I caught up with Holly Whitney, a former Wayneflete and Maine Coast Nordic Skier. She graduated last year and is now skiing at Williams College. She was a two time Junior Olympian and was one of the top skiers in the state. I hope this can serve as a resource for some of the younger skiers in the program.
How is college going?
College is amazing! I couldn't be happier at Williams, it's a perfect match for me. Although the academics are obviously challenging, I feel that high school prepared me really well and I haven't had trouble handling academics, skiing, and other social life. They say college is the best four years of your life, and so far, that's definitely been the case.
Has your training load increased in college?
Yeah, by a lot! I didn't do a ton of training in the summer because I was canoeing for six weeks, but my fall load increased a lot. Running high school cross-country really decreases training hours compared to training for skiing exclusively and so my hours have jumped. That being said, the quality of my training has also increased greatly- there is a big difference between 45 minute runs and 3 hour roller-skis or 4 x880s on a flat field and half-hour time trials up a mountain...it was great for me in all aspects to focus only on skiing.
If so, any idea how many hours you plan on doing this year? last year?
This year, I think I'll be close to 400 hours (which is less than most college skiers due to canoeing). It'll be about 100-150 more hours than last year. On average I train about 3-4 more hours a week than i did last year.
What is the biggest adjustment in making a successful transition?
The biggest adjustment for me is dealing with much fewer races, about 14 compared to the 27 I was doing in high school. Every race counts that much more and you have to put 100% into every race, there's really no adjustment or "warmup" period. Mentally, you just have to be in the zone every day. An 'off' day means you might not be on the carnival team the next weekend.
It has also taken me a while to realize that everyone on the college circuit puts in just as much training as I do and is just as focused, or else they wouldn't be on a college ski team. In high school, you can get ahead of your competition by training year-around (with MCN!) and putting in more hours and dedication than the rest of the field. In college, that's just not possible, which is great, but you also have to be patient with results and it can be frustrating. If you're patient and stay excited even with tough results, your work will pay off eventually (at least I hope!).
Is college racing more enjoyable than the Eastern Cup circuit?
For me, it seems exactly the same. Most college skiers ski in the eastern cups and so, in terms of people and level of skiing, it's like an eastern cup every weekend, which is really fun! It has been a little more relaxing/enjoyable because I'm skiing for my team and for myself, but not trying to qualify for Junior Olympics, which was really nerve-wracking for me. Although each race counts a lot because there are so few, it's not going to haunt you if you have a bad race (unless of course, you're trying to qualify for NCAAs...but i'm not there yet!)
I really enjoyed the friendships that I developed on the College circuit. Are you able to meet other skiers?
Definitely, although I've found that I already know so many from eastern cups. But I've met a few through pre-race season multi-team events, like the Williams-Middlebury-UVM bowlathon at thanksgiving camp. There is such a great camaraderie in skiing (something about having to suffer the same pain) and that is just enhanced in college skiing because, as I've said before, everyone who skis, skis because they love it and it's an important part of their lives. That's something that everyone has in common and it's easy to meet people and make friends when everyone has the same passion.
What's on the plus side and minus side of college skiing...
There are lot of pluses, but the biggest was having my ski team there for me right from the beginning. When you're a freshman and trying to make friends, it's so great to have a group of people who are automatically your friends and supporters and even if you're having a tough time adjusting, they're going to be there everyday for you and give you general advice on pretty much everything. My best friends are from the ski team and I think that is really common just because you spend so much time with them. However, that leads to the minus, which is that you do spend so much of your free time skiing/training. In the winter, I spend almost 4 hours skiing a day (including transportation) and that is so much time! It leaves you little time to hang out with other friends or get involved with other college activities..sometimes I feel like I'm skiing all the time and that is frustrating but it's more than worth it if you really love it and I do.
Other general comments?
After high school, I was burnt out with skiing and really questioned whether I wanted to ski in college. But I couldn't imagine my life without skiing and so i decided to ski and it was a great decision. It's not a decision to take lightly because it's a lot of work and leaves you little free time. That being said, college skiing is a blast and definitely don't be discouraged because you don't think you'll make the team etc...you never know what can happen and college skiing is about a lot more than just racing (i.e. making friends, getting outside, keeping off the freshman 15!) Also, if you're thinking about college skiing, you really need to get involved in Eastern Cups. Yeah, they're a lot of travel and money etc, but they're an incredible experience and gives you a glimpse of the level of training, dedication etc. that is necessary in college skiing. I wouldn't be prepared for college skiing if I hadn't gotten involved with the Eastern Cup Circuit.
Good luck with the end of this season!