Friday, April 22, 2016

Almost Local

I'll get right down to brass tacks.  Today, Natalie Hynes signed a "National Letter Of Intent" to ski for UAA next year. We're pretty excited about it. 

Natalie's from Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. Some people think the Yukon Territory is in Alaska, but it's not. It's in Canada.  Many people think Alaska is in northern Canada. It's not. It's in America. Nevertheless, Yukon and Alaska are pretty tight.  The gold rushes of a century ago linked these regions together. Some our best mountains (the St Elias Range) span the border between Yukon and Alaska, and Alaska's best ski race actually takes place in Canada. Most guidebooks about Alaska include a Yukon section, and and I assume it's the same on the other side of the border but I don't know for sure because I don't read Canadian.

At this point in this race, Natalie was in second place.  But in the end, she won it.
When Natalie shows up in Anchorage at the end of the summer, it won't be the first time I've met her. Natalie and I spent a week last month bunking in the same elementary school in Nuuk, Greenland when I was coaching and Natalie was winning races at the Arctic Winter Games.  But I didn't get a chance to say much more than "Hello". 

Everyone who knows anything about the NCAA knows that the NCAA recruiting rules are super strict, and nobody wants to run afoul of them. I knew that Natalie and UAA Head Coach Andrew had been discussing the possibility of Natalie coming to UAA next year, and I knew that Natalie and I would cross paths in Greenland. So before traveling to Greenland I asked Andrew for a little advice about how not to get crosswise with the NCAA's strict recruiting rules. Andrew told me it would probably be best if I just kept my distance from Natalie. "Hello" would probably be OK, but we'd probably better not have any conversations longer than a couple words, and definitely no talk about UAA under any circumstances. So that was that.  I witnessed Natalie winning races on the Ravnedalen ski trails and standing on the podium in Nuuk, but I followed Andrew's instructions and kept my trap shut. 

Congratulations on becoming a Seawolf, Natalie!  I'll look forward to getting to know you.

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