Racing the pros: Summit Nordic Ski Club athletes place highly at national-level roller ski race in Utah
It’s not every day that you get to meet an athlete who has competed in the Olympics.
This past weekend, members of the Summit Nordic Ski Club not only got to meet Olympians — like Olympic gold and silver medalist Jessie Diggins and Olympian Luke Jager — but the team also competed alongside them in a series of national-level roller ski races in Midway, Utah, for the 2022 Schutzenski Festival XC & Biathlon.
Prior to the races, Peak School senior and 2022 junior world championship qualifier Nina Schamberger attended the U.S. Ski team’s National Training Group camp. The camp helps to further develop some of the nation’s best Nordic athletes by educating, challenging and motivating them.
Held in Park City, the camp culminated with two roller ski races that included some of the best skiers across the country. Schamberger competed in the women’s elite 10-kilometer skate race on Saturday, Oct. 15, and a series of elite sprint races on Sunday, Oct. 16.
In both elite races, Schamberger and her Summit Nordic Ski Club teammates were joined by Diggins, who effortlessly glided her way to first place finishes.
On the hilly, curvy, Nordic skiing course, Schamberger started right ahead of Diggins during the 10-kilometer skate race and rolled her way to a 10th place finish, 2 minutes and 22.7 seconds behind Diggins.
“It was such a great experience to be in the mix with literally some of the best in the world,” said Schamberger. “Being on course with Jessie was like, ‘OK, so that’s the bar.’”
Kai Oppito, Sam Haynes and Roan Varble competed alongside Jager in the men’s elite skate race. Oppito started right behind Jager and the moment fueled Oppito to a 37th-place finish among a highly competitive field. Jager finished in eighth place with a time of 21:02.4 while Oppito crossed the finish line in 25:29.5.
Oppito was thrilled with his performance after training hard throughout the summer.
“I felt really good with the races, especially after training all summer,” Oppito said. “The coaches have done their jobs super well in getting us ready for the race season. The course was super fun and it was cool to see how fast the Olympians are and how much work we have left to do.”
Haynes placed 45th overall while Varble finished a place behind in 46th.
In the open 6-kilometer skate race, freshman Landon Laverdiere and sophomore Kiera Stabile notched top-15 finishes. Stabile placed fifth in the girls race and Laverdiere finished in 14th place in the boys race.
In the sprint races all of the Summit Nordic Ski Club athletes skied a qualifying lap in the morning and then advanced to heats of six athletes each.
Schamberger placed 17th overall, while Stabile placed 29th, both after not advancing out of the quarterfinal.
Schamberger posted a best time of 3:20.98 and Stabile’s best time was 3:45.06. Following the duo was Lili Zygulski in 33rd place and Kate Williams in 34th.
Stabile was awestruck by skiing next to her Nordic skiing idol, Julia Kern.
“It was like a dream, but it also seemed down to earth,” Stabile said. “It was really cool to be in an environment that I strive to be in for my ski career.”
Summit Nordic Ski Club rounded out the weekend with Varble placing 39th and Oppito placing 40th.
Beyond being inspired by their idols, Summit Nordic Ski Club athletes also came to the realization that the Olympians and professional athletes they raced against are not much different than themselves. They were once teenagers racing for their local club, loving everything to do with Nordic skiing and looking up to their own heroes in the sport.
“I have looked up to these athletes because of how fast and how cool they are, but when I was on the start line with them I realized that they are just humans, and, if I want it bad enough, I can get exactly to where they are,” Oppito said.
The weekend of racing will be reflected upon as the Summit Nordic Ski Club continues their dryland training over the next few weeks. This weekend, the club will head out to Moab for its preseason camp to build upon what was learned from the races at 2022 Schutzenski Festival XC & Biathlon.
“I am super excited to hit a block of training,” Oppito said. “I am excited to also go have fun with the team in Moab and train a bunch to get super ready for winter since the snow is coming soon.”
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