Friday, June 1, 2007

All out effort takes Turzian to the big leagues

Sun Valley racer nominated to U.S. Cross Country Team

Express Staff Writer

Wood River Valley native Alexa Turzian had a big year in cross country skiing, big enough to land her a nomination on the U.S. Cross Country B Team. Courtesy photo by Mike Turzian

Her nickname is "Perplexa," but there is no mystery surrounding Alexa Turzian's recent nomination to the U.S. Cross Country B Team.

"Alexa is a pretty good skater," said Rick Kapala, Cross Country Director for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, referring to the freestyle discipline of Nordic racing.

"I think the idea of making the national team as an 18-year old is pretty unique, but she is 100 percent willing to train on her own which is really fundamental in excelling in an individual sport," he said.

"Skiing is basically my life," Turzian said. "Everything I do is usually planned around my training. It definitely takes up a lot of time but I wouldn't want to spend my life any other way. I love every bit of training that I do."

A member of the foundation's cross country team since the age of 11, Turzian, an East Fork resident, made the switch from alpine racing to full-time Nordic when she was in the eighth grade.

She's been an integral part of the SVSEF team ever since.

"We have 250 contact sessions a year and there are certain kids when they come to practice they are all in," said Kapala. "Alexa is like that."

"Practice wraps and you see Alexa go out on her own to refine what we were working on in practice," he said. "That's an indication of someone who has the chance to go to the next level."

That next level came in January at the U.S. National Nordic Ski Championships at Houghton, Mich.

Turzian astounded the Nordic skiing world on Jan. 4 when she won the 10-kilometer freestyle race—becoming the youngest person ever to win a U.S. title in cross country skiing. She calls it her most satisfying accomplishment.

"I don't even think a term could possibly explain what I felt after placing first at senior nationals, but I can definitely say I was satisfied because of it," Turzian said. "I still am. It was a pivotal point in my life that has changed who I am and how my future will unfold."

It had been a long time coming for the Wood River Valley native, because she was not a dominating junior racer, Kapala said.

"She didn't win as a J2 (ages 14-15)," he said. "That, when you don't quite get there, combined with a huge work ethic to build the fire hotter inside of her."

Turzian's drive to succeed kicked into high gear last season.

She compiled eight top-10 finishes in various races, skiing to first place four times, and went on to a pair of top-20 performances at the FIS Nordic World Junior Championships in Tarvisio, Italy, where was the second-fastest American in both races.

She said winning at U.S. Nationals made her realize she could actually be an elite racer.

"For four years I had gotten second in that race, and it was a massive boost of confidence to finally see I was improving and that I was the top junior skier in the nation," she said.

"All my life I've told myself and others that I wanted to go to the Olympics, " she said. "However, only over the past year have I realized how much dedication and time that goal would take to achieve. I really do love the life of a cross-country skier. This passion is all it takes in my mind."

Her mind has also given her entrance into one of the most esteemed colleges in the U.S.

After graduating with Wood River High School Class of 2007 on Wednesday night, Turzian will enter Middlebury College in Vermont this fall, leaving her parents, Mike and Jan, and brother, Bryce.

The balance between life as a scholar, collegiate racer and a member of the U.S. Team will evolve over time, Kapala said.

"How she pieces together the next four or five years, blending college skiing with racing is hard to say, but she is in the Olympic cycle for 2010 and depending on what kind of progress she will make it's possible," he said. "The nice thing about Alexa is her driven intensity is buffered by a light-heartedness that is just a tremendous asset. When she's off (snow) she's just another kid."

A kid who is going places, thanks to an inherent drive, a supportive family, good coaching and the love of a sport, and she sounds pretty happy with the way her life is unfolding.

"I am just excited for what my future holds."

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