Summit Cove’s Vailles turn son’s snowshoe world championship win into experience for everyone
A glance around the Vaille family living room tells the story.
In one corner, there is a towering LEGO Eiffel Tower. In another, there’s an intricate London Tower Bridge. And across the room, there are even more LEGO masterpieces, such as a replica of Venice, Italy’s, waterways and streets, as well as a model of the London clock tower known as “Big Ben.”
Block by block, father Troy Vaille carefully constructed the pieces in his Summit Cove home. The thousand-piece miniatures represent the locations where Troy and wife Kendal’s eldest child, Jeremiah, trained in the lead up to last week’s World Snowshoe Championships in Fondo, Italy.
Jeremiah, 16, won the 19-and-under World Snowshoe Junior Championship race on Jan. 5, defeating his nearest Italian competitor by more than 10 seconds on the 4.5-kilometer course. At the final 1,500 meters of the race, as the course went uphill toward the town of Fondo, Jeremiah sensed he could gain on his competitor. He passed the eventual second-place finisher to take the title with just 800 meters left in the course.“I feel I’m strong from uphill and skinning in this (Summit County) area,” Jeremiah said back in the LEGO-laced living room on Wednesday night. “I felt like I was pretty worn out, but I always try to think my competitor is more worn out that me. I usually do finish well and finish strong, so I knew I still had it in me.”
For Jeremiah, the victory came after a family European vacation in the weeks prior. During the trip, he made it a priority to complete his typical running training no matter where he found himself. On top of the family walking 6 to 9 miles a day around tourist sites like Paris, Jeremiah also found ways to squeeze in his typical sprint-, short- and medium-distance runs, even if he was far, far away from Summit County. That meant jaunting out to run along the Seine River while his family was seeing the sites around the Eiffel Tower, or darting through slow-strolling tourists along Venice’s skinny streets. Through the trip, Vaille routinely reached around 20,000 steps on his Apple Watch, including a whopping 11.2 miles on Dec. 29.
“I’d look at the Google Maps the night before I ran all of those runs,” Jeremiah said, “I looked at which directions I could run and what would be a cool area I could run where we were staying.”
Jeremiah maintained that training schedule up to the race on Jan. 5. The day before, Jeremiah took part in the event’s opening ceremony, which included a parade of athletes. Once the parade concluded, Jeremiah returned to his street-side family to find out his younger sister Lexi, 15, suddenly wanted to race as well. The Summit High School sophomore, also a rugby and track-and-field athlete, registered with the United States team online and rented a pair of TSL snowshoes for the next day. There she was at the starting line, ready to join the fray, though she’d done little snowshoeing in her life aside from casual experiences with the Venture Crew Scouts — a high-adventure Boy Scouts of America option for older teens.
Aside from walking through a small portion of the course, the only thing Lexi practiced was putting on her new snowshoes in the family’s hotel room the night before the event. For Lexi, the race was more about having a fun experience, but that doesn’t mean her older brother doesn’t also see her as a strong high school-level athlete.
“Last year when she started track and field,” Jeremiah said, “she decided to do hurdles and placed at her first meet running hurdles.”
Lexi placed an impressive fifth in her first snowshoe race. She said she’s unsure if she will continue with snowshoeing like her brother. If she chooses to, she’ll have a fresh pair of snowshoes that were gifted to her by Mark Elmore, the man who organized the United States-Canada team that competed in Italy.
With the race in the books following the family’s run through Europe, the Vailles returned to Summit County earlier this week. When they took the final turn down the vacation’s homestretch along Summit Drive, there was quite the sight to greet them.
Stretched across their second-level porch was a massive handwritten sign. In alternating red and blue bubble lettering it read, “Welcome home Jeremiah & Lexi world champions.” The sign was one of nearly 60 that their Aunt Sarah, who lives nearby, decorated their home with.
“They made all of these signs with little notes and lined them all the way up to Jeremiah and Lexi’s rooms,” Kendal said. “It was super exciting. They were so happy, and gave them all a big hug.”
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