Friday, December 26, 2008

Fitness training unlocks the door for SVSEF Nordic skiers

One of USA’s best junior programs on local trails

Express Staff Writer

SVSEF Olympic Development Team racer Mike Sinnott of Ketchum has come a long way from his teenage days training at Lake Creek. He poses here by the SNRA headquarters after winning the prestigious Wells Fargo Boulder Mountain Ski Tour last February.

Preparation is everything for the Sun Valley Junior Nordic ski team.

Under the leadership of 22nd-year coach Rick Kapala, the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation's cross-country ski squad has become one of the five or six best training and competitive programs in the U.S.

It hasn't happened by chance. Strong parental support, a community that values fitness, and up to 150 kilometers of groomed trails have set the foundation in place.

Kapala said, "The kids have to understand that all the hard things are already in place here. We have the advantages—you can't walk out a door anywhere in the valley and not be on a trail within five minutes.

"All they have to do is show up and work. Like many before them, they come to realize that commitment to the process yields results."

Sun Valley's excellent training facility at Lake Creek three miles north of Ketchum and its knowledgeable staff of 16 racing and coaching veterans have set the standard.

Many Competition Team skiers may log over 500 hours of aerobic training over the course of 12 months. Wood River senior Makayla Cappel, for instance, played a key role on her school's girls' soccer team. She was also fitness training religiously in the morning all fall.

But, really, the standard isn't what is past and done. It's the readiness for your next workout. And the goal of the coaches is to keep the standard high for each team member.

"Preparation is the standard," said Kapala. "If there is a lesson in the sport of cross country skiing, it's you have to keep things in the right order. You have to prepare. There are no dying quails or Texas Leaguers in cross country skiing, like in baseball. Things don't happen by chance.

"There is a big technical component to cross country skiing. That's why a group of 25 to 30 kids on our Comp Team is effective from a coaching standpoint. And that's because while we're building their physical capacity, we also have to teach them how to technically ski well.

"Our goal is to build fitness early in the season and to make progress throughout the winter, showing this next wave of skiers that hard work and dedication will yield the results they're shooting for."

This year's team

The lack of early-season snow has put the SVSEF team a little behind in its on-snow workouts, Kapala said. But it's a long season, from November through mid-March. Building fitness in early races rather than producing great results is the goal.

"I think this is the third time in my 22 years here that we haven't been able to ski Lake Creek by now," said Kapala on Dec. 18, about 12 hours before the valley experienced its first substantial snow, 12 inches.

The weather can change in a hurry in valley, though, and the first of three Junior National qualifying races for the 28-skier Competition Team doesn't happen until Jan. 15 at Trail Creek near Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Out of 133 skiers on the Competition, Prep and Development teams, there are a high total of nine high school seniors on Comp Team (generally J1 ages 16-17) and a solid influx of skiers on the J2 (14-15) squad.

Kapala said, "We have an influx of J2s, about 13 of them, which may be the biggest J2 group we've had for some time, but we also have some really accomplished older skiers."

The Older Juniors (18-19), J1 and J2 racers are those working toward possible berths on the Intermountain Division team going to the 2009 USSA Cross Country Junior Nationals March 6-14 at Truckee, Ca.

"We're looking for the kids to have personal bests at Truckee," said Kapala. "We may not have a racer like (U.S. Nordic Ski Team's) Morgan Arritola on the team. But every year we're surprised by people who somehow step up. And we find the rate of improvement with the younger skiers can come so quickly."

There should be some quality competition within the Sun Valley ranks itself to make the Intermountain Division's 12-racer OJ/J1 boys' team heading to Truckee. And superlative OJ/J1/J2 boys' results was where Alaska regained the Junior Olympics "Alaska Cup" team trophy last March at Anchorage, Ak.

Kapala said, "We (Sun Valley) have eight or nine of the best OJ/J1 guys in our division right on our team—guys who have a track record. The only problem is they'll be beating up on each other. And we have four girls who are all possible top-10 finishers at Junior Nationals."

Leading the way are second-year J1 boys Max Durtschi, Scotty Phelan, Travis Job and Sean Dumke. Highly regarded bicycle racer Durtschi placed 15th in J1 10k freestyle and 11th in J1 10k classic at March's Anchorage Junior Nationals.

