Last spring, Nicole DeYong decided not to return as UAA's Assistant Nordic Coach. As an NCAA All-American for the UAA Ski Team in the early 2000's, followed by several years' worth of elite-level and World Cup racing and junior-level coaching, Nicole brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to UAA when she arrived last September. But probably her greatest strength was her ability to relate to the athletes with warmth and compassion, and convey her knowledge in a way that our athletes could understand and relate to. This spring, when Nicole decided to pursue other interests outside of cross-country skiing instead of returning as UAA's assistant coach, several UAAers expressed doubt that the team could find another assistant coach who could bring the qualities to the team that Nicole brought. One of those UAA doubters was the head coach. I remember Andrew telling me, "I'm really going to have my work cut out for me this summer trying to replace Nicole!"
About a month ago I was in my local grocery store, shopping for avocados or chicken wings or mouthwash when I came around the end of the potato chip aisle and face to face with Zach Hall and Sara Studebaker. I'd raced against Zach a handful of times in the old days before he graduated from high school and went off to college and the national biathlon team, but I'd never met Sara before. Of course her reputation preceded her as she was a member of an NCAA national champion college team and has been on a bunch of World Championship and Olympic teams in biathlon. And though it wasn't official news, Andrew had mentioned to me that there was a possibility that we might be able to convince Sara to coach for us - straight off the 2014 Olympic Team. Sara and I had a chance to chat for a bit at the grocery store about what it's like to go out running for "exercise" instead of "training", now that she's not chasing the elite circuit around anymore.
I was really excited to hear the official news a couple days ago that Sara has agreed to be UAA's assistant coach. I know the rest of the coaching staff is very excited about our new team member, and I'm definitely looking forward to finding out all the latest Olympic-level technique tips direct from Sara!
|The "other" Studebaker.|