‘The green machine:’ how Jenna DiFolco describes the ski team

UAA’s Nordic ski teams recently traveled to Vermont to compete in the U.S. Nordic National Championship.

Alpine skiers Didrik Nilsen, Tony Naciuk, Georgia Burgess and Li Djurestaal placed within the top-10 at the Eldora Giant Slalom. Photo credit: Skip Hickey
Alpine skiers Didrik Nilsen, Tony Naciuk, Georgia Burgess and Li Djurestaal placed within the top-10 at the Eldora Giant Slalom. Photo credit: Skip Hickey

Leading the way for the women’s team in the 10-kilometer race was Michaela Keller-Miller with a time of 34:54, which landed her the 54th spot. Close behind with a time of 34:58 was Jenna DiFolco.

DiFolco comes from a family of cross country skiers in Fairbanks and was 2 years old when she put on her first pair of skis. Since she’s been doing it for so long it’s no wonder that she has her pre-race routine down pat.

“Before every race, I always eat eggs, toast and a banana with peanut butter on it for breakfast,” DiFolco said. “I arrive at the race venue listening to a playlist I’ve made specifically for race day and continue to do so as I ski the course at a leisurely pace. Then I come back inside to change into a dry shirt and put on my race suit, take out my headphones and get back on the trail for some short, fast intervals to get my heart rate before starting.”

Comparatively, leading the way for the men’s team in the classic 15-kilometer race was JC Schoonmaker, who held on to spot number 60 with a time of 45:33. Because of his performance, Schoonmaker is now an alternate on the U.S. Ski Team for the World Junior Championships.

The second Seawolf to cross the finish line, Tracen Knopp, placed in at 140 with a time of 48:29.

Both men and women’s alpine ski teams competed in the Colorado University Invitational on Jan. 9.

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Prior to the invite, the teams competed in Colorado at the giant slalom at RC Regional Qualifier. Didrik Nilsen was a runner-up the first day with a time of 1:52.16 that made him the second fastest on the field.

The following day Sky Kelsey had the third fastest time of 1:56.53, which put UAA on the podium despite the weather challenges.

Following close behind was Tony Naciuk, who had a time of 1:57.08.

“One of the best parts of competing in Colorado is the sunny weather,” Naciuk said. “The majority of the time it’s sunny, warm and windless outside, however, this trip is proving to be different in that the weather has been terrible. The last two days were [Fédération Internationale de Ski] races, which are basically warm-up races before our college races starting tomorrow and we got five inches of snow and 80 mph wind gusts.”

Besides the unexpected weather conditions, there is another major difference between Alaska and Colorado skiing that is even more challenging.

“The most challenging part of competing in Colorado is the elevation,” Naciuk said. “Here we are competing at 9,000 feet and live at 5,000 feet, whereas in Alaska we compete at 1,500 feet and live at sea level. This takes a higher toll on our bodies than many of our competitors that live at higher elevations.”

With that being said, the ski teams are still having an impressive start to the season. UAA faced their next competition on Jan. 16 as they travel to the Montana State Invitational.