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Somewhere Between Obscurity and Oblivion

Chronology of a Dream

The Past
I have been a skier for as long as I can remember. My parents put me on skis when I was a year and a half old. For as long as I have been a skier, I have had dreams of being in the Olympics. What follows here is a timeline of how the lofty dream of a child has become the backbone of a 27 year old's life. Some of what I say here will sound cocky. Other parts will sound self-depricating. It's all part of how I evaluated how realistic my dream really was.

July 1974 - I am born in Laconia, New Hampshire.

Winter 1976 - My parents put me on skis for the first time (I think). To say that I actually skied would be a stretch.

Fall/Winter 1986-7 - I enter junior high school in Littleton, NH, meaning that I am eligible to race on the high school ski team. My dad takes me out skiing on the trails he groomed behind our house to explain the new concept of skating. Over the course of the winter, I am the fourth fastest skier on our high school team, behind three seniors.

March 1987 - I enter my first and only Bill Koch league races at Craftsbury, Vt. This is the earliest recollection I have of thinking about the Olympics. In those two races I finished somewhere around 10th out of about 15 skiers. I remember that Dan Cantrell won those races handily and I thought, Wow, you have to be as fast as Dan to have a shot at the Olympics.

Winter 1988 - As an eighth grader, I am the Captain, MVP and fastest skier on my high school team. Our team is not very good, but our coach, Fred Griffin has done an amazing job recuiting new athletes and the team is building (at the same time, Fred is learning to skate on his backcountry skis).

Winter 1989 - I win my first NH Division 4 high school ski title. In the overall state meet, I finish 18th in the skate race, then finish dead last in an afternoon classic race of the top 20 from the skate race. I remember thinking that in order to make the Olympics you need to be able to classic ski.

Fall 1989 - I finish 6th in the New Hampshire Cross Country running state meet as a sophomore, behind five seniors. I begin to wonder if my future is in skiing or running. (As I know now, I'll never run this fast again)

Winter 1990 - I enter the Waterville Valley BBTS Racing Program, coached by Dave McGraw. My first taste of "real" racing. A few short weeks after learning about the existence of Junior Nationals, I win my first Junior National qualifier. Dan Cantrell is second. I finish second in the other skate qualifier, but end up 10th and 12th in the classic qualifers. I manage to sneak onto the JN squad on the strength of my skating. My high school team also wins its first state title, edging out the team my dad coaches on the strength of my come-from-behind victory in the team relay.

Junior Nationals 1990 -Steamboat, Colorado - Before leaving for Steamboat my dad gives me some advice - when classic skiing, just run up the hills, don't worry about trying to ski. At Junior Nationals, I finish 8th in the two skate races, and then run my way to a 3rd(!) place finish in the classic race. From this point forward, I am a better classic skier than skater. Dan Cantrell wins at least two of the races. If you want to make the Olympics, you have to ski like Dan.

Winter 1991 - I win the New Hampshire State High School title. At Junior Nationals in Anchorage I finish disappointly in the teens as a first year J1. Dan Cantrell is in the top 5.

April 1991 - I crash my mountain bike and have a compound fracture of my right forearm. I wonder if I will be able to ski as well with two metal plates in my arm.

Winter 1992 - My best season ever in terms of progress. I dominate (ok so I'm gettting a little cocky) the New Hampsire high school circuit and win a couple JN qualifierso. At Junior Nationals, I win the 10K skate race and come in 2nd in the other two races. Craig Van Valkenberg, as a J2, races in the J1 category and has 3 top ten finishes. I think that I skied better than I ever dreamed of, but that if I'd have to be as good as Craig to make the Olympics. I also win the Eastern High School Championship race that year.

Winter 1993 - As a freshman at Dartmouth,I struggle with increased training hours and the rigors of college classes. I race in a couple carnivals, finishing around 20th, then finish 3&4 at Junior Nationals as an OJ. But I love the college skiing experience. An excellent coach, Ruff Patterson, and an excellent team make it a memorable first year.

