WHISTLER, BC (Sept. 14) - The U.S. Cross Country Ski Team wrapped up camp this week at its 2010 Olympic venue in Whistler and, according to Cross Country Coach Matt Whitcomb, everything is falling right in line with where the Team wants to be.
"This was our fifth time up here in the past two and a half years and everything is feeling right on time. Nothing is rushed, nobody is panicked. The Team is collected and confident, the training is hard and we wrapped up our preparation in Whistler on a high note," Whitcomb said. "We've gotten a lot of work done up here with these camps and the whole team knows it."
Whitcomb also added that the crew at the Olympic park in Whistler was key to the success of the Team's camp.
"It's been great training all week at the venue, and the folks at Whistler Olympic Park have been very accommodating to our group," Whitcomb said. "And their roller ski track and trail system are excellent."
According to rising star Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT), the Team's athletes have come to know Whistler like the back of their hands.
"As a team we are all super knowledgeable and feel very comfortable with the Olympic venue," Stephen said. "We have had a number of training camps here since the Olympics and it has become our second or maybe even first home!"
Whitcomb reported that, as far as fitness goes, the team is in top form.
"Everyone has been looking much improved in their training. Technique is strong and fitness is beginning to ramp up to higher levels," Whitcomb said.
The team had a chance to test that fitness out as, in addition to their individual training, the athletes were able to race head to head.
"We have had one classic sprint race in which Andy Newell [Shaftsbury, VT] beat Torin Koos [Leavenworth, WA] by a scratch. Erik Bjornsen, a National Elite Group (NEG) athlete out of the Methow Olympic Development (MOD) team in Washington was on their tails in the last two heats which was great to see," Whitcomb said. "Kikkan Randall [Anchorage, AK] dominated the women's field, with Erik's sister, Sadie, finishing second."
For Whitcomb, having National Elite Group athletes able to attend the camp was very beneficial to the future of the cross country program.
"The group consists of our best 10 junior athletes in the country, and it's been inspiring to watch them try to chase down the best in the U.S.," Whitcomb said. "As a coach, you can step back from the path just a bit and see a big piece of our development pipeline working together. It's incredible."
With the camp wrapped up, athletes have returned to their dry land training in the lead up to another camp in Lake Placid in October.
"I am feeling really good about the way the camp has gone. From my perspective, the Team is training and getting along better than we ever have before. As always, every training session has a focus and as this is one of our first true intensity camps of the year," Stephen said. "Hammering out hard sessions with your teammates is really beneficial and motivating, not to mention super fun. I feel very confident with the progress I have made over the training period so far."