First-year J1 boys pushing the older racers will be Danny Sundali, Chase Caulkins, Will Spiller and Pocatello's Scott Schoen. Sundali was sixth in 5k skate and ninth 5k classic as a second-year J2 at Junior Nationals up at Kincaid Park last March. Wood River High junior Caulkins was one of the best high school cross country runners in Idaho this fall.

Second-year J1 girls having outstanding dry land seasons in running and soccer this fall were Julia Bowman, Courtney Hamilton and Cappel. Bronwen Raff has been playing catch-up with her fitness because of knee problems, Kapala said, but she and the other three J1s could be Junior National contenders.

The locations of this winter's three Junior National qualifiers could play to Sun Valley's advantage.

"We had success at Truckee the last time we were there for Junior Nationals," he said. "The long, sustained climbs at Truckee help us because that's the kind of skiing we do here in Sun Valley. And the sites of the qualifying races should prepare us well for the Truckee JNs."

He added about the first qualifying races Jan. 15, "We haven't been to Jackson Hole's Trail Creek for a while. They're good trails, but not especially hard. Good for a first race.

"Soldier Hollow (in Utah, Jan. 28) is a super qualifier featuring all divisions from the West. It's a course with long climbs—a great gauge of how we're doing against skiers from outside our division. It happens early enough in the season that we have a few weeks to make more progress.

"And West Yellowstone (a final qualifier Feb. 12) has essentially become like a home course for us. Really, when you look at all three locations, the standard of how well the qualifying races are run has really improved. That means all we have to do is show up and race."

To build at the ground level, Sun Valley for the third straight year will travel to New Hampshire in early March for the New England/National J2 Championships. "Those races have become a really good developmental tool," he said.

Virtually all the coaches of the different teams have returned this winter---Ashley McQueen and Chris Mallory joining Kapala with the Comp Team; Kelley Sinnott heading up the Prep Team for the fourth year; and Dave Bingham guiding the Development Team for a 15th year.

First-year Olympic Development Team coach Travis Jones will work with a group of 14 of the country's most promising Nordic skiers, seven of whom are SVSEF alumni. Many are skiing collegiately this winter.

Local products Morgan Arritola, Alexa Turzian, Mali Noyes, Mike Sinnott, Reid Pletcher, Taylor Sundali and Chris Holmquist are joined by other top racers including Noah Hoffman and Kate Whitcomb.

In the past few years Sun Valley has instituted the post-graduate ODT program to provide a training base and targeted financial support as a bridge between junior and national ski teams. Enhanced training opportunities, technical support and coaching are the main things offered to the ODT racers through the SVSEF.


Program director and head coach—Rick Kapala (22nd year).

Olympic Development Team coach—Travis Jones (1st year).

Competition team coaches—Ashley McQueen (3rd year) and Chris Mallory (4th year).

J3/J4 Prep team coaches—Head coach Kelley Sinnott (4th year), Mike Stemp (4th year), Rob Landis (10th year) and Ashley Wells (3rd year).

Development team coaches—Head coach Dave Bingham (15th year). Assistant coaches—Laurie Leman (18th year), Will Resko (4th year), Paddy McIlvoy (2nd year), Gary Schott (2nd year), Tessa Westbrook (2nd year), Svea Grover (2nd year) and Kate Underwood.

Olympic Development Team (14 skiers)—Women: Morgan Arritola, Nicole DeYong, Kate Whitcomb, Alexa Turzian (Colorado) and Mali Noyes (Middlebury). Men: Mike Sinnott, Colin Rodgers, Noah Hoffman, Simi Hamilton (Middlebury), Ben Knowles (St. Lawrence), Jimmy Ades (Middlebury), Reid Pletcher (Colorado), Taylor Sundali (Middlebury) and Chris Holmquist (Montana State).

