Although Taeler McCrerey’s competitive Nordic skiing career didn’t start until she was in the sixth grade, she was a part of the lifestyle long before then, following along on family trips as her older brother, Tucker, competed.
She loved to watch her brother race, but she required some coaxing before taking it up herself.
“The first race was in Vail and I remember I hadn’t skied that course at all,” she recalled, “and they were just like, ‘Follow the people in front of you,’ and then we get out there and there were not a lot of people in front of me, so I was like, ‘I don’t know where to go!’”
As it turned out, Taeler had a knack for the sport, just like her brother, a knack that has become skill through hours upon hours of hard work and practice.
Taeler doesn’t lose her way on the course anymore, and has fallen in love with Nordic racing. Her prowess in the sport was demonstrated recently when she qualified for the U18 Scandinavian Cup Team. For the next two weeks, she’ll compete for the U.S. team in Rovaniemi, Finland.
“I’m very excited,” she said with a grin.
The value of hard work
Once she discovered her love of Nordic skiing, Taeler jumped in with both feet. Now, she competes for the Summit Nordic Ski Club and for the high school team, maintaining a rigorous training schedule and bonding with her teammates.
Being named to the U.S. team for the Finland competition was one of Taeler’s top goals, one that has motivated her ever since the qualifying event for the Scandinavian Cup last year, when she didn’t make the team.
“After that last race we (my friend and I) looked at each other and said we’re going to train for this next year, because those kids are on a plane to Norway in the next two weeks,” she recalled. “We were so jealous! We were like, that’s going to be us next year.”
With that goal in mind, Taeler stepped up her commitment to training.
“You’re gonna think I’m crazy,” she said with a laugh, when asked to describe her schedule. Twice a week she gets up at around 5:30 a.m. to strength train at the high school weight room with her teammates.
Before the Scandinavian Cup was a goal, she admitted, in a lowered voice, that every once in a while she would choose to sleep in rather than head to early workouts. But that all came to an end once she fixed on her goal. She would tell herself, “I could sleep in, or I could go to Finland, so what are we gonna pick here?”
The choice she made is clear.
“That’s definitely what paid off, too,” she said. “Looking back now, good thing I got up and got myself … to the weight room.”
The hard work, for Taeler, is more than just an obstacle to overcome, however. It is the reason that she competes, and the reason that she chose Nordic skiing over the more popular downhill options.
“I’m going to sound crazy, but it’s probably all the hard work that goes into it,” she said, of her preference for Nordic skiing. “Because people don’t like that hard work, but I think that’s what I like. It’s so rewarding, it’s like, a lot of work for the little seconds of what really matters.”
It’s that attention to the details, to mastering the skills to shave off a few seconds here and there throughout her races, that has enabled Taeler to meet her goal.
“It’s definitely rewarding and it doesn’t last long, but it’s what I definitely get up at 5:30 for, you know?” She paused, attempting to put the experience of physical effort mixed with emotional tension into words, then shook her head. “It’s just like, I don’t know, it’s really hard to explain.”
Fortunately, she doesn’t have to explain; it all comes together out on the snow.
That brother-sister bond
Taeler credits her brother Tucker not only for getting her into the sport, but for encouraging her passion for it. The siblings are four years apart, and Tucker now skis in NCAA competitions for the University of Utah. When he still lived at home, he helped Taeler with her training.
“As kids, we definitely fought,” she said with a laugh. “We were your average kids.”
But as they got older, they became close, developing the tight bond that they share today. When they can, they attend each other’s events, and when they can’t they talk on the phone afterward, sharing experiences, tips and critiques.
“We definitely help each other out in that way, keep each other in it,” she said, and both revel in the other’s successes.
“We’re each other’s biggest fan, for sure.”
The support doesn’t stop with Tucker, however. Taeler credits her entire family for encouraging her and her brother in their endeavors.
“My dad videotapes us sometimes, if we ask him to,” she said. “He takes pictures. We get motion sickness from the video because he’s yelling for us so hard, he’s cheering for us.”
Taeler’s parents will both be on the sidelines during her Finland competition, even though that’s really the only time they will get to see her. Athletes stick with their teammates throughout the event, from the flight over, to the hotel room and back home.
“It’s her experience,” said Roberta McCrerey, Taeler’s mother. “We’re just along for the ride. My job is to feed her and make sure she gets good nutrition and good sleep and she does all the hard work. … It’ll be exciting.”
Taeler’s extended family joins the cheer squad, too, whenever they can, from aunts and cousins to her 91-year-old grandmother, who followed Taeler to Fairbanks, Alaska, last year for the Junior Nationals.
“She will sit in a snowbank and watch us race and she loves it, and that’s probably the coolest thing ever,” Taeler said. “If she’s not there, she’s there in spirit, and we can definitely feel that.”
Taeler was also quick to mention the support that’s come from many different sources — coaches spending time with her, teachers helping her with homework and the National Nordic Foundation raising funds to lower the expenses associated with her Finland trip.
“It wouldn’t be possible without them, for sure,” she said.
She also feels support from the Summit County community, she added. People wish her luck and ask her to stay in touch and keep them informed.
“I know everyone’s cheering for me,” she said with a smile.
Why does Taeler prefer Nordic skiing to her other options? “I’m going to sound crazy, but it’s probably all the hard work that goes into it.”