At your home race there is the opportunity for spectators. Nordic skiing, particularly Nordic skiing in America, doesn't draw much of a crowd. Sure there are a few parents that take a weekend trip, or the families of citizen racers that stand along the course, but at your home race there are spectators there for you and your team.
It's always interesting to see the crowd that follows people to their home race. There are the parents proud to see their child racing in college. The dorm roommate that doesn't quite know what's going on, but is sure to cheer loud. Even once there were members of the UW triathlon team yelling as we skied by, because they could sympathize with not being a spectator sport.
In 2020 our home race drew a whole new crowd. Since the SUS program was created through the Kinesiology and Health Department we had a small showing of faculty and other SUS masters students that found themselves bundled up on Happy Jack's trails to watch a sport they had never seen before. Being in the craziness that came with adding ten brand new skiers to a team often made you blind to what was happening outside of that bubble. It was hard to see what we were creating when we were so deep inside, but that weekend I caught a glimpse.
The picture above shows our whole family we created. SUS and UW joined together to create a new, one of a kind, team. One of the Kinesiology faculty members took the picture as parents, citizen races, students, UW and SUS alike, cheered for what we had made. Such a hodgepodge of people from all different background yet we all had found this home that connected us together. Seeing the team and the support system that surrounds us is sometimes hard to do, but it becomes so highlighted at a home race.
Two years ago, when I learned that ten athletes from Shanghai University of Sport with no Nordic ski experience were going to join or ski team to learn to ski, I had no idea what to expect. Part of me was excited. I knew I had a lot to learn from these athletes about Chinese language and culture. Another part of me was nervous. I worried that adding 10 athletes to our tight-knit team of about 15 skiers would throw off the team dynamics that made UW Nordic feel like a family to me. I also worried that we would no longer be able to receive the attention and advice from our coaches that we all deserved.
Two years ago I could have never imagined what this experience would mean to me. Maybe I could have pictured myself cooking and eating hot pot with James, learning the Chinese words for my favorite vegetables, and running around shouting “xi lanhua!” (broccoli). Maybe I could have also imagined learning regional variations on my Chinese favorite cuss words with Andy. But there were a lot of things that surprised me about my experience skiing with the SUS athletes.
In retrospect, my fears of no longer receiving technique advice and coaching seem silly, because if anything, it was the opposite. I think back to one particular practice on a Wednesday in February. The team split into two groups: those excited and healthy enough to do intervals, and the those who preferred to ski easy and work on technique. I was feeling tired and chose the latter group along with several of the SUS skiers. Our goal for the day was to practice cornering on downhills, specifically right-hand turns. Conveniently, this was one of my weakest points as a skier. Having only recently started skiing, I got by on the strength and endurance I had built as a distance runner rather than the finesse and technique that come from years on skis. As such when, Coach Nathan asked me to demonstrate how I would ski our first corner, I was astonished and nervous. We had chosen a relatively easy corner to begin but it was a corner I had never skied particularly well before. Even though I wasn’t confident in my ability, I knew the SUS athletes looked up to me, regarding me as an experienced skier. I knew couldn’t let them down so I tried to appear confident and convince myself I could do it. I stood starting at the trail scouting out my route, took a deep breath, and took off toward the outside edge of the trail before cutting sharply in and skiing through the corner relatively gracefully. I smiled as I came to a stop and skied back toward my teammates, secretly quite proud of myself for how well I skied. That day, with every corner each athlete skied, I could see their improvement and an increase in their confidence. The confidence I could see in them boosted my own confidence as well.
I’ve always known that teaching is the best way to learn just about anything, but I’ve only recently come to understand just how powerful that can be. Being a mentor and a teammate to these athletes was so much more than I could have imagined, and I just hope their experience on this team was even half as meaningful as my own.
It was a sunny morning on January 26, and we participated in the relay race at Fraser. This competition made me very excited, because this is the first time that our SUS team has participated in the relay race. It is different from previous competitions. This relay race is 1.8km x 9 laps of skate skiing. There are three people in a team, one lap per person and then the next person. My teammates are Fredy and Dreak, we warm up together, and then carry our bags to the race venue. When we arrived at the venue, we saw that the women ’s relay race was about to start. Watching a tense and exciting game was really exciting. Maddy, Kat, and Ella were a very strong combination. They worked hard to make the game I see the blood boiling! Cowgirls are so cool! In the end they won first!
Okay, let's start our cowboys performance. I am the second player of the team and Dreak is the first player. When I saw him sliding towards me, my adrenaline soared and I went all out. Slippery, I can also see later that I tried my best on the first lap, because I was super slow LOL in the next two laps, and with Fredy's final sprint, we ended the relay race. But we did not leave, but gathered at the finish line to cheer for the last skier. After he crossed the finish line, the whole audience cheered him! I think this is the charm of sports!The team game feels different from that of the individual game. It's not so nervous, it's more exciting and happy! An unforgettable game!
