great” and that always helps!

Right in the first few kilometers, Isaac settled into 2nd place behind Greg, while Timmy had a fast start to shoot up into the top 10 alongside Gaelen. 3 in the top 10 was pretty cool to see! Not to dissimilar from that U16 women’s race earlier in the morning!

Check the MNC connections here…Isaac on the left, Greg and Conor at center, and Gaelen sneaking up behind. Whether they’re summer Pugs, winter Pugs, or both, the dudes are FAST!

As the race progressed, Timmy slid back a little bit but hung on for 19th. On the opposite end of the pacing spectrum, Kai started out very relaxed and was in the 30s or so, steadily climbing up to 20th just behind Timmy. Alternate strategies and racing styles but, as Timmy said after the Supertour where they also finished similarly, “you can tell we train together a lot”. Baxter has been dealing with multiple illnesses this season, and is slowly returning back to the racing scene. He skied 2 great laps before looking a little pale and out-of-it for the last 5k, but we both agreed it was a step in the right direction and even being able to finish was a sign that things are on the mend!

It was an incredibly exciting (and entertaining) battle at the front. Greg strung it out into a lead pack of himself, Isaac, Josh Valentine, and Caleb Streinz. On the start of the last lap, Greg made a move on the rolling sections to open up a slight lead. At the low point, it sounds like Isaac then caught up and made a move to try and break away on the start of the long climbing portion. Greg counterattacked, carrying a devastating V2 into Screaming Mimi that the other 3 couldn’t match.

Isaac took up the charge in 2nd, attempting to bridge the gap, but Greg held fast and he wasn’t going to be caught. Josh and Caleb clung to Isaac and it was a 3-way sprint for 2nd in which Isaac managed to snag 3rd and his first Eastern Cup podium!

Next to cross for the Pugs was Gaelen, who used his experience with bike racing tactics to stay controlled and cover the moves made by others. He crushed it for 9th place! Timmy and Kai skied in not long after for 4 in the top 20.

Kai passing one after another en route to top 20!

Timmy had a great race and proved that he can still kick it with the crew he was at JNs with last year…he and Zander and Griffin (3 of “Da Boiz”) finished right near each other

Hard to know how to end this post, exactly…I’m still amped from the excitement of this weekend, and recapping it all has me hungry for more already! When you think about it, that’s how it should feel now that we’re in the heart of the racing season. We’ve got another Eastern Cup right around the corner to be targeting, and then the EHS/U16 qualifiers right after that which will be another opportunity to showcase how hard this group has worked and what they’re capable of.

Thanks so much to the parents for the amazing food spread and support, and to lots of coaching and wax support from Sara, Kate, Liam, and Rick. Go Pugs! Look for a new VLOG soon!

[All of the photos in this post were taken by Dave, Jenny, and Liam]

Photos by Dave Priganc

Photos by Jenny Wilbraham

Results by BartTiming

Coach Kate and Coach Rick: discussing the latest MNC performance!

Huge win to make the weekend even more memorable; way to go Swags!

 

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