Tad Elliott’s win at the U.S. Cross Country Championships inspires club
EAGLE COUNTY — Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Nordic skier Tad Elliott is the latest in a long line of local athletes to embody the comeback spirit.
After winning the national championships last week in the 30K Mass Start Skate race, Elliott leaves little doubt in the minds of his competitors that he has recovered after a long bout with mono and auto-immune disorders.
And at 27 years old, he still has a lot of skating in front of him.
With so much support along the way from his parents, and the win arriving on his mother’s birthday Jan. 7, a win for his whole family it certainly was.
But it was also a big win for his team at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and the club’s many coaches and athletes. With more than 90 cross-country skiers now in the Nordic program at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, it has seen tremendous growth in recent years. Program director Dan Weiland said the team was inspired by Tad winning.
“Tad showed the SSCV squad if you keep with it and work hard, you can win,” Weiland said. “I wish he would have won earlier in the week — the win put energy back into our squad which had somewhat of a tough week at U.S. nationals.”
RESILIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE
Elliott’s result has further instilled a theme of resilience and perseverance among the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Nordic squad.
Also at the national championships last week, 16-year-old Maddie Donovan, of Edwards, participated in only her third race of the season after recently having her appendix taken out. She ending up finishing 29th in the nation among her age group of 16-17 year olds.
“That also took lots of hard work and grit,” Weiland said.
Other highlights included local juniors Nolan Herzog, 16, and Gracie Shanley, 15, exceeding expectations in their first ever national championship races.
“This type of experience sets junior competitors up well for junior nationals,” Weiland said, “as well as going back to U.S. Cross Country Championships next year.”
‘IT’S A TEAM WIN’
When Elliott returned to Vail last spring to ramp up his training for nationals, he was invited into the home of locals Linda and Matt McDonald, parents of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail alumnus Parker McDonald.
“That was another example of the support I have received in this community,” Elliott said. “ I would not have been able to win without the support of the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail.”
Originally from Durango, Elliott joined Ski & Snowboard Club Vail in his early 20s while on the U.S. Cross Country Team and skied with Team Home Grown contemporaries Noah Hoffman and Sylvan Ellefson. He was on the U.S. team for a few years and trying to make the Sochi Olympics when his bout with mono began. He went 9 months hardly leaving his bed — devastating for an endurance athlete — and went on to suffer auto-immune disorders resulting from the mono. For nearly two years, he was in and out of the hospital. He said through it all, Weiland and Ski & Snowboard Club Vail coach Eric Pepper, along with Elliott’s brother Evan, never gave up on him as a Nordic athlete.
“Even though I was not renamed to the U.S. Cross Country Team and even though I had health issues and no results for two years, Dan let me live with him if I needed a place to stay, and Dan and Eric stuck with me and believed in me,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a team win, not just my win.
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Director of Communications Sharon Schmidt contributed to this report.