Ski team works inside, outside to get ready for 2018 season
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The varsity boys and girls ski teams from Grayling High School have been practicing for a few weeks, getting ready for the 2018 season with both dry land training and outside hill work. The first meets for the squads were slated for this week and last week.
The skiers weren’t able to get on the hills right away when official practice sessions began in November, so they worked on conditioning and simulating skiing.
“Offseason dry land training does a couple things. It develops and strengthens muscles that are used in ski racing. We focus on timed training; our intervals are 35 seconds and we do that with the intention of matching an average race run. We are trying to simulate the workload that matches how long a typical race run would be. Dry land also establishes a work ethic, as well as an expectation. We didn’t have a complete team for a lot of our conditioning sessions because kids are involved in other activities, but the kids that were there really responded and worked hard,” Coach Brad Wagner said.
Coach Wagner said the varsity program has solid overall skier numbers and some competition for starting spots.
“Good numbers. We can only ski six so I like the fact that we have more than that. If we only had six, people might become complacent. I like the idea of our athletes pushing each other to get better. We have returning talent on both the boys’ and girls’ side with good upper class leadership, and we have a good mix of talent from freshmen and sophomores that will definitely play a role in scoring this season,” Coach Wagner said.
Coach Wagner said leadership is one of the squad’s strengths.
“A lot of these athletes have been involved in this sport for a while and they just know what needs to happen without asking. It helps to then focus energy on whatever specific task we have at hand,” Coach Wagner said.
The team was able to get outside and practice on the slopes at Hanson Hills and Schuss Mountain before its first meets of the season. The skiers worked on fundamentals.
“Once we hit the snow we have to focus on two different disciplines – slalom and giant slalom. Practices are usually focused on one of those disciplines at a time. There are a lot of carry-over skills that we can address every day, though, that are solid foundations for fundamental ski racing,” Coach Wagner said. “We use two different training hills; Hanson is a great slalom training hill and once a week we get to Schuss Mountain, which is a great (giant slalom) hill.”
“Main areas of focus are forward boot pressure, skiing a tight race line (the closer you ski to a gate, the shorter the course becomes), always looking ahead at least one turn, having the turn completed by the turn gate and already transitioning into the new turn. Plus, we plain and simple want to (ski fast). I want the skiers to find their red line and hang a couple of toes over that line. Just enough to make you pretty uncomfortable but not over that line which will put you in the ditch and leave most of your gear on the hill,” Coach Wagner said.
The Vikings have a Lake Michigan Conference meet slated for Jan. 11 at Boyne Mountain. On Jan. 16, Grayling will ski in a league meet at Schuss.
The Lake Michigan Conference has been a strong league for skiing in recent years.
“To call our conference a challenging ski conference is like calling The Big Lebowski ‘just some movie.’ Our conference consistently puts teams and individual athletes at the very top of the leaderboard,” Coach Wagner said. “I love being in it, although it’s frustrating to know that we may have better results if we skied in another region. It allows our kids to compete at the highest level in all of our meets. The sport is changing and more teams are co-oping, which makes it even more difficult to compete as only one school. I’ve always had a little chip on my shoulder about proving that good skiers can come from the smallest places and I like seeing that in our athletes.”
Wagner, longtime coach of the Grayling Middle School ski program, is in his first season as coach of the Grayling High School program. Wagner is also the varsity boys soccer coach for GHS.
“Personally it has been challenging. It’s difficult to coach two varsity sports. I love the interaction with the athletes and the chance to work with people who love what they’re doing and are willing to work hard for something. It makes the juice worth the squeeze,” Coach Wagner said.
Wagner said it’s the “organizational and management” aspects that create most of the challenge, but he does have assistants this year.
“I have a lot of help from Sheri Batway, who is helping coach, as well as Katie Olson, who is continuing to coach and develop the middle school program. The parents have also been a great help and support to make this whole bus roll on down the road. I wish we could just get on said bus and tell the driver to drive, but sometimes we all have to take a role in making it happen,” Coach Wagner said.