|Welcome to Alaska! (Eric Packer photo)|
The Venue:The nordic skier's Final Four series (aka Spring Series, Spring Nationals, SuperTour Finals and Distance Nationals) took place in Anchorage where we were treated to 14 consecutive days of sunshine, cool temps, no filter needed views and perfect skiing.
|Glacier skiing (Eric Packer photo)|
|Lots of relaxing in the sunshine with my favorite teams (Eric Packer photo)|
|Eric Packer's family graciously hosted our entire team in their home for the week. We owe them a huge thank you! This picture is the view of the sunset from their back porch (Eric Packer photo)|
I know some people choose their brackets off of team colors, which actually may have been a better strategy for me this year. In the nordic world how you look is basically on the same level with how you ski so SMS T2 made sure to bring our A game to the Final Four with new PodiumWear Suits!!! Maybe it was the ultra-high tech carbon fiber material or the the fact that my name was on my bicep, but I definitely felt faster racing in our new performance enhancing suits. Thanks PodiumWear for making us look good!
|Bicep shot with me and Annie|
Junior, collegiate, and elite level racers from clubs and universities across the U.S. as well as all of the athletes on the U.S. Ski Team. Spring Nationals brings together the top athletes around the U.S. and offers the final points opportunity for the SuperTour circuit and a chance to earn the title of U.S. National Champion. The race series is also the only time during the year when we race against the U.S. Ski Team athletes. Competing head to head with the best in the U.S. provides an awesome opportunity to learn some things and up the level of competition. I was also just really excited to hang out with some of my teammates who I hadn't seen in months!
|Love these guys!|
|Team power rangers|
|Annie and Me|
I know everyone in the ski world likes to pretend we are all great friends and spend our down time skipping arm and arm and braiding each other's hair. But the reality is that an intense rivalry has been brewing between teams for the title of Club Team Relay Champion, (probably the most sought after title in nordic skiing). The stage was set for a serious duel between APU and SMS T2 after the men's sprint race where Andy and Reese fought it out for 1 and 2 (Andy crossed the line in first but Reese was the eventual race winner after a jury decision relegated Andy to 6th for interference). Additionally the competition on the girl's side would be tight with some strong finishes by both APU and SMS T2 in the skate distance race. Sun Valley and APU's second team were also expected to pose some serious competition along with the UVM team and a mix team of Liz, Noah, and Brian and Caitlin Gregg (all past Olympians!). Needless to say tensions were high.
Kikkan Randall, Holly Brooks and APU hosted an awesome kids event during the "Final Four" week where we had the chance to ski with hundreds of young skiers from the Anchorage area. I think everyone was impressed with the turnout and had a ton of fun playing games with the kids, racing the downhills, and practicing some new skills. The day was also good reminder of why we do this sport. Yes we want to be the best in the world, but a huge part of it is also encouraging others to dream big and go after those dreams, to get outside, and to lead active and healthy lifestyle.
|Helping a few kids get up the big hill (ADN photo)|
|Jessie playing Sharks and Minnows (ADN photo)|
|Simi and Ben playing touch football on skis?? (ADN photo)|
|Sophie signing some autographs (ADN photo)|
|Andy leading one of the little guys down the big hill|
Day 1: Skate 10km Individual Start
After lots of travel and racing over the last few weeks I was psyched to have a strong finish on the first day of competition, which also happened to be Sophie's birthday! I finished in 9th, 1 second behind the birthday girl, to tie my best finish ever at Spring Nationals. After the race we all dressed up in funny outfits for Sophie's birthday. As soon as she crossed the line we all jumped on her and started singing Happy Birthday! All SMS T2 girls finished in the top 12 which was icing on the cake;)
|Swarming the birthday girl|
|Day 1 done! (FasterSkier photo)|
Day 2: Classic Sprint
Classic sprinting is still my weakest event but the course this year finished on a long uphill which I loved! I made it into the quarterfinal heats, finishing 3rd behind Jessie and U.S. Ski team/APU skier Holly Brook,s but was not quite fast enough for lucky loser. Still, the race was a huge improvement on my sprinting from last year where I entered the finish stretch in dead last. Sophie and Jessie both made it into the A Final along with Ben and Andy!
|Ben in his quarterfinal (Eric Packer photo)|
|Simi and Eric finishing their quarterfinal in 1, 2 (Eric Packer photo)|
|Women's sprint podium (Eric Packer photo)|
|Men's sprint podium (Eric Packer photo)|
Day 3: Mixed Team Relay
2 girls, 2 guys, 2 classic legs and 2 skate legs...1 national team championship on the line.
|Relay mustaches, glitter, and face paint are a must for intimidation and fast skiing|
This race was definitely the highlight of my week and maybe the season. Although APU put down a dominating performance to win the relay by a large margin, SMS T2 broke up a 1-2 APU sweep with our first team (Andy, Sophie, Simi, Jessie) finishing in 2nd. I was on our second team with Annie, Ben and Eric. We went into the race ranked 8th but each person skied a killer leg and by the time Eric tagged me on the last lap we were in 5th! I could see 4th place ahead of us and manage to catch them on the last lap to bring our team across the line in 4th! The best part though was the incredible cheering and the suffocating bear hug from the rest of my teammates as soon as I crossed the line. I am so proud to be a part of this awesome group of people and looking froward to getting some redemption next year!
|Best cheer squad ever (FasterSkier photo)|
|Flowers sandwich! Yum my favorite kind :)|
|Team cheer post relay (Rob Whitney photo)|
Day 4: Classic 30km/50km Mass Start
The last day of the race season concluded with the distance national championship race, with one of the toughest events I can imagine. Before the race I asked Gus for advice and he said simply "finish as fast as you can," which is exactly what I tried to do. After a fast first lap I just tried to hold on, skiing behind Sophie and Annie for most of the race and trying to match them stride for stride. I finished in 9th with my best classic race to date and was both equally exhausted and elated. All 4 SMS T2 girls finished in the top 9 which was a perfect way to end the season.
|Sophie, me and Annie working together (Eric Packer photo)|
The After Party:
After a long season everyone was ready to enjoy some time off, check out the alpine skiing in Alaska and head home. I flew back to Bozeman on Monday and am so happy to be home for a few weeks! Now for some spring skiing and Montana adventuring!
|Andy and Sophie on a crust cruise out to the glacier on portage lake|
|In addition to coaching Gus is also mastering the french crepe|
|On our way to the first crossword I have ever successfully completed|
|Downhill for a day|
|Annie enjoying the sunshine|
|Cheering for the boys during the 50km! Miss these guys already|