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Skiing to admirable second place finish

I keep hearing it on the news, over and over again about how lucky we are this year to be having a mild winter. Apparently, we are supposed to be happy.

Maybe you are happy, but for me and for others who love outdoor winter sports, this winter has been, well, not so good. The lack of snow it makes it hard to find places to ski.

Instead of the normal year when the ski team has ski meets in about 10 different towns, this year we had to drive all the way to Coleraine to compete at Mount Itasca five times in a row. Don't get me wrong, it's an all right place, and man made snow is a lot better than no snow, but even the best place would get old five times in a row.

Fortunately, toward the end of the season we were able to hold races right in our backyard at Maplelag and Rainbow Resort, my two favorite places to Nordic ski.

For me, it was more than the lack of snow that made this ski season start off rough. In a normal year, I get a bunch of skiing in early, before the race season really gets going. With no early snow, I just couldn't get my "ski legs." As a consequence, those early races didn't go so well.

After every race I was left with the feeling of disappointment, like I could have or should have done better. To top it off, I developed a case of shin splints, maybe from all of the running we were doing at practice to stay in shape while we waited for snow.

Toward the end of the season, things started to turn for the better. I started to get higher placings. My attitude improved, as did my legs once Dr. Johnson treated my shin splints and recommended those arch supports for my skate boots.

The day of the North Star Conference race at Rainbow Resort, I knew I was favored, actually expected to win. Last year, I finished in second place. This was my year. It was a classic race (my strong suit), and I was completely ready.

Before the race, the kick wax was a little iffy because of the varying temperatures and snow conditions. When my coach, Dan, finally perfected the kick wax, I knew it was going to be my day. By the first hill, I was way ahead of everybody. At the finish line, I looked back and nobody was there. Turns out I beat the second place finisher by 55 seconds, an eternity in ski racing. Obviously, I was extremely happy.

For the awards that day, we picked random things from a paper grocery bag. A bit strange, I know. Being first place, I chose first. Compared to the other awards, I was lucky -- a coffee cup is way better than candy or a paper snake.

Next came the Section Eight Championship at Maplelag, the race to determine who qualified for the state championship. The night before the meet, I was nearing the status of a nervous wreck. I made it to state the past two years, and I sure as heck didn't want to blow my chance to tie my brother Dylan and qualify three times in a row.

Since this hadn't been my best year at skate, my dad and others were telling me that I would have to work my rear-end off in the skate race just to qualify. I needed to be at least in the top 10 in the skate race or I would risk needing to make up too many places in the classic race that followed.


I knew what I had to do and I knew I would do it. Still, I was so nervous that I would disappoint people I could barely sleep on that Monday night.

Tuesday rolled in and I felt like puking. Great. As the skate race grew near, I began to ease up a bit. "I can do this. I can beat them" was going through my head the whole time. When the race finally started, I just let fly. What a relief; the game was on. By the finish line, not only did I make my top 10, I was in fifth place, only 19 seconds off of the leader and in great position to capitalize on my strength in the classic race.

As I waited for those 19 seconds to tick off the starting clock after the leader started, I knew this would be my day. Far from just qualifying, I was going to show my dad and my coach that I belonged with the best, that my skate race was no fluke. Sure enough, not two hundred meters into a 5km race, I had passed three of the four girls in front of me.

By the end of the race, those 19 seconds that separated me from the lead girl, who just happens to be a good friend of mine from Little Falls, were cut down by 11 seconds. Maria beat me by eight seconds and I give her all of the credit in the world; she is a great skier and our section champion.

But, I am proud to say I dug deep; I gave it my all. Second place may not sound like a win to you, but I know I laid it all out. I know I did my best.

Berit Ramstad Skoyles is a sophomore at Detroit Lakes High School.