It’s a big year for the SVSEF Cross Country Gold Team athletes. Although months away, the 2018 Winter Olympics are doubtless on the minds of many, as they stand as a pinnacle of success. The Olympics are not a short-term, spur-of-the-moment goal; competing at the international level takes commitment, as well as requisite competitive results. SVSEF Gold Team athletes have the potential, with their racing success and their dedication to the sport, to make Olympic dreams a reality.
The Gold Team was incorporated into SVSEF in 2005 as a way to support our athletes in their quest to achieve success at both the national and international levels. Athletes receive financial assistance and access to top-tier training environments; in turn, their involvement in the local community encourages healthy, active lifestyles for younger SVSEF athletes, as well as heightened awareness and support of snowsports.
This year’s team is a veteran squad – with six returning athletes and only one new addition, Gold Team Head Coach Chris Mallory pinpointed goals for the team this season, and touched on the benefits of having a tight-knit training group. “This group is poised to have significant success nationally and internationally. We’re looking for a strong start to the season, so we can have our athletes get more international experience and World Cup starts over the second half of the season. These athletes have been pushing each other in training all summer, and that’s what you need to collectively raise the level of performance.”
Returning to the team are Rogan Brown, Matt Gelso, Jack Hegman, Cole Morgan, Kelsey Phinney and Mary Rose. The newest addition to the squad is Kevin Bolger, 24, who skied previously with SVSEF as a junior racer. Kevin garnered national recognition last season, when he won the classic sprint at U.S. Nationals against a field of top collegiate and professional athletes. He comes off a strong career at the University of Utah; as a Ute, Kevin qualified four times for NCAAs, and was a two-time All-American.
Rogan Brown, 25, grew up skiing in Durango, Colorado, before earning his bachelor’s in mathematics from the University of Vermont, where he was a member of the ski team. A strong distance skier, Rogan took home two seventh place finishes at the 2017 U.S. National Championships, in the 30-kilometer classic race and the 15-kilometer skate.
Matt Gelso, 29, has been skiing with the SVSEF Gold Team for seven years, following a successful career at the University of Colorado. During the 2016/17 season, he represented the United States at World Cup races in Pyeongchang, the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics, as well as at World Cup Finals in Quebec City. As a result of his exceptional results on the U.S. Super Tour circuit, Matt earned the opportunity to represent SVSEF and the U.S. at midseason World Cup races in Europe. He comes into the 2017/18 with a wealth of experience, having competed for the U.S. internationally, as well as having seen success at the national level; Matt has earned multiple top-three results at U.S. Nationals, and has won an NCAA Championship.
Jack Hegman, 23, another University of Vermont alumni, had a strong first season with the Gold Team in 2016/17. A versatile skier, he posted two top-ten finishes at U.S. Nationals this past January. Jack was selected to represent the U.S. at U23 World Championships, where he skied to 11th place overall in the 30km skiathlon. Jack asserted himself as a top competitor last season, culminating in qualification to represent the U.S. at World Cup Finals in Quebec City.
Cole Morgan, 23, also a former junior skier with SVSEF, had his best season to date last year, earning the right to represent the U.S. at U23 World Championships. He was on the podium at U.S. Nationals, and posted a top-ten result at U23 Worlds. Cole was also selected to represent the U.S. at FIS World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland. All of this success earned him the right to compete at World Cup Finals in Quebec City.
Mary Rose, 26, grew up skiing for Steamboat Springs and then for the University of Colorado at Boulder. She has represented SVSEF and the U.S. at U23 World Championships, multiple Scandinavian Cup races, Europa Cup races and Europa (OPA) Cup Finals. Domestically, Mary has been successful at U.S. Nationals, with two top-ten finishes, as well as on the SuperTour circuit, with a win and a second place finish. At the 2017 Nor-Am Cup in Canmore, Alberta, Mary took second place in the 10 kilometer classic.
In her first season with the Gold Team, Middlebury College graduate Kelsey Phinney, 23, qualified to represent the U.S. at U23 World Championships. At U.S. Nationals, she was the fifth American woman in the skate sprint, and the top U23 athlete. At U23 Worlds, Kelsey powered past the international competition to 16th place overall in the skate sprint. She saw more international competition in Latvia, where she participated in Scandinavian Cup races; her top result was ninth in a skate sprint, against many women who are World Cup ski racers.
The season is off to a strong start already, with half the team coming off two and a half weeks on snow in New Zealand. Said Mallory on what’s coming down the pike, “we’re now entering a time of year where our focus intensifies as our team builds towards the start of the competitive season. We’ll head down to Park City for a joint training camp with the National Team in a few weeks, and then head to Canmore for early-season on-snow training before the racing kicks off in West Yellowstone in November.”
With sights set on high-caliber national and international competition, financial support is essential for Gold Team athletes to help with the high demands that come naturally with the sport of cross country skiing – substantial time commitment, equipment costs, and travel fares, to name a few. The Golf for Gold fundraiser takes place this Thursday, September 14, with all proceeds from the event going to the Gold Team. If you would like to learn more about how to support these athletes in their endeavors, please visit svsef.org or call the office at (208) 726-4129.