One thing that we talk a lot about on this team is “focus”. It is our belief that if we really focus on what we’re doing, we usually do it better. For example, if we focus on schoolwork when we’re in class, we’ll get better grades, and if we focus on good training at our workouts, we’ll become better skiers. The same goes for ski races. The three coaches of this ski team are in unanimous agreement that if we focus on fast skiing during races, we’ll make fewer tactical errors and we’ll get better results. There really isn’t much to disagree about when it comes to this topic.
But sometimes we get distracted by other thoughts during races. Sometimes we might fall on a downhill because we’re daydreaming about how good a fried bologna sandwich would taste. Or we ski slower on an uphill than we ought to because we’re trying to guess the depth of the snow beneath our skis. It’s not always easy to stay focused. We’re only human, after all. But with practice, we can get better at maintaining our focus.
We start college as freshmen, and after three years’ worth of practice, we become seniors. Seniors, with their wealth of experience, are usually better at remaining focused on the task at hand. But that doesn’t necessarily mean seniors are always faster skiers. They just tend to be better at maintaining focus.
I know some of the University of New Mexico skiers had heard rumors that we didn’t have much snow in Anchorage in the days leading up to the Super Tour Finals and National Championships. I know they were wondering about the snow because their coach, Fredrik Landstedt, had told me during NCAAs that he was excited to bring his team to Anchorage but was wondering about the snow conditions. Of course we had plenty of snow as you can see if you look at any photographs from the races. But apparently there must have been some lingering doubts.
The University of New Mexico Ski Team has some fast skiers. One of their fastest is a freshman who goes by the name of Eva Sever Rus. We know she’s fast because she won the NCAA Championships last month. But Eva isn’t the only fast skier around. We have some fast skiers on the UAA Ski Team, too. And the University of Northern Michigan skiers are no slouches, either. They have a senior on their team named Rosie Frankowski. Rosie finished second at NCAA’s, just a few seconds behind Eva. The US National 30k Championship race in Anchorage last Friday provided an opportunity for these two to go head-to-head in an epic rematch, and everyone wondered how the battle would play out. Would the Slovenian freshman once again prove too tough to match in the final kilometers of the race? Or would Rosie, the wily veteran with her four years of college racing plus her U23 Championship experience, be able to outsmart her competitors?
As the race progressed, the two were neck and neck. It was a seesaw battle in which neither would yield. Neither would concede an inch, and they raced side by side, trading punches. But suddenly, Eva’s lack of focus was revealed. As the two climbed to the top of Spencer Loop, the biggest hill on the race trail, those old questions and nagging doubts crept back into Eva’s mind: How deep is the snow? Do we really have enough to ski on? Shee’d heard there wasn’t any snow here, yet the ski conditions seemed wonderful…
And she just couldn’t help herself; she simply had to stop and check the snow depth with her ski pole. Meanwhile, observe the intense, laser-like look of focus and concentration on the visage of Rosie Frankowski as she pounced like a snow leopard. It was only a moment of distraction for Eva, but it proved to be the turning point of the race. Rosie went on to win the battle.
Let this be a lesson.
Let this be a lesson.