The first time I felt the power of team working is in the Tetonia，1/10/2020. That's the first long distance race we attend，15classic skiing race. The weather makes the race become special and petty cold. I'm really afraid of cold. But that day I am not aware of it. When we ready to start，it began to snow，and it got bigger and bigger. The big snowflakes made us lose the direction. At that time I try to find the right track，and I heard Mei shout at me，"I can't see the track，the snow is so big". I'm ahead of her，and I shout"follow me，Mei，I can find the track". And then we skied together，when we met our coaches，Christi and Rachael，they said"good job，girls，work together". And then we know our did are right. After 5k，the snow stopped，Bur I feel pretty terrible，because my legs are so weaken. Mei said "follow me，Simona，we can do it". "Yes，I said" I just follow her，keep the same pace with her… When we finished the race，I feel very cold，and I realized the cold feeling disappear when we did the race. That's so amazing. When I follow her，I only think how to follow her，how to defeat the race. After I finished all the race，I try to recall this memory，I feel very happy，and it also make me so warm. That experience let me know the importance of team working. I think I will bring it to the career of my sport. Try to spread it with my team and my athletes. Try to let everyone had own good memory. Let them warm.
During the Thanksgiving camp in Leadville, the team had many interesting things to remember. The best memory for me is that I and the coaches have finished the 21km long loop. I was shocked and I felt funny and ridiculous. Because when I saw someone, I just blindly followed. Because I waxed my skis very late, when I finished waxing and was going to catch up with the SUS teammates, I couldn’t find them, but I saw the coaches across the street, I quickly caught up and joined their team.
I started skiing with the coaches. But I didn’t know it was 21 km and I really hoped to find my teammates after following the coaches. Afterward, I found out my SUS teammates didn’t participate in the 21 km loop. They practiced classic techniques in the streets of Leadville and returned home early to rest. The next day we still had a 5 km classic race.
Recalling the weather that day, it was very cold and the wind was very strong, like a blizzard. This is the first time I have skied this long a distance since I learned to ski and this was even farther than I have ever ran in the past. I didn’t prepare for such a long training time, I did not bring a water bag backpack. Earlier, Christi was always by my side and encouraged me, I just followed the pace of Christi. I had been trying hard to follow the big team. During the break, Ben, one of the UW skiers, approached me and handed me his water to let me drink and told me there was still a long way to go. The coaches and Ben always looked back at me, afraid I would get lost, encouraged me and asked about my physical condition. In the later period, I couldn’t keep my physical strength and fell behind, Ben let me ski in front of him, he followed behind me. He made me feel pressure behind me, I was afraid to reduce his speed, so I tried to go too fast and accidentally fell down when I increased the speed. Also Ben was tripped by me. Then I let Ben ski in front of me, he always stopped and waited for me when we are far apart. I said, “I am coming!” Ben turned around and said to me, “I know.” We kept going and met the coach who was waiting for us and we finished the 21 km together.
When I returned to the room to check the phone message, my teammates discussed me in the Nordic group, worried about where I went all morning. I felt guilty and made them worry about me. But I still think this team is very lovely and warm. This experience really made me realize the importance of communication.
Time flies, I have been here for 8months . But I still remember every happy moments with teammates, coaches in here ,especially the first camp in Nebraska. We stayed in Nebraska three days , everyday was amazing. The first day We driven about 5hours to three . it was really long for me , but not boring at all . We talked each other, watched the scenery on the rode. When we got there, there was a beautiful snowing lawn near our house . we did classic skiing, which was very important day for me . I leaned how to stride in that day. After training, we cooked together, had dinner together. It really helped team building . The second day , we did intervals uphill training ,which was very hard . Because the uphills are pretty steep, and with snowing,also we have to do 45min without stop. But everyone did their best to make it, I proud of them . In the afternoon, it was rest time ，but actually it was homework time for my American teammates, they had so many homework in college ， that’s different from Chinese college. In the night, I fished one of my goals in here. Arm wrestling with teammates :) I like arm wrestling when I was a little. In that time , my roommates were Nathan K, Trevor harry Fredy. It was fun to live with them for two nights. The third day , we did a combined race . We ran 3k and then rolled skiing 5k . For me the running part was nice , but the roller skiing part was terrible.I too nervous to use V2 . I used double pole whole race ，which was much slower than V2 . Also , in that downhill, it was super scary for me , I almost fall . But anyway, I finished the race . After race , we driven back to Laramie. From now to Review the past , it was impressive ， those moments, they will live in my heart forever
, thanks for my coaches ，teammates , everyone.
Our team has the amazing privilege of being funded by donors that care about creating opportunities for college athletes to ski. While all of the athletes work hard through hours and hours of fundraising it would mean nothing if donations weren't made for our efforts. Getting to travel around the nation to race with barley paying a penny is an opportunity that very few receive, but the members of UW Nordic know what that's like.
Every year to thank some of our largest donors we host a benefit dinner. The UW team spends all day cooking a multicourse meal for fifteen to twenty guests that have shown support for our team in the past. While being a rewarding night, it can't be done without hard work.
