“Far West Far Best, Beat PNSA!!!” It was Monday night when we first made this cheer. After our first day of racing, we finally had the opportunity to see who we were up against. Although many of our racers had great results, it was a real wake up call to the fact that we were racing the best racers from all over our country and even some guests from places like Canada and Australia. When I heard my teammates declare that they had a goal of getting sixth place and beating PNSA, I felt doubtful that we could pull it off, but I had great respect for my team’s ambition. This helped me get over the disappointment of my days results, and it helped me look to the future. I began thinking not of how far back I would have to start on Wednesday’s mass start freestyle, but rather, how many people I would be able to pass. I made it my goal to place in the 40’s, a goal that would require me to pass 10 people.
When the race came, I could not get this goal out of my head, and after the start, when the double pole tracks started and the trail narrowed, I became more aggressive than I ever had in a race. When someone tried to pass between a small gap between me and the racers next to me, rather than giving them room as I usually would, I widened my stance, taking the precious square foot of trail for myself. The entire first half of the race was a game of chicken, taking any gap possible, but avoiding getting tangled up between someone else’s poles. At one point, I decided to take the inside line of a turn from a racer from PNSA, but going into the turn, I realized he had no intention of letting me take the line. I looked at where my skis were pointed, and saw a 3 foot drop off the trail leading into a mess of bushes. Thinking quickly, I began to physically push the racer next to me to the outside of the turn, making just enough room for my skis to stay on the trail. I looked back to see the kids face so I would know who to avoid at the Ice Cream Social that night, but to my surprise, I had already gained too much ground on him to be able to see who he was! Thank you Ben for all the cornering drills you had us do throughout the season!
That night after achieving my goal with a 46th place finish, we went to the Ice-Cream Social. I made a point to meet as many people as possible, meeting people from places like Alaska, Maine, and Colorado. I began realizing one thing… these people train HARD! Finally, when the event came close to an end, I saw the PNSA team walking over to me. The first thing that crossed my mind was that I would have an unpleasant visit from the kid who I pushed out of my way. However, to my relief, they simply asked how my races went, and shared some encouraging words when I told them that, personally, my races hadn’t been going very well. At that point, I realized that racing isn’t about beating the person next to you. It is about being the best that you can be. Everyone is in it together, no matter what team they are from. Everyone pushes each other to their limits. I realized that I could turn my bad results to my own advantage. The winners of the race are no different from people like me, and if I commit to pushing myself as hard, or even harder that they do, I can become just as good of a skier as them.
On the final day at nationals, our team’s dream finally became a reality. At the closing ceremonies, the announcer said that we had secured our sixth place spot. Our team’s ambition had paid off, and we secured what Ben called “the second best finish in all the years that I’ve been coaching this team.” I now look to the future with more optimism than ever before. Next year, we can do even better, and if I train hard enough, I can help score some points for our team.
-Thank you to our coaches, waxers, cooks, parents, the far west board, and everyone who was involved with this trip, and the Far West Team. And finally, thank you for your donations. We just broke $2,000! Let’s keep it going!