Competition team racers (28 skiers)—Morgan Atkinson, Julia Bowman, Claire Bowman, Makayla Cappel, Chase Caulkins, Sean Dumke, Max Durtschi, Sam Farnham, Keller Gibson, Courtney Hamilton, Mateja Heinrich, Travis Job, Kaitlyn Landis, Zachary Lindahl, Jackson Long, Andrew Pfeiffer, Scotty Phelan, Bronwen Raff, Scott Schoen, William Spiller, Maranda Stopol, Sloan Storey, Daniel Sundali, Averell Tian, Torin Tucker, Brandon Wade, Emily Williams and Maggie Williams. (Tuition $3,375 including wax and grooming fee, ages 14-18 high school OJ/J1/J2, year-round training, on-snow 5-6 days per week).

J3/J4 Prep team racers (33 skiers)—Jake Adicoff, Alexandra Aulum, Eron Bates, Tara Bingham, Cameron Bingham, Bobby Corker, Katie Dumke, Katie Feldman, Grace Gorham, Trenor Gould, Timo Gould, Andrew Graves, Xavier Haemmerle, Syringa Hansen, Elana King-Nakaoka, Nick Krekow, Annika Landis, Brooke Lawrence, Payton McCune, Haley Montgomery, Andrew Morse, Nathan Nasvik, Michael Niedrich, Stephen Pfeiffer, Ty Reinemann, Andrew Ryason, Tyler Spence, Cheyanne Stopol, Sarah Verst, Luke Verst, Sarah Williams, Ketchum Wilt and Kailey Wilt. (Tuition $1,275 including wax and grooming fee, ages 10-13 J3/J4 introductory program to racing and training, practices 3 days per week).

Lake Creek and Quigley Development team members:

Lake Creek (50 skiers)—Payton Bacca, Devon Brown, Tara Burchmore, Ike Buxton, Theo Castellano Wood, Victoria Castellano Wood, Hannah Conn, Lukas DeWolfe, Kristian DeWolfe, Megan Downey, Jack Dwyer, James Everitt Jr., Alex Feldman, Lily Fitzgerald, Ellie Gorham, Jamie Graninger, Oliver Guy, Sydney Hagenbuch, Johnny Hagenbuch, Joe Hall, Galena Hansen, Sam Hebert, Graham Hepworth, Miles Jones, Carson Jones-Wilkins, Logan Jones-Wilkins, Libby Kaiser, Lola Keller, Taylor Koth, Kegan Lupton, Hallie MacPherson, Colby Marsh, Dyllan Millar, Clyde Montgomery, Keene Morawitz, Jenna Nurge, Landon Nurge, Pilar Pennell, Joey Reidy, Katie Riviello, Cooper Roquet, Emily Siegel, Flynn Stewart, Charlie Stumph, Max Tanous, Madison Watts, Zach Williams, Jack Wojcik, Peter Wolter and Ella Wolter.

Quigley Canyon (22 skiers)—Benjamin Brunelle, Lily Brunelle, Sophia Coplin, Lauren Cord, Leo Corrales, Cooper Dart, Luke Dean, Ashley Dreyfus, Chloe Evans, Grace Evans, Danny Graves, Jorgen Lawrence, Matthew Minford, Lucy More, Zachary Olenick, Caleb Morgan, Luma Randolph, Carter Ros, Landon Schley, Alina Svidgal, Jacob Truxal and Sarah Truxal. (Tuition for each program $485 including wax and grooming fee, grades 2-5, on-snow 3 days per week December through February).


2008-09 Local Nordic and Junior Team Schedule

the 2008-09 ski racing season. Intermountain Division qualifying races for Junior Nationals are denoted with asterisks (*). Age classes are OJ (Older Junior) ages 18-19; J1 ages 16-17; J2 ages 14-15; J3 ages 12-13; J4 ages 10-11; J5 ages 8-9; and J6 ages 6-7. ASMS refers to 2009 American Ski Marathon Series. Major local events in bold.

