Thursday, March 7, 2013

Money Players

When I was in eighth grade, a kid named Mike moved in next door to me. Mike liked basketball, and he referred to basketball players like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird as "money players".  I didn't know what he meant, and when I asked him he replied: The "money player" is the guy who they give the basketball to when there's five seconds left in the game and he needs to make the shot to win the championship, so they always give him the ball because he always makes the shot under pressure.  This afternoon, I looked up "money player" on the internet and I found this:
money player n. An athlete, especially a team member, who performs exceptionally well at crucial times.

Over the course of this season, we've had our better races and our worse races. That's the way competition goes, but in the grand scheme of things, the regular season races are mostly just preparation for the big championships events - the ones that really matter.  Like today's race.

Today, we got our NCAA Championships off to a good start. I think it started last night at dinner. 

To be honest, we seemed a little scattered yesterday.  The athletes seemed to be a little unfocused, they weren't quite ready on time and both vans left a few minutes late for the ski trails, the training and ski testing seemed a little haphazard,  I saw a few glazed looks and a some daydreaming...  But last night at dinner, things seemed to start to click and come into focus.  Nevio showed up from Italy just before dinnertime and he brought his waxing apron with him. Andrew gave his best after-dinner rah-rah sermon of his UAA coaching career to date.  The athletes went on a short team run and a team-stretching session while the skis were being waxed by the coaches.  And by the time the coaches went to bed around 2am, I think we were feeling pretty good about the direction things were heading. The vibe on the team was relaxed but focused, and we were shifting into gear.

By the time the athletes showed up at the ski stadium, the coaches had a pretty good handle on the waxing situation.  And when the men showed up, they seemed alert and focused. The men's race was first, and the early splits showed that all three of our men were among the top ten.  But it was a really tight race and a few seconds gained or lost on the second lap could make a big difference. Halfway through the second lap, though, it became clear that Viktor, Lasse and Lukas were skiing well.  In the end, we put all three of our skiers in the top ten:  Viktor skied his best race of the year, getting on the podium with a third place finish!  Lasse was eighth and Lukas was ninth, which meant all three are NCAA All-Americans, and we had the best men's team in the country today.

As soon as the men's race ended, we needed to prepare for the women's race.  Waxing conditions were changing, as the weather was gradually getting warmer and the tracks were becoming more glazed.  The women raced five kilometers, which meant it wasn't possible to give much information in the way of splits because, for example, Karina was finished before the last racer started.  But as the racers came by, one by one, it began to look like our women were also skiing well.  Karina looked strong as she came by in bib #1, and held her spot from start to finish, fending off all skiers behind her. The tracks were becoming glazed and it was clear that the conditions were giving some teams trouble.  Pati had a good race, and finished 12th.  Marine started near the end of the start list, so as she made her way around the course we were able to figure out that she was just outside the top five.  But the alpine team had come down from their training on the slalom hill and they put everything they had into cheering for our skiers.  They were going crazy out there and gave Marine the extra push she needed in the last kilometer to break onto the podium with a third place finish - her best race of the year!

Today, all our athletes were "money players".  They were very focused before and during their races, and it payed off in our universally good results. Though it's true that this is most of our skiers' first NCAA's, it's also true that every one of our skiers had their best NCAA Nationals result ever.  We were able to celebrate a little at dinner tonight. But there's more work to do tomorrow in preparation for our final college race of the year, coming up on Saturday.

The men's podium.  Good thing we brought two UAA flags to NCAA's!
University of Vermont junior Anja Gruber won the 5 k classic race at NCAA Championships on Thursday by 11.1 seconds over Dartmouth's Mary O'Connell. Marine Dusser (University of Alaska, Anchorage) took third.
Women's podium.
Here are some links for more fun reading about today's event:

Watch the entire race or just a summary recap here:!playlists/sports/skiing

Photos are here:!i=2397814191&k=Sm6HFzQ
and here:!i=2397856617&k=PwMT3RQ

Results are here:


  1. Congratulations to you all!! We must not forget the coaches and their waxing-skills ;)What an evening for us at the computor. Finally we all said! This is what we have been waiting for because we know our son and what he is able to. The hole team did a very good job and there is a exciting race on saturday. Good luck to you all and please send our regards to Andrew and Tor also. /Mona and Staffan

  2. Thank you Mona and Staffan! The weather forecast is for sunny, warm weather tomorrow. It's going to be a great day to be a ski racer or a spectator. Our skiers are ready for tomorrow and they are focused. We're looking forward to taking care of business again tomorrow. Enjoy watching it on the computer! I don't know if they will have a TV camera on the "A-climb" but it's going to be crazy with spectators there tomorrow; the skiers are going to need earplugs against the noise!