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Writing this so late is probably a bad idea- I’m doing my best to get a head start on sleep tonight to make tomorrow’s 4am wake up to watch the sprints a little easier. Olympic season is the best season. There’s so much momentum in U.S. Skiing right now and these Olympics could push it that much farther; fingers crossed!

For my own season though, things have been going well! I started off the season with an IMD JNs qualifier here in Jackson which went pretty poorly for me. I can’t quite pin why, but I had some really disappointing results. Those races left me feeling pretty bummed thinking I was going to have another lackluster season, but after some deep talks with the wise Pete Phillips I decided that if I was going to go down, it would be in flames. I really put the hammer down, getting in some of the most consistent training I’ve had all year, and made a very conscious decision not to let myself get bogged down by a couple of bad results; an important lesson I learned last year. The effort definitely paid off at the next qualifier up at Galena Lodge in Sun Valley.

The first race of the weekend was a skate sprint, typically my weakest race. I was pretty surprised when I qualified in 10th, basically cutting my past results in half. The placing wasn’t exceptional by any means, but I had thought my season was done after Jackson. Unfortunately I got a little tripped up at the start of the quarters and with a tough headwind couldn’t get myself back up into the top 2. The next day, however, I put my head down on one of the smoothest courses I’ve ever skied and strode it out into a 6th place in the classic 10k. It felt good to really successfully push through some pain, and slight depression as Miles Havlick flew right by me from 8 or so spots back. After getting 6th I realized that I was right back in the mix; if I could get some good results in Soldier Hollow at our last qualifier I would be off to Stowe.

Soldier Hollow this past weekend ended up being memorable for a few reasons. 1.) This one is tough for me to wrap my head around. The weather was awful. Never in my life have I raced at Soldier Hollow in anything but bluebird skies and perfect snow- this was not the case this time around. It was raining for our starts and slush was everywhere. An all-around disheartening moment in my ski career, but SoHo crushed the grooming still as always. 2) A much more light-hearted moment for me. Friday’s race was a classic sprint on the same sprint course used for the 2014 Senior Nationals skate sprint. I knew the course well and I have always had a little more confidence in classic sprints. The wax was tricky, turning the course into an almost complete double-pole course with one quick little herringbone over Hermod’s Hill. I woke up feeling great and went into the qualifier with more conservative hopes of a top-20 ski since Soldier Hollow is a Super-Qualifier, meaning it’s not only an IMD qualifier, but is also attended by Rocky Mountain, High Plains, PNSA, Far West, the Wyoming High School teams, and more. I had a couple of trip ups in the qualifier and was scared to see my result. I ran back to the wax cabin to change and when I came out was beyond excited/shocked to see my name in 3rd overall U20/U18- 1st for IMD and 2nd U18 overall. I wasn’t quite sure how to react at first, but I knew that something was beginning to click that had been missing the past year.  I naturally had some high hopes for the day after that, but was again cut short in the quarterfinals. I learned a real tough lesson that day about really assessing the course and how to approach my heats, but mostly just couldn’t believe that I somehow screwed up what could have been one of my best races. Regardless, I now have the confidence that, even as a 1st year U18, I can ski right up there if I put it all on the table. 3.) The last memorable reason is that apparently I need to loosen my boots. Saturday I hoped to continue the momentum in a wicked hard 15k mass start skate. I had a strong start, but after the first lap I noticed that I couldn’t feel my feet (Or stopped noticing that they were there?). Each glide I wondered if the energy from my legs was transferring through my feet still, but each push forward put greater strain on my ankles which caused me the most pain. I made myself hold out for the remainder of rhe race and ended up finishing 19th overall and 7th IMD- still an improvement from my last skate race. Overall I’m really psyched with how my races went. I feel significantly more confident in my skiing and can’t wait to get to Stowe for Junior Nationals and see if I can keep up the progression and improve even more. This year at Stowe there’s both an individual classic 10k and a classic sprint which should be perfect for me. Until then I’m going to keep up the consistency and make sure I’m doing everything in my power to have the best prep. If all goes well I can get some payback on New England on their own course for giving me such a rough season last year.

I’ll put up some photos when I get ahold of some so that these posts don’t get too dry. Otherwise, keep up the USA Olympic patriotism and pray for some Gold!

Best Regards,

Peter Neal

 

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One Response to “Remembering How to Ski”

  1. Sophia Dickinson Says:

    Great job in all your races lately! I look up to you. You haven’t posted lately I wanna here how it’s going in Stowe. I searched your results and 35th is GREAT! How did you feel? You probably looked good. I had my friend take a video of you, and your striding was AMAZING. I wish I could be there to watch your races. You are are a beast. Have fun and good luck at the rest of your races, I believe in you.

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