A rocky beginning
Nobody joins a Nordic ski team to lift weights or swim.
“We’ve been doing a lot of weights, a lot of core, a lot of running,” said Eagle River Wolves head coach Liz Turner during a 5-kilometer freestyle Nordic ski race Saturday, Dec. 8 on Sand Lake.
With no snow on their home trails, the Wolves have either had to bus their rock skis across town to Chugiak — where conditions haven’t been much better — or do indoor workouts. Turner admitted a nearly snowless November began to take its toll on her team’s spirits.
“It’s sometimes hard to keep them focused and excited about skiing,” Turner said.
There were a lot more smiles on the faces of skiers Saturday, as the hastily-improvised race on the frozen surface of the Sand Lake saved what could have been a lost weekend. Until Saturday night’s moderate snowfall, almost all trails in the Anchorage area had been unskiable.
“We’re just excited to be racing,” Turner said.
Senior Hannah Stevens had the top finish for Eagle River in the race, finishing 12th. Afterward, she said she wasn’t a huge fan of the flat, two-lap sprint around the lake.
“I like hills,” she said.
Stevens is the leader of a girls team that’s short on depth this season. She was seventh in the race for State Skimeister last season, and she said she hopes to again be among Alaska’s elite skiers this season.
“I feel pretty good, although I think I was a little tired this week,” Stevens said.
Turner said only seven girls are out for the team, and Stevens was the only one to compete in Saturday’s varsity race.
“Last year was almost all seniors,” said Turner, whose team lost five seniors who raced at state last season.
The girls she does have in the program, however, have been more than willing to work despite the early snow issues.
“They’re all enthusiastic, all working really hard,” she said.
Will Timmons finished 19th at Sand Lake to lead Eagle River’s boys team. Ben Smith was 37th, Alec Smith finished 47th and Adam Blackley was 43rd.
Timmons and the Smith brothers all have state meet experience, with Timmons leading all Wolves finishers last season in 28th.
Eagle River has 21 boys out this season, said the second-year head coach.
Finally getting to ski a full 5-kilometer race, Turner said, was exactly what her team needed to stay focused.
“Before this race I told them, ‘Just do the best you can and be excited about being able to ski a far distance,’” she said.
Although getting to finally race was nice, Turner said, the most important thing for her team’s development will be the weather.
“We definitely need more snow,” she said.
Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or firstname.lastname@example.org