The ski season is just getting started, but for 14 University of Wyoming students and their three coaches, it’s been well underway since summer. While they’ve not had much snow, members of the UW Nordic Ski Club have been training ever since they found out they’ll be representing the United States at the World University Games in Trentino, Italy.
The team leaves for Italy on Dec. 8 with competition kicking off Dec. 11. Between now and then, the group heads to Winter Park, where there’s enough snow for them to get some serious on-the-snow training.
“It’s been hard to be ready this early,” co-head coach Rachel Watson said. “But it is mostly very exciting and it’s just a wonderful opportunity for everyone.”
Also known as the Winter Universiade, the event is an international sporting and cultural festival staged every two years in a different country. It is said to be second in importance only to the Winter Olympic Games and often allows a country to prove it can put on elite-level competition before attempting to make a bid to host the Winter Olympics.
This is the second time the UW team was selected to represent the USA in this international competition that involves 3,000 athletes from 59 countries. In 2010 the team competed as Team USA in Erurum, Turkey.
The 2013 Winter Universiade was initially slated to be held in Maribor, Slovenia. Because of funding problems and serious delays in facility construction, the games were rescheduled last winter to be held this December in Italy.
The change in date played well for the UW team. Watson said that had the Games been held last season, another team likely would have been asked to go since they placed ahead of UW at the United States Collegiate Ski Association’s national competition in 2012.
“But we came out on top for the men and second for the women in 2013,” she said. “For that reason, we were selected to represent the United States. It was just how the snowball rolled, and it came out in our favor.”
Christi Boggs is the other co-head coach and the assistant coach is Anna Scofield, a UW Nordic Club alum who currently lives in Mammoth, Calif. Also assisting with wax and ski preparation will be Ernest and Evelyn Boggs, Christi’s parents, who live in Colorado.
Watson said one improvement this year over their experience in Turkey is the fact that they’ll be staying closer to the venue where they’ll be racing which is in the Val di Fiemme or Fiemme Valley.
“In Turkey we were an hour away and, for that reason, as coaches we didn’t get to spend as much time with our athletes,” Watson said. While there was an actual athlete’s village in Turkey, in Italy the competitors will be spread throughout the area in individual motels.
“The athletes will miss the excitement of being around all the other competitors,” Watson said. “But our motel is much closer to our skiing venue and that will be very helpful.”
Kyle Bochanski, president of the UW Nordic Ski Club, almost has to pinch himself to make sure he’s not dreaming when he thinks about going to Italy. Bochanski said he’s been focused for so long on the intense training required to prepare for such elite competition that he’s just now able to also appreciate the opportunity to go to the games with his fellow UW skiers.
“Being able to be part of an event such as this is pretty unbelievable,” he said. “While I’m absolutely excited to travel and compete internationally, I see it more as another opportunity to share an incredible experience with others.”
In addition to all the training, the team has been working to raise $50,000 to make the trip. Watson said they are near their goal but still welcome donations. Information on making donations is available on the ski club website at www.uwyo.edu/ski/.
Members of the UW ski club competing in Italy are Samuel Wiswell, Jackson; Sierra Jech, Cody; Sarah Johnson, Duluth, Minn., Catherine Schmidt, Laramie; Brita Shroeter, Ironwood, Mich; Kyle Bochanski, Fairfax, Vt.; Shanna McCleary, Elise Sulser, Bridget Weiner, Nathan Hough, Patrick Rodgers and Taylor Vignaroli, all from Casper; Sindre Solvang, Cheyenne; and William Via, Fairbanks, Alaska.