Saturday, Dec. 20 Winterstart Galena Lodge
Saturday, Dec. 27 Christmas Classic USSA National Ranking Race Lake Creek, 11 a.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 27 Harriman Trail Skate/Mini Boulder Tour SVSEF, Lake Creek, 10 a.m.
Monday-Thursday, Dec. 29-Jan. 8 World Jr./Scandinavian Cup Team Trials Anchorage, Alaska
Thursday-Friday, Jan. 1-2 Boulder Yurt Overnight Trip SVSEF skiers, Lake Creek, 9 a.m.
Saturday-Thursday, Jan. 3-8 2009 U.S. Cross Country Championships Anchorage, Alaska
Saturday, Jan. 3 Prairie Creek Snowmaker Classic Prairie Creek trails, 11 a.m.
Saturday, Jan. 10 Ski Free Day Wood River trail system
Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 15-18 Jackson Hole JN qualifier* Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Sunday, Jan. 18 Billy Goat Loppet SVSC Championship Race Billy’s Bridge
Wednesday-Saturday, Jan. 28-31 Soldier Hollow JN qualifier* Soldier Hollow, Utah
Thursday-Friday, Jan. 29-Feb. 6 2009 FIS Nordic Junior Worlds/U-23 Worlds Praz de Lys Sommand, Fra. 
Thursday-Friday, Jan. 29-Feb. 6 2009 Masters World Cup of Nordic Skiing Autrans, Fra.
Saturday, Jan. 31 Ski the Rails Wood River trail system
Saturday, Feb. 7 34th ASMS Wells Fargo Boulder Mountain Ski Tour Galena Lodge
Saturday-Sunday, Feb. 8-14 Idaho World Winter Special Olympics Sun Valley Resort
Thursday-Sunday, Feb. 12-15 West Yellowstone JN qualifier* West Yellowstone, Mt.
Saturday, Feb. 14 Leif’s Combined Race Sun Valley Nordic/SV Ski Club
Sunday, Feb. 15 Intermountain JN team named After West Yellowstone races
Saturday, Feb. 21 Boulder Mountain Classic Tour SRNA to Galena/The Elephant’s Perch
Saturday, Feb. 21 28th Payette Lakes Ski Marathon McCall (634-5691)
Saturday, Feb. 21 ASMS American Birkebeiner XXXVII Hayward, Wisc., 52k
Sunday, Feb. 22 Papoose Club Quigley Cup Hailey (Prep/Devo)
Saturday-Sunday, Feb. 28-March 1 Western States J3/J4/J5 Youth Ski Festival Lake Creek trail system
Saturday, Feb. 28 Inga-Iami Women’s Nordic Event Sun Valley Resort
Thursday-Saturday, March 5-7 Bill Janss Pro-Am Sun Valley
Wednesday-Saturday, March 5-8 2009 AXCS National Masters Anchorage, Ak.
Friday-Saturday, March 6-14 USSA Cross Country Junior Olympics Truckee, Ca.
Saturday, March 7 30th annual ASMS Yellowstone Rendezvous West Yellowstone, Mt.
Sunday, March 8 Paw ‘n Pole Sun Valley Resort
Wednesday-Monday, March 11-16 New England J2 Championships Comp Team J2s to Jackson, N.H.
Saturday and Tuesday, March 14/17 56th NCAA Nordic Ski Championships Rumford, Maine (Bates College)
Saturday, March 21 Baldy Snowshoe and Ski Challenge Ketchum/The Elephant’s Perch
Friday, March 27 2009 U.S. Cross Country Championships (7.5k/15k CL pursuit) Fairbanks, Ak.
Sunday, March 29 2009 U.S. Cross Country Championships (30k/50k free) Fairbanks, Ak.
Sunday, March 29 Galena Loppet Galena Lodge
Friday, April 3 Annual X-C Team Devo Awards Banquet nexStage Theater, Ketchum
Saturday, April 4 Annual X-C Team Comp/Prep Awards Banquet nexStage Theater, Ketchum
Sunday, April 5 Ride/Stride/Glide Galena Lodge

NOTE—The schedule for the 2009 Conoco Phillips U.S. Cross Country Championships (short distance) at Kinkaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska: On Saturday, Jan. 3, classic sprint; on Monday, Jan. 5, freestyle 10k/15k; on Wednesday, Jan. 7, classic 5k/10k; on Thursday, Jan. 8, freestyle team sprint….. Here’s the schedule for the 2009 USSA Cross Country Junior Olympics ( at Truckee, Ca.: On Monday, March 9, freestyle sprint; on Wednesday, March 11, freestyle competition; on Friday, March 13, classic competition; on Saturday, March 14, relay competition…… This is the 10th season for the Bend (Ore.)-based American Ski Marathon Series (541-382-3503).

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