How did we do? A review of the season.
What's coming up? This is coming up!
And more of these...
And this...The US World Cup Ski Team has just arrived here in Park City. Some just arrived from the season’s last race in Maine. They are here for our first testing camp of the new season – or is it the last testing camp of last season… it is hard to say when one season blends into the next like they do. There is rest for the weary. But not yet. First we need some tests to see where we are compared to where we were in October – our last lab test. These tests will help us understand how fitness trends over the winter. It will help us plan training this summer and through next winter. The goal is not just to have your best race of the year but to improve year to year as well. And to move forward we must ask – how did we do?
In this article I refer to “we,” “us” and “our”. By “we, us, and our” I mean the US cross country ski community – the clubs, coaches, athletes, parents and supporters of US cross country ski racing. This is not a report on how the US Ski Team did this year. It is a report on how the US Ski Community, of which the US Ski Team is a part, did this year.
World Cup points are given to the top 30 finishers in World Cup races. Scoring world cup points has been an important benchmark for us as we haven’t always been able to put skiers in the top 30. For example between 1992 and 2000 the USA scored 327 World Cup points. That is scoring between 12 and 81 World Cup points or an average of 41 points per year. In the two years between 2003 and 2005 we scored 306 points. Last year alone we took 462 World Cup points. This year we took 584 World Cup points. We went from scoring an average of 41 points a year to scoring 584 points this year.
World Cup points will remain a good benchmark for us even though our goals have become more lofty than placing in the top 30. Look at a World Cup result list and you will see how tightly packed the top 30 spots can be. It’s not easy to get in the top 30 and it is very difficult to be there often enough to be ranked in the top 30.
Top 30 results are and always will be a good measure of our depth. If we have more athletes scoring points we have a bigger chance of pushing a few on to the podium down the road. And we do have a very good crop of athletes just below the World Cup level who will be looking to score their first World Cup points before long.
World Cup points are a good measure of progress but actual placing is the final measure. Our best place last season was 3rd – our first World Cup podium in 23 years. This season we took two more World Cup podiums, put two more in the top 5, five more in the top 10, ten more in the top 15 and had a total of 33 top 30 World Cup results.
Overall World Cup rank is a good indicator of consistently high finishes. At the conclusion of this season we have one skier ranked 6th in the world. One ranked 12th in the world and one ranked 19th in the world.
Our future depends not only on continued progress at the World Cup level but relies heavily on junior and young athlete development. At these levels the emphasis and the spotlight must be on preparation. These athletes are training for success at the World Cup level and must train themselves up to that level. Never-the-less good results at their current level can indicate a high level of preparation. We had top 20, top 15 and top 10 results at Junior Worlds as well as some fantastic relay legs. We also had a podium at U-23’s and a victory on the Continental Cup (see the previous article on JWC and U23’s for details).
Based on World Cup points, podiums and high World Cup, Continental Cup, Junior World, and U23 placing as well as several athletes high in the world rankings we can objectively say the season shows great improvement and future promise.
But did we reach our goals?
This is a question that each individual and each individual program must answer for themselves. Did you achieve what you set out to achieve – if so how, if not why?
Did the USST achieve all it’s goals for this year? No. In some areas we exceeded our goals by a long way. In others we fell short. We did some A work this year but we’re not A students yet.
It is no negative statement to say we have our work cut out. In fact the possibility of success makes the work ahead feel even more urgent. Against our racing and non-racing goals we have a great amount of work before us. This is not to say we didn’t prepare well. It is to say we must prepare even better. For the USST this is our main task. I strongly suspect better preparation must be the main task of every club and athlete in the country as well. We formed a good team, but we must be a tighter one yet. We expanded our development efforts with the continental cup team, with a technique video, with our Regional Elite Camps, with the work we did along side our partner programs but these are areas where we have some of our most important work ahead.
It is by attacking and accomplishing the process goals that we can expect to accomplish our racing goals. It is in the process… Not only is success born of attacking the process but it is what makes up the 99% of our time and energy. This great expenditure of energy over a long period of time enables that short moment when one of us stands on the podium with flowers and skis and a big smile.
This review of the season shows – both objectively and subjectively – improvement and promise. Our podium results on World Cup and Continental Cup are straight up successes. Not success to rest on but success to inspire the work ahead. In order to go into a championship confident of a podium we must have top 5 and podium results with greater frequency and from more athletes. These results and the progress we made were earned by the efforts of all our dedicated programs, coaches, athletes and supporters across the country. The results ahead rely on greater, smarter and even more wide spread effort.
For us the new season begins with testing this week, then we get some rest – not so much that the gains we made last season are lost but enough that we hit the ground ready to pick up where we left off - which is to say running like hell.
We have some very cool projects to let you all in on shortly. Keep checking in. Thanks for your hard work and thanks for your support.