Montgomery, Quebec - One of the staple traditions of the UMPI Nordic ski team is its annual Thanksgiving training trip to Foret Montmorency in Quebec, but an unusual amount of early season snow in Aroostook County had the group debating on whether or not they should remain in Presque Isle over the break instead of making the journey north. After enjoying four days of excellent conditions, new trails, incredible food, exquisite French-Canadian culture, a first ever EISA race experience, and of course plenty of time for team bonding in the Canadian province, it's safe to say the general consensus amongst the Owls was the trip was well worth it.
In the nordic ski world, putting in high volumes of training over Thanksgiving break is standard practice, as evidenced by the multitudes of camps simultaneously going on across the country - from West Yellowstone, Montana to Crested Butte, Colorado, all the way up to Quebec. UMPI was not alone on the over 40km of open trails at the Universite Laval training grounds. Teams representing the EISA included Bates, Colby, Bowdoin, St. Lawrence, and the University of Vermont were also present - sandwiching morning and afternoon workouts around reading and eating by the fire or playing pool, ping pong, or foosball in the lodge . Skiing alongside many of these well established programs during training sessions, as well as meeting and collaborating with coaches from the other schools, is an important element to the trip, fostering relationships between athletes and coaches for the mutual benefit of all programs.
"I'm so thankful for the friendliness shown towards me by many of the coaches I interacted with - they were happy to give me advice on drills to do with athletes and encouraged me as a coach to continue working hard to build our program," said Coach Sederquist. "What Tracey (Colby) and Nathan (Bowdoin) and others have done with their teams is something that we are aspiring towards with our own in terms of a building a culture of excellence in skiing, school, and life."
Irina Norkin, a freshmen from Fryeburg Academy, and the lone Owl Skier on the 2018-2019 roster, also experienced her first collegiate race atmosphere, as she participated in a 5km skate time trial on the last morning of the week. Bluebird skies and fast tracks made for a very enjoyable race environment. Irina was at full throttle and competed hard for the entire race, which included some very steep and tricky descents. She placed 46th out of 50 competitors in the individual start format race (meaning racers are sent out at 15 second intervals).
"Irina is a really strong competitor," commented Coach Sederquist. "When the gun goes off, she enters a different frame of mind - it is fun to watch and I look forward to helping her improve her fitness and technique so that she can continue to climb the ladder and fight with faster packs of EISA skiers at each race. When she has a skier in her sights, she does everything she can to go after them - I'm proud as a coach watching her compete and represent our team."
Being that the trip takes place over Thanksgiving, a large, home cooked meal in the condos after training on Thursday was a must. Roasted root veggies, prepared and seasoned in advance by Coach Sederquist and his wife, Christie, who has become one of the volunteer (or voluntold, perhaps) assistant coaches, along with a smoked turkey, salad, pie, and cranberry sauce, made for a delicious way to come together and share with one another all of the things to be thankful for.
The group also made a stop in Old Quebec on Friday night, touring the many shops and walking amongst hundreds of tourists who were out to enjoy the snow and lights that made one feel like they were a character in the "Christmas Carol" opening scene. On the way home, UMPI beat a sleet/freezing rain storm and stopped at the Fort Kent Outdoor Center for a nice over-distance session. Thanks to the work and maintenance done by Carl Theriault, those trails were immaculately prepared as well!
Along with family, good health, the chance to earn an education, and the ability to be a part of an NCAA ski program, all of us at UMPI Skiing are thankful for this great early season snowfall (which I'm sure comes much to the chagrin of most!) and the workers who have put in countless hours preparing it for skiing. Thank you as well to the staff and work done by alum Joey Bard, Tom Chasse, Mark Shea, and others at the Nordic Heritage Center to simultaneously get those trails ready for the Super Tour March. 28-April 2nd and keep the trails up and going for our daily training as well.
The first official race of the year for the UMPI Nordic team is December 22-23 at Craftsbury Outdoor Center, host of the first stop of the Eastern Cup. The EISA Carnival season begins Jan.12 at Mt. Van Hoevenberg.