Twenty-two of the twenty-four students in Su Valley High’s cross-country ski team are loading into a bus today to make the overland trip to Valdez. It’s the largest ski team in Su-Valley history, and they’re headed for a weekend of fun and races at the Valdez Invitational.
The Su-Valley team will cross the Glenn highway to Valdez in a convoy of busses from other valley schools, and Ski coach Ed O’Connor says the trip is always an adventure, where students look forward to several hours crossing frozen Alaska, deep snows over Thompson pass, and a two-night sleep-over at the Eagles Hall in Valdez. Once they get there, Friday night’s event is a fun relay open to everyone. Competitive racing starts on Saturday morning, and then an open race takes place on Saturday afternoon. Every student must start the open race, O’Connor says. How long they stay in the race is up to them.
Because High-School athletics offer kids a chance to test themselves and learn skills that lead to success later in life, O’Connor says it’s important that students get used to starting races, just so they can learn how to deal with the nervous pre-race jitters. Learning to handle nervousness, he says, is part of being prepared for life.
O’Connor says this year the team has used a social approach to getting kids out on the ski trails. There are two groups of skiers, called the Go-Gos and the Co-Cos. The Go-Gos are students who are focused on the competitive side of skiing, improving their times and using their time on the trails to train for races. The Co-Cos are skiers who head out on the trails with friends for a social hour of playing in the snow, with less focus on competition and more focus on fun. And yes, there is occasionally hot co-co. O’Connor says this approach has brought more students into the club, and he hopes, will encourage them to develop habits that will have them on skis as a life-long activity.