Winter 1994 - I make First team All-East in College Racing, along with three scandinavians and Scott Loomis. At NCAA's, I have a terrific classic race, finishing 10th and making second team All American. Dan Cantrell fades away and quits ski racing.

Winter 1995 - I win my first and only Carnival race at Williams and finish a disappointing 10th and 11th at NCAA's. A broken pole keeps me from being higher up.

Winter 1996 - As a senior, I have a decent season, but have a disappointing NCAAs (16th and 23rd). After some debate, I decide to continue my racing career after college. I decide that if I quit now, I will always wonder how good I could have been.

Fall 1996 - I move to Park City, Utah to train under the guidance of Torbjorn Karlsen, who in addition to beig a well-known coach of many top athletes, is also a good friend of Ruff's. After my first season in Utah, I am shoot up from number 58 on the national ranking list to number 10. All of a sudden a few people start to notice me. On one hand, I know that the sudden rise is due to the fact that I am now skiing in many more FIS races, but on the other hand I am surprised at how easy it was to break into the top ten. Craig Van Valkenberg quits skiing.

Winter 1998 - I finish 13th in the pursuit at the Gold Cup (Olympic Qualifer). Right where I want to be, I know that in four more years, I can be in the top ten, challenging for a spot on the team.

Winter 1999 - My best season yet. I finish 4th, 6th, 6th and 10th at the races at Nationals. Only 5 men were taken to the World Championships in Ramsau, but had it been eight (like it will probably be at the 2002 Olympics, I would have been right in the hunt. I then go on to finish 10th in the Birkie, win the Great Ski Race and finish second in the Calfornia Gold Rush. I am right on track for 2002.

Winter 2000 - I start the season on fire, finishing 4th and 5th in the early season Continental Cups in Silver Star. Due to illness, I don't ski well at Nationals and then never really get on track for the rest of the winter. Its a step back from the year before, but still not bad. Everyone has an off year now and then.

Winter 2001 - The wheels come off. I have a horrible season. The only bright spot is that I manage to barely get into my first World Cup races at Soldier Hollow.

Spring 2001 - After two consecutive season of worsening results, I re-evaluate my commitment to skiing. I decide that since it is only 9 months until the Olympics, I owe it to myself to follow through and see my dream through to the end. I revamp my training program and have an excellent summer of training.

The Present
Fall 2001
- For the first time in a couple years, I feel great. I feel like I really have a shot. The feeling is fleeting, as it always is, but it is good to know that I can still feel it. I think I am as ready as I will be.

November 6, 2001 - The first races of the year in Fairbanks are over. So how do I feel now? Mildly encouraged. What the heck does that mean? Well, my first goal starting out the season was to improve on last year. Now it wouldn't take much to improve on last year's results, but it would be an important first step. And I did it. I didn't set the world on fire, but at least I was surrounded on the results sheet by the usual suspects I competed with a couple years ago: Chad Giese, Scott Loomis, Nathan Schultz, Pete Vordenberg, etc, rather than a minute or two behind them. So that is good. But it won't put me on the Olympic team. Now I know that I am a longshot to make the team, but unless I dare to dream, I have no chance at all. In these races, I was about the 13th American and everyone who has a shot at the team was there. Only the top eight, at the most, will make the team. I will need at least four races where I am solidly in the top ten in order to even be considered. So I am on the outside looking in, but at least I am looking in the right direction, unlike last year. A little hope remains.

December 31 , 2001 - A very good race in Silver Star, but then it is all downhill. A bad skate race, and then races cancelled in the Midwest put a huge hamper on my chances. I skied well in the Gold Cup, but I am not at the point that I need to be, and there just aren't enough races left. I am skiing well, and I have to be happy about that, but my chance of making the Olympic team is going from slim to none.

January , 2002 - Nationals was a disaster. I skied pretty well, but the weather just kept me from putting it all together on any one day. Read about it here.

So I did not make the 2002 Olympic Team. Read how I was feeling right after Nationals


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