Despite the lack of snow, Tonka Nordic Racing (TNR) is taking on summer in full flight. Holding captain's practices from June to August, TNR is staying in shape and working on techniques during the off-season, all while staying socially distant and safe."An old nordic adage is 'Skiers are made in the summer,' and while we are obviously missing a critical component of our normal training, the practices and training that we do during the off-season have a huge impact on our performance when we get to race on snow," says TNR captain, Austin Hunter. Hunter, a rising senior at MHS, was the sole representative from MHS at the state Nordi Ski meet in February and placed 66th out of 160 participants.
One might wonder how a ski team can practice during the summer, the answer is rollerskiing. Rollerskis are short skis with wheels at the ends that are meant to simulate real skiing. Skiers use poles, as they would on snow, and ski on paved roads and walkways.
"We spend a lot of time - particularly with underclassmen or newer skiers - working on building confidence on rollerskis," says Hunter.
One of TNR's main goals for this summer is something called "base building." Sean Kern, TNR head coach and MHS English teacher, says that "since Nordic skiing requires our bodies to work at high intensity for a long period of time, we need to work hard to improve our body's ability to clear waste products and work efficiently while exercising. We call this "base building."
Apart from technique and endurance, TNR hopes to have fun while they continue to practice. "One of my goals is to make this next year extra special and value every moment," says Hunter. "While it may be different than we are used to, I know there will still be so many ways for us to appreciate the opportunities to interact with teammates, push our bodies to their limits, and have a ton of fun."
One factor that adds to the difficulty of TNR's summer practices is COVID-19. While Nordic skiing is not a contact sport and skiers can train by themselves, the team has ensured safety by limiting the sharing of equipment and maintaining social distancing protocols. "While we can't fully know what is in store for us next season, these precautions will be a part of our winter training as well," says Coach Kern.
Despite the obstacles, practices have been successful and fun for all. "Summer training has been the best ever," says Coach Kern. "We have so many athletes participating of all different ages and skill levels. It has been really great to see the strong mentorship the upper-classmen and captains have demonstrated in helping our newer athletes."
For skiers, putting in the summer work has been rewarding, but doing it together has brought even more joy. "Watching the whole team work together and encourage one another has been super rewarding, as well as getting to see just how quickly everyone is picking it up," says Hunter. "I know that without the excitement, support, and camaraderie that we have seen between the whole team we would not be seeing anywhere near that same level of success."
Good luck to TNR and all student athletes working hard and staying safe during these difficult times!