Lodge – Nordic racing a great way for kids to spend six months of winter
Grand County, Colo.
Karen Waeschle is the head coach of the East Grand Middle School Nordic team and has been coaching for eight of the 11 years the program has been running. Connie Fenton, Diana Lynn Rau and Karen started the program.
This year there are 45 students on the team and the cost for the entire season is only $25. Students can choose classic or skate ski. The coaches and volunteers have been writing grants for five years in order to supply all the gear.
The team will be practicing two days a week after school at Snow Mountain Ranch. The first day of on-snow training is Dec. 12. Their workouts include speed work, 20 minutes of skills and drills, then they split up into groups and work on uphill technique and climb repeats.
Waeschle is impressed with her team so far.
“We have kids on the team that do not have a skiing background and it’s amazing the progress they make,” she said. “The team is all about exposure to skiing and having fun. And, some kids are really good.”
At the middle school level students don’t specialize in one sport. They participate in many other sports like downhill and freestyle skiing, and basketball. She says when they get into high school they specialize.
“In Grand County there are six months of winter so we might as well be outside skiing,” said Waeschle. “The team practices in the dark and it takes a lot of resilience to ski here. It gets cold but we never miss a practice. We keep moving – they are a tough bunch. We have some feisty kids.”
Middle Park High School Nordic ski team has 24 students. The head coach is Dave Zink and he starts their season the week before Thanksgiving with dry land training and indoor training at the Granby indoor soccer dome.
Another training session he has organized is pole hike at Morningstar Ranch on the Devil’s Thumb ski trail system. Part of the drill is carrying a sand bag and using arms and legs and to get up a hill.
Zink also scheduled an all day training camp: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Most of their time was spent in the gym at Grand Park Community Recreation Center with team building and goal setting exercises.
“It’s important to build a base for the team,” said Zink, “and for the kids to learn how to be a part of a team.”
The team practices three nights a week after school at Snow Mountain Ranch under the lights. The team’s workouts include speed work, endurance training, skill technique drills and after 80 minutes, they are tired.
“Our workouts are a challenge.” Zink said. “On Saturdays we practice 10 a.m. to noon and ski at different venues including Devil’s Thumb and Grand Lake Nordic Center.”
Zink has been coaching cross country skiing for 27 years. Prior to moving to Grand County he was a high school coach in Minnesota. This is his third year as the high school coach. The team lost Samantha Berggren to graduation but Zink believes this year they have a good team.
“We have a good mix of kids. We have kids capable of scoring points. Our goal this year is to be one of the top 3 teams in the state; we want to be on the podium.”
He says that the best experience while coaching has been when he sees students who have been on his team, out on a trail or still excited about exercising and being outside.
“It’s a lifetime thing; it’s not just about competition at the high school level, it’s about being active and enjoying the outdoors.”
The first race of the season for both teams is a 3K skate race with individual start at Howelson Hill in Steamboat Springs on Jan 7.
On Jan. 21 the Nordic ski team will have a home meet at Snow Mountain Ranch. It will be a continuous pursuit style: 2K classic, switch into skate gear and ski a 2K skate.
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