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Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2019
Catching up with the racers on a race day not meant to be
by Randy Pascal

In many parts of the province, the challenge in lengthening the competitive nordic ski season lies with a fundamental lack of snow. Sudbury, relatively speaking, need not endure this hardship.

In these parts, it's the dreaded thermometer that is (occasionally) the enemy. With the mercury not cresting above minus twenty degree Celsius two weekends ago, organizers at Walden Cross Country were forced to cancel a series of Ontario Cup races scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday in Naughton.

Not that this was going to halt the resilient local crew in their tracks. “At the beginning of the day, me, Kendyn (Mashinter) and Max (Mahaffy) all went out for a warm-up,” explained 18 year old Cameron Boland, the decision to cancel the day's activities now made official, following several delayed start times.

“Throughout the day, as it got closer to the new race time, we just kept warming up, making sure that we were ready.” Such is the passion that these young men and those of their ilk carry into their favourite athletic endeavour. Mind you, passion alone is hardly a recipe for competitive success.

“When I started skiing, my knees were kind of bent and the form was horrible,” recalled Boland with a smile. “Over the years, I've straightened up more and was able to get more fluent in moving each ski and getting my weight solidly on that ski.”

“I still need to work on getting up hills, making sure to always push at the top. But a lot more of it now is keeping the mental game going, as well as keeping the cardio and all of my form up. I also play soccer at a fairly high level, so I'm pretty good at getting into the zone on race day. But once I'm actually out there, cresting a hill and getting over it, it takes a lot of toughness to keep going until you get to a downhill and you can kind of relax.”

Boland, Mashinter and Mahaffy are not only teammates on a provincially elite Lo-Ellen Park Knights high-school team, one that is sure to make its mark at OFSAA again this winter, but also train side by side as members of the Sudbury Nordic Racers out of Walden.

“This is my first year with the club and I want to use it as a learning experience,” noted Mahaffy, a 16 year-old grade 11 student at the south end school. “There are so many new coaches this year that I've never had, and it's really great to get so much different advice. There's a lot to work on.”

Keeping it all straight is no walk through the park. “Some coach will say something and I'll go work on that,” said Mahaffy. “The next day, at club practice, I'll hear something different, so I've got to work on that. I think it's a little bit of choosing what feels right for you.”

The irony of the insight that the well-spoken teenager demonstrates towards nordic skiing lies in the fact that for the better part of his elementary school years, his primary focus was certainly competitive hockey, suiting up in the “AAA” ranks locally as he balanced a very busy sports calendar.

“I started skiing in grade nine with the same crew I was cross country running with,” said Mahaffy. “I wasn't really into it at first, but it's the same coaches (at Lo-Ellen), the same friends from running, so they influenced me. I ended up getting into it really quickly.”

“The cross training that we have been doing our whole life, doing multiple sports, they all kind of came together so well for nordic – the cardio from running and the strength from hockey.”

Only fittingly, Mahaffy would focus on “skate ski” training and racing for the past two years before venturing down the path of “classic nordic” this year. “It (the skate ski motion) is similar to the hockey stride, but there are so many differences that we have to learn and get used to. In hockey, you always want that strong, powerful stride.”

“In nordic, there's so many different strides that you can do. You want balance.” And a little co-operation from Mother Nature would be nice, as well.

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