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Cross Country Athletes Go High And Low

By Tom Horrocks
October, 24 2019
PC Camp
Sadie Maubet Bjornsen leads her teammates during a skate sprint time trial at Soldier Hollow. (U.S. Ski & Snowboard - Sarah Brunson)

The 2019-20 U.S. Cross Country Ski Team just wrapped up a two-week camp filled with challenging workouts, hanging out as a team, and of course fast roller skiing, as they prep for the upcoming FIS Cross Country World Cup season, kicking off in Nov. 29-Dec. 1 in Ruka, Finland.

This year’s fall training camp consisted of two split camps, one in Park City, Utah and the other in Lake Placid, N.Y. Athletes who wanted to train at altitude in preparation for the coming season came to Park City, while those looking to fine-tune their pre-season fitness at a lower elevation, enjoyed the outstanding fall colors and training areas around Lake Placid. The split camp also provided athletes an opportunity to break the mold, train and learn, from a different variety of teammates.

“It was nice to break up the routine of the Park City camp and try something new, and also see where some of my teammates train,” said Kevin Bolger, who ventured to the Northeast from his home base in Sun Valley, Idaho, to participate in the Lake Placid camp with teammates Simi Hamilton (Stratton, Vt.) and Erik Bjornsen (Anchorage, Alaska). “I always feel like when I walk away from a camp I’m walking away in a better place, and that I have taken one more step closer to my goals. And that is exactly what I’m doing from this camp.”

“It was awesome to link up with Simi and Kevin once again in this offseason. This is the third camp we have done together as we prep for the 19-20 season and Simi is leading the charge as always, and it's great to see Kevin making big improvements in his second year on the team. We all have different strengths so it's easy to learn and improve from each other.”
    - Erik Bjornsen, U.S. Cross Country Ski Team

Despite sporting a cold, Simi, a three-time Olympian and a 10-year member of the U.S. Ski Team, was able to teach his younger teammates a thing or two during workouts, but most importantly, just hanging out and building the team vibe.

“It was unfortunate the Simi was sick for the majority of the camp,” Bolger noted, “but still the benefit of being able to train for 13 days with Erik and just a few days with Simi cannot go unnoticed. We don’t get that many opportunities to train together, so linking up is so crucial for our training and just being able to hang out, I think both go hand in hand when it comes to skiing fast. Not only do I get to call these guys my teammates but they are both some of my best friends. Having that relationship inside and outside of training brings us all to the next level together as one unit. I think the men’s team is in a place it hasn't been at in a while, or if at all, and the vibes are HIGH!”

Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins echoed those vibes among her teammates, who included Julia Kern (Waltham, Mass.), Sophie Caldwell (Stratton, Vt.) and Caitlin Patterson (Craftsbury, Vt) at the Lake Placid camp, where all the athletes stayed in one large house together.

“The camp was awesome!” Jessie said. “As usual, I love getting together with teammates I don’t usually get to see and pushing each other in training. It was so much fun (and a good challenge!) doing a mixed-gender team sprint one day for intervals, and doing a 10k time trial the second to last day. I’m super happy with where my body is at right now and it’s been great learning all that I can from following my teammates around!” 

The Park City Camp featured a host of athletes who call Anchorage, Alaska home, including Sadie Maubet Bjornsen, Rosie Brennan, Hailey Swirbul, Scott Patterson, Luke Jager, and Gus Schumacher. Also joining in on the Park City fun was Johnny Hagenbuch (Ketchem, Idaho), Kendall Kramer (Fairbanks, Alaska), Noel Keeffe (Steamboat Springs, Colo.), and Novie McCabe (Winthrop, Wash.).

“We had a very productive camp in Park City,” said U.S. Cross Country Ski Team Cross Country Program Director Chris Grover. “The camp is always a very busy one where we attempt to satisfy all the athlete needs prior to going on the road for the race season; those needs include everything from medical screening and support, nutritional consultations, strength testing, physical therapy support, athlete career and education opportunities, marketing, and uniforming needs, and of course a little training as well!”

Athletes training in Lake Placid were treated to outstanding weather and brilliant fall colors, while those training in Park City enjoyed an early taste of winter.  “Although it was cold, and we moved around several training sessions to accommodate frozen blacktop, we completed every intended session, including finishing the camp with a freestyle sprint and a classic time trial at Soldier Hollow. Overall, I was impressed with the fitness of the group; most people are ahead of where they have been in past Octobers,” Chris added. 

U.S. Ski & Snowboard Cross Country Women’s Fellowship

For the first week of each camp, U.S. Ski & Snowboard hosted a female coaching fellowship funded by the HerRay Foundation. This was comprised of five coaches who were selected through an application process this past summer. U.S. Ski & Snowboard ran a pilot program last fall, but this year offered the first official Cross Country Women’s Fellowship with coaches brought in to assist team coaches, as well as to gain experience working with top-level athletes. Accepted fellows (and home clubs) were: 

  • Anna Schultz – Craftsbury
  • Ruth Oppliger – Michigan Tech University
  • Lina Hultin – Montana Endurance Academy
  • Molly Sulsa – Crested Butte Nordic
  • Mary Rose – Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation 

U.S. Ski & Snowboard plans to run the program again next year and will be calling for applicants in the early summer of 2020.