The sounds of roller skis on asphalt echoed through the Northwoods of Wisconsin as athletes came together for a pair of Central Cross Country Skiing camps in mid-July. The invitation-only camps brought together some of CXC’s best U16, U18 and U20 athletes for a Regional Elite Group camp, plus top U14’s for the mid-summer Dream Camp.
Around 40 athletes from over a dozen clubs participated in the mid-July camp including a select group of 17 Regional Elite Group athletes plus around two-dozen U14 athletes who qualified for CXC’s Dream Camp.
The camp was based at the legendary Lakewoods Resort on the shores of Lake Namakagon east of Cable. There was a great early morning scene with shoreline dryland workouts every day before athletes hit the breakfast buffet. Then it was off to locations around the region for hill bounding, trail runs and roller skiing.
“Getting the best athletes from our region together in the summer time to train dryland together will help us help these athletes to make strides forward to reach their skiing goals,” said CXC Junior Development Coach Joe Haggenmiller. “This camp is one of the foundational pieces in preparing our athletes to make US Ski Team trips and go on to compete on the international stage.”
The REG Camp is designed for the elite junior athletes in Central who have been identified through results. It provides an opportunity for them to come together as a team to learn from each other and to provide a good regional point of contact for top club athletes. Similarly, the U14 Dream Camp is generally one of the first opportunities for younger athletes to get experience training with their peer athletes from other CXC clubs.
The REG athletes came from clubs across CXC, with a high level of training activities under the watchful eye of U.S. Ski Team Development Coach Bryan Fish – a CXC coaching alum himself. Fish played an active role at the camp, working closely with CXC staff in development of the camp program and overseeing all facets for the REG athletes. The REG camp also served as a component of selection for athletes towards the National Elite Group training camp this fall in Park City.
“Exposure to U.S. Ski Team methods and philosophies is a big benefit of the camps,” said Haggenmiller. “These athletes should feel much more comfortable working with Bryan on a trip he leads if they make an international trip.”
The Dream Camp athletes also came from clubs across the region with coach Kris Hanson of the 4591 Ski Club leading the charge as the head coach. She and her staff of Reitler Hodgert and Bruce Manske helped prepare these younger athletes for the future.
“Dream Camp is the initial qualifying experience in cross country skiing for our CXC U14ers,” said Haggenmiller. “They see it as an honor and an opportunity to get better and chase their skiing dreams.”
One of the most exciting and productive sessions in the camp was a roller ski agility drill at Drummond High School. Coaches use nearly every inch of the huge parking lot to create what was an obstacle course of sorts for roller skis. It featured jumps over 2×2 boards, hops up onto sidewalks, roller ski slalom, forwards and backwards skiing plus some turf skiing followed by a quick duck under an obstacle. It was time-based with penalties for missing obstacles.
“It’s great as a coach to watch a training activity like the agility drill to see how athletes approach new challenges,” said Fish. “And it’s gratifying to see the progress they make through repetitive skill-building training on the course.”
The REG and Dream Camp participants came together every day for morning workouts, meals and social activities. The schedule allowed for different level workouts given their varying age and skill development, but brought them together for role model development. They also had an opportunity to compete together in the uphill run time trial with the REG group going 3.9K and the Dream Camp going 2.6K. Both groups also time trialed the agility course with the REG group also doing a double pole time trial. Most roller ski sessions included video clip viewing beforehand and drills with technique evaluation from coaches.
Evening chalk talks inside provided them unique insights from coaches, including Fish and Haggenmiller, as well as a session on how to best promote themselves and their sport.
“Every morning we wake up early and got to do some exercises to get our body loose, in motion and ready for workouts later,” said Regan Duffy (Forest Lake, Minn.) of the Ski Farm Club. “We focused on specific techniques every day to improve ourselves as skiers. The biggest benefit for me was to get to train with new athletes. There are a lot of great and competitive skiers here. To have them push me is really beneficial.”
Coach Haggenmiller echoed her point. “Having the ability to train with your peers from other clubs helps challenge you as an athlete and gives you the ability to learn new ways to improve.”
Duffy spoke about how initially the agility roller ski course had some people scared but that everyone, including herself, just got down to it and learned. “It takes some fast feet,” she added laughing.
“I really enjoyed the agility course. It was challenging but a lot of fun,” said Mara McCollor. “Training with people from the region you don’t see that often – people who push you in a different way than the people in your hometown. And the coaching has been great here.”
That feeling was echoed by other athletes attending the camps.
“There have been a lot of benefits this week,” said. Ryan Mead (Forest Lake, Minn.) with Univ. of Wisconsin-Green Bay. “ I don’t get a lot of personal focus on me and this week I had a lot of coaches help me with things I’m not really familiar with and that’s been really helpful with my technique.”
Athletes from the camps will return now to train with their local club programs, bringing valuable knowledge from their week in the Wisconsin Northwoods.