Summit Nordic 15-year-old is top American female at Aspen skate-sprint races
Summit Nordic Ski Club head coach Olof Hedberg said this past weekend at the Raoul Willie Memorial cross-country ski races in Aspen was one of the greatest ever for the club.
The team’s several standout individual performances were led by 15-year-old Nina Schamberger’s eye-opening results racing against some of the world’s best cross-country skiers. At Friday’s skate-sprint heats, the Leadville resident Schamberger raced against the best American and international women — U-18, U-20, U-23 and senior division athletes — on the 1.4-kilometer course.
After advancing in the group of top-30 finishers out of the initial race, Schamberger advanced all the way to the final round of heats. In that race, her time of 4 minutes and 8.25 seconds was the best American time in the heat, behind only race winner and University of Utah skier Julia Richter of Germany (4:03.34) and University of Utah skier Karianne Moe of Norway (4:05.95).
Schamberger’s result in the heat-based, skate-sprint competition meant she finished higher than any other American in the 40-skier competition and ahead of any U-23 or younger skier.
The performance from Schamberger also came during a weekend when she rose to the No. 1 International Ski Federation sprint ranking in the world for females born in 2005.
Schamberger had similarly impressive results at the International Ski Federation races at Soldier Hollow in Utah to start the year. At the time, Hedberg cautioned it could take a while before the 15-year-old raced consistently at that level. But just a month later, Schamberger did it again.
“I have to eat my words a little because I was wrong,” Hedberg said. “The fact that she could do this — such a result, again, and this is even better — all I can say is I was wrong. She continues to shock me as a coach with her performance sometimes.”
Hedberg credited Schamberger’s mental toughness and resilience as well as individual focus for her level of racing at her age. Along with strengthening physically over the past year and racing more consistently with improved technique, the coach said Schamberger is great at not letting external environmental variables affect her racing.
“I’m reassured my hard work over the summer is paying off and the coaches’ hard work to get me here is here to stay,” Schamberger said. “I think one of the things they taught us early on when I started skiing is good sportsmanship and do the best with what you are given and use that mentality every time we race. If the weather is bad, everyone else has to deal with it, so the way you perform is up to you.”
Schamberger and Summit Nordic teammate Sam Haynes said Hedberg’s coaching passion and style, especially specific to heat-based Nordic skiing, helped with their showings in Aspen.
“It’s a lot easier to get excited and ready for something when your coach is also excited and very knowledgeable,” Schamberger said. “So when I finish one heat and have to get ready for the next, Olof knows exactly what to do — how long to cool down or warm up for. And one of the most important things that helped me last Friday was paying attention to strategy. I haven’t done that a lot before. I usually take off in the front of the pack, and this time he helped me to stay behind and draft off the other racers.”
The 17-year-old Haynes — a 2020 graduate of Summit High School who is now taking a gap year before skiing in college — raced to 26th overall and second in his U-18 age group. Hedberg was proud of Haynes’ race performance considering he has been battling an infection — not COVID-19 — throughout the winter.
Haynes said he noticed last week that his resting heart rate had dropped to a lower number than where it had been while sick, making him that much more confident he could race well in Aspen.
Hedberg said Friday’s showing for the quiet, focused Haynes truly was a breakthrough as Haynes — a skier known for his max speed — exhibited enough endurance and mental strength to grind through the heats and turn heads in Aspen.
“He didn’t give up when it was tough in December and the beginning of January, and he pushed through and kept working at it,” Hedberg said.
Haynes — who is choosing between skiing at Montana State and College of St. Scholastica in Minnesota — said Hedberg instructed him to stay near the back of the pack and hang with the others, focusing on technique and skiing smart.
Hedberg also highlighted Summit High skier Aubree Confer for her 23rd-place finish in the skate sprint, describing it as her best accomplishment yet on the national stage. And Hedberg said Kiera Stabile and Landon Laverdiere each racing to third in the U-14 classic 3K races on Saturday was something the skiers should be very happy with.
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