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Vail Mountain grad Ellefson 4th at nationals

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailySylvan Ellefson was fourth in the 10K skate race at the NCAA Championships Wednesday
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BOZEMAN, Mont. ” Midway through Wednesday’s 10K freestyle NCAA Skiing Champi-onship, Sylvan Ellefson passed through the stadium and heard the announcer call his name.

” He said I was the 10th overall skier coming through,” said Ellefson, a Vail Mountain gradu-ate who is in his junior year at Bates College. “At that point, I was a little bummed because I was 11th last year and said there was no way I was going to be 11th again.

” My second lap wasn’t as technical as it should have been, but I put the hammer down.”

Ellefson started making up time in the individual-start race at Bozeman, Mont., and moved up to sixth place with about 1 kilometer to go.

” Basically, whatever I had left in me, I left out on the course,” Ellefson said. ” I had a really good sprint into the finish. I was guessing I finished anywhere from sixth to eighth.”

When the announcer ” Peter Graves, who also is the Harvard Nordic coach ” chimed back in, it was music to Ellefson’s ears.

” He got on the microphone and said, ‘ Ladies and gentle-men, we have Sylvan Ellefson in fourth place.’ It was amazing. I was overcome with emotion,” Ellefson said.

With his mother and grand-parents in attendance, Ellefson gave the Bobcats their best fin-ish since 1997, when U. S. Olympian Justin Freeman was third in a 10K classic.

“Our alpine team was out there cheering me on, too, and I was sitting down trying to recov-er in the finish area, and I heard all of them yelling at me. It seemed so surreal,” Ellefson said.

Ellefson owes a lot of his fin-ish to his fitness, but also credits another source.

“One of my best buddies at school ” his father just passed away, so I told myself I was going to race for him and my own father ( Lyndon). I was hap-py I ended up there, because I knew both of them would be proud of me.”

Ellefson’s finish Wednesday ” second among Americans ” was a year in the making.

” Last year when I was 11th, I was ( three- tenths) of a second out of All- American,” he said. ” That was the fuel for the fire for this year.”

But this season didn’t start out well for Ellefson.

” I was pretty sick early on,” he said. ” I was at nationals in January and had the flu and then got a bacteria infection in my lungs.”

After he registered for all the races and bought his plane ticket to Michi-gan for nationals, Ellefson spent the week ” includ-ing his 21st birthday ” in bed at his hotel. Ellefson missed a few more races but made it back for the final three competitions of the year, during which he found his form. After a fifth-place finish in one skate race, Ellefson won the final two of the year and took second in the final classic race of the season.

” It was hard because I hold really high expectations for myself, and I wasn’t where I thought I should be early in the season,” Ellefson said. ” I knew eventual-ly it would come around ” I wasn’t sure when ” but I was glad It did when it did.”

Ellefson entered Wednesday’s race as the top seed from the East.

” I was one of the last to start ” and back there with all the big guns,” Ellefson said. ” It was a lit-tle intimidating ” a lot of the guys are from Germany and Norway. But after today’s results and seeing how I can ski, it’s good to know where I stand.”

As one of only two Americans in the top 10 ” and the only Division III racer ” Ellefson also earned All-America honors. With his wins earlier in the season, Ellefson became the first Bates skier to capture Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association races, and was named first-team All East. Even though he missed several races, Ellef-son was still the top-ranked skier from an Eastern college this season.

On Friday, Ellefson will com-pete in the NCAA 20K classic race.

Ellefson said he may do one or two more races after the NCAA Championships.

This summer, he plans on liv-ing in Lake Placid, N.Y., where he’ll train with a friend. And with the way things have been going, Ellefson hopes to keep his career going even after next season.

“After this year coming together and hopefully next year goes well I’m going to see if I can be on a team ( after graduation),” Ellefson said. “One of my bud-dies from Middlebury came up with a plan to create our own team, so we’ll see how that works out.”

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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