Preparation starts far before dinner time, and in 2020 it started almost a week before when one of my teammates Kat and I decided to take the SUS skiers shopping for dinner attire. I don't think we knew the half of what we'd be getting ourselves into, as we spend a good chunk of an afternoon sorting through clothes on racks and shuffling our SUS teammates in and out of the dressing room. It was an experience full of laughs and tired feet from trying on one too many pairs of heel, but at last we had them dressed for success.
The day of the Benefit dinner way crazy, but it was always crazy. You're surrounded by the chaos of hot pans, people running to refill drinks, and food that just needs two more minutes in the oven. In between the courses we take a moment to introduce ourselves to all of the guests. Telling them tidbits about where we're from and what we're studying. It lets our donors see who they are helping. This year our donors got to see even more though. They were helping fund a team that was hosting ten skiers from Shanghai and man they could bring a tear to your eye with the gratitude they expressed for their opportunity. It was an amazing showcase of out team, both new and old. It was one of the first times our new expanded team had been showcased, and it allowed everyone to have a moment to see what we were working so hard for.
Time flies when you’re having fun. I've been here for a year and a half. I still remember when I first came here, I cannot adapt to the life here and wanted to go home very much. After a long time, gradually I began to like here, not only the surrounding environment, but also the people around me. A year passed quickly, we left too many beautiful memories in this small lovely place. We trained together, we played together, we cooked together... It's all fresh in my memory.
This year's season is coming to an end, there are too many memories. One of the memories impresses me is that we did the leaf raking together. It's the annual tradition of the ski team to clean the fallen leaves. We use this way to raise money for competitions. Although it is not mandatory, we all want to make contributions to the team through our own efforts. The process of sweeping leaves is full of fun. Although we were very tired, we have to go to several families to clean their yards one day, but everyone is very enthusiasm. The sense of accomplishment after cleaning makes me forgot my fatigue! In the end, we've raised more money than in the past few years and everyone is satisfied with their contribution to the team!
Dan Yan (Doris)
Being in UW's homecoming parade was something that previous generations on the ski team used to do, but I hadn't gotten to be a part of it yet. This year, with our ever-growing team, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to showcase who we were. Waking up the morning of the parade it was a little chilly and we stood in the parking lot decorating our van, Zima. We'd bought window makers the night before, possibly testing them out on a few of our teammates cars just to make sure they worked, and we wrote all over the windows. Lydia, one of the SUS skiers, wrote snow in Chinese on the back just to add a little touch for our SUS skiers. To be as festive as we could I ran around giving sparkles to anyone that wanted them. Nordic skiers often put sparkles under their eyes by applying chapstick to our faces to stick on the cheap glitter. I was excited at the reaction that I was getting from the SUS skiers as I was doing this. They were all giddy as they asked me to put glitter on their faces, even the boys. I'd been so used to watching my previous male teammates run from me the second I got my glitter bag out, and I was happy for the change. I felt as though I was growing a little closer to my new teammates, literally and figuratively, as I gave them glitter. Nothing bonds you better than touching each other's faces.
As the parade started we put on our roller skis and proudly circled Zima down through the main streets of Laramie. We seemed like kids in a candy shop as we zipped around on such smooth asphalt. That feeling is something that makes nordic skiers' weak in their knees, and our SUS skiers were starting to feel that as well. We weaved in between our teammates all laughing as we thought about how funny we must look to the parade patrons. We did a few little sprints down the street to catch up to the floats in front of us if we fell behind receiving cheers from the viewers watching from their camping chairs. Looking back on this memory makes me think about how important it is to have those days where you just are goofy and you soak up the time together seeing everyone's' smiles. I'm grateful for this time that we got to share and it still brings a smile to my face to think about that chilly homecoming morning.
I’ve got a head full of memories of times with the SUS team. Some of my favorites are ones that happened early on; I was so nervous to meet Leon, my partner, until we exchanged gifts and names and handshakes abound. I was so enamored when we all jumped rope in coaches’ driveway after a shared team dinner, the more daring of us eschewing our shoes for better aerodynamics so that we could all jump through the same rope, one at a time. Andy, Doris, Simona, and Lydia invited Silas and I over for dinner once, before they even really knew us. It felt like a family.
There is something different about Andy, though. I don’t know why it is that I feel closest to him; I contemplate this. He is still willing to make me dinner (I live with him now) for some reason, but all the SUS kids were like that: so giving, and so easy to give to. I learned a lot from them that I feel that the West side of the globe really lacks. Always quick to loan out a spare buff, never letting another skier race alone, and always offering an open ear despite disparate languages. The SUS skiers are selfless. I called them kids, but really, they were more mature than I was. (And older, too, anyway.)
Everyone’s English improved immensely from the first time I met them to the time we said goodbye. Andy still teaches me Chinese, but I think he sees more potential in me than is really there. I am illiterate in the Far East. Sometimes I wonder, during conversations with mutual friends, how much he really picks up. Every time, though, he is ready to chime in with a Chinese-icized American witticism, and I’m so happy with how much we have been able to show each other. I almost feel guilt around him. He does so much for me, and I’m at a loss for ways to pay him back. I have to go, the water’s boiling, it’s time to throw the noodles in. I must dry my eyes, though; this recipe doesn’t call for salt.
Lan Jia Hui