The UAA Ski team has been busy since bringing in the new year. The Alpine team began their season four days into 2016 with races in Park City, Utah. Similarly, the Nordic team raced in their first out-of-state meet a week later in nearby Soldier Hollow.
It was the first taste of NCAA skiing for three of the six freshmen welcomed to the Seawolf family this fall. Marcus Deuling, Toomas Kollo, Tony Naciuk, Sadie Fox, Luca Winkler, Maria Gudmundsdottir, and Alix Wells are in their first season with the team.
Gone are Andrew Arnold, Brandon Brewster, Davis Dunlap, Vanessa Berther, Anna Berecz and James Schindler, members of the 2014-15 squad that finished in ninth at last year’s NCAA Skiing Championships in Lake Placid, New York. The team named Berecz the newest assistant coach for the alpine team over the summer.
The Seawolves finished in sixth place in the Utah Invitational with 384 points. Winning the meet, with 632 points, was the University of Utah. Skiers Kanady and Charley Field posted top 10 finishes in the 5K and slalom, respectively. As of press time, the results of the Montana State Invitational were not available, which wrapped up Tuesday.
The Northern Light spoke with associate coach Andrew Kastning, who heads up the Nordic team, about the unique challenges of gathering a team coming off break in Salt Lake City, the ways he prepares his skiers, and more.
The Northern Light: Do you have enough people around you to help coordinate the logistics of gathering the team in Utah when skiers are arriving at different times?
Kastning: “Yeah, we wear many hats as a ski coach. On the Nordic side we have two paid staff, myself and assistant Sara Studebaker-Hall … You have to be ready to for any curveballs, like flight delays, which we had a couple coming into Utah. Sara was there with the early group and she had to do three or four runs from Park City down to Salt Lake City to get my group and some of the other stragglers. Then after that, you get to settle in to the ski coaching role, which does involve waxing a lot of skis and testing different waxes to find the best one. Then you have to have knowledge of ski flex and ski structure and help athletes pick the best ski. And then you get to be a motivator, a mentor and excited about the kids who do well or the ones that are showing improvement and also pick up the one who are disappointed in their race.”
Do you expect some different racing conditions in Montana than Utah?
“I do, yeah. Soldier Hollow had more snow than they’ve had in several years, but they have a lot of man-made snow mixed in which creates a much firmer surface and plays to a very powerful skier. For some of our athletes, they’re good skiers, but not really in that category. Montana, on the other hand, does not have any man-made snow, and while they don’t have a lot of snow, but they have plenty to have a race… We’re at an altitude that’s pretty high, a little bit higher than Soldier Hollow, Utah, so you have to make sure you are pacing it correctly. You can’t expect to recover on the downhill’s like you do at sea level.”
Do you feel like your skiers are more rested now heading into the Montana State Invitational than Utah?
“Maybe not quite yet… We flew back Monday after racing, did three days of school, and then turned around Friday morning and flew back down to Montana and now we’re on the road for the next ten days. So the travel can definitely take a toll and keeping people healthy can be a challenge… However, we don’t really need to feel fully rested, nor do we want to be fully rested, we still want to be training a fair amount and we’ll begin to ease off in February, drop our training hours and get the body as rested and fresh as possible by the time we get to late February and early March for those races. “
The Seawolves compete in the Colorado University Invitational this weekend before getting a break in competition for the first three weeks of February.