SSCV’s Elliott wins 15K at nationals
Vail, CO Colorado
RUMFORD, Maine – Aside from their “bro” talk and Colorado slang, Team HomeGrown knows how to get serious when it counts.
It might not seem that way when its athletes, like U.S. Ski Team members Tad Elliott and Noah Hoffman, jokingly hold hands. Most of Team HomeGrown thinks every race is “awesome” and “pretty sweet,” even if it isn’t their strength. That’s just their attitude.
In its third season as part of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, the team’s quiet intensity comes out on the course. During the 15K freestyle individual start at the 2012 U.S. Cross Country Championships on Thursday, head coach Dan Weiland said he didn’t give splits to all his racers; he saw several internalize the news from the stadium loudspeaker at Black Mountain.
The laid-back approach paired with fast skis and faster racers worked for Team HomeGrown, as Elliott won the 15K in 30 minutes, 18.8 seconds and one of the team’s founders, Sylvan Ellefson, finished third, 7.1 seconds back.
For Elliott as the first starter, feedback was critical. About two laps into the race with two to go, the 23-year-old heard he was in third. Hoffman was leading at the time and Ellefson was second.
Rather than feel flustered, the news put Elliott at ease.
“That’s pretty motivating to know that your teammates are sweeping the podium at that point,” Elliott said.
Even his coaches lost their cool a little bit.
“They were really fired up when that was going on,” Elliott said.
Ultimately, Matt Liebsch (Team Strong Heart/Team Birkie) kicked especially hard on the last two laps and finished second (2.6 seconds behind). After battling a cold since the weekend and missing Tuesday’s sprint, Liebsch said he found “fifth gear” heading into the last 3.26K lap. He also heard his wife’s voice in his head telling him to go.
“I was skiing for them today and really digging hard,” Liebsch said of his wife, Mary Beth, and two young children at his home in Minneapolis. “They’re sacrificing as a family for me to ski race.”
After leading for the first half of the race, Hoffman placed fourth. He said he tried to ski consistently and work on cues – such as getting better traction on the new manmade snow – but suffered near the end.
“I was hurting on the last lap in a big way,” Hoffman said.
While he preferred not to hear splits, Ellefson said it helped to know how his teammates were doing.
“I was going anywhere from first to fourth and getting splits a couple seconds ahead of Tad, a couple seconds behind Tad,” Ellefson said. “It’s comforting knowing that your teammates are up there.”
While he specifically tried to ski harder from the start and was second for nearly the first two laps, Ellefson said his legs tired in the second half. He was able to hang on and ski the last 3 k strong, he said.
This report was reprinted with permission from Fastskier.com.
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