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Joy around a homecooked meal
RUMFORD -- Young college students from Minnesota and a seasoned skier from the National Guard team relaxed Wednesday evening around a homecooked spaghetti dinner prepared by the owners of the bed and breakfast where they have been staying since Friday.
There were stories and laughter around the table which delighted Anne Morin and Barry Allen of the Mountain Spring Farm Bed and Breakfast.
Smiling as she spoke, Morin noted, "Look at the energy. You see the college skiers and Duncan (Douglas, National Guard team). It's a sport one can do for a long time. It's pretty nice."
Danielle Burgmeier, Anders Bowman, Jen Brabbit and Erica Hett of Saint Peter, MN attend Gustavus Adolphus College, a highly selective, private, coeducational, residential liberal arts college affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
Erica noted that the team calls themselves "The Gusties." At home, the team practices their technique at the local golf course.
Also staying here is Duncan Douglas, 44, also known later in life as the Jacked Up Old Man, who competed for the U.S. at two Winter Olympics in biathlon. He had never cross-country skied until college at St. Lawrence University but quickly was able to compete at the NCAA Championships and at the US Nationals.
Douglas, skiing for the National Guard team out of Vermont, skied on the U.S. Biathlon team for several years and then returned to school, at Boston University Medical School. During that time he also began competing in cycling and was nationally ranked in that sport as well for a time. The Jacked Up Old man continues to compete in masters competition in skiing and cycling, while still practicing medicine, and is married and a father of four.
Anders Bowman noted about Morin and Allen, "They are nice hosts. It's great to have a homecooked meal like this so we can just worry about skiing."
He added that there is also some down time. Bowman said he took in some television. The athletes are in bed by 9 p.m. and up at 6 a.m.
Allen noted however, "They're really dedicated, getting ready for the next day."
Bowman then added that "you have to strike a balance."
A day earlier, with the event postponed to Wednesday due to snow melt, The Gusties took a scenic drive over the border into Gorham, NH for a ski practice. Meanwhile, Douglas said he was able to take some time to visit Rumford Falls.
Much of the Minnseota team also attended the Nationals last year when they were held in Anchorage, AK.
In comparing last year's event in Alaska to being here in Maine, all repeated about how they had to ski in temperatures that were 30 degrees colder in 2010 to what they're seeing this year.
Bowman said in both places, the skiers need time to get comfortable with their surroundings before competition.
Douglas commended the effort of the Chisholm Ski Club, who is hosting the Nationals this year and in 2012. "They're doing a fantastic job. Sunday, it was really sloppy because of the melt, but once it got cold enough, they put together a good course. All the volunteers rallied together and pulled it off."
Brabbit noted that their team is here as part of a 10-team battle to win the mid-western conference.
Rumford is the first of six weekends in a series that includes teams from Green Bay, St. John, Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech. The top three individual scores are counted for each team.
Also, the conferences top eight males and top seven female will qualify to compete at the NCAA's in Vermont in March.
Brabbit said most of their meets take place in their region, with the furthest distance to compete being the Nationals.
The skiers described the Black Mountain course as being harder than it looks. Douglas added, "There's not a lot of time for rest in the skating race."
The skiers said the tough part about their sport, besides the different type of courses they encounter, are the conditions, which totally depend upon what Mother Nature provides them.
Interestingly, not only is a lot of time put into the type of wax on the skis to use for a race, but skiers have seven, 10 or even 15 different pairs of skis which vary in terms of flex and structure to cater to the different trail conditions.
Brabbit noted that their coach, Jed Friedrich, is also the wax tech, so if a race doesn't go well, he joked you can just blame it on the coach.
Brabbit said he also took some time to visit the small history museum at the Black Mountain Lodge, adding he was impressed by the long history of the Chisholm Ski Club, which is hosting this event.
"There are people who have been in the club 50 and 60 years. It shows how passionate they are about the sport."
Douglas compared the effort of the Chisholm Ski Club with the element of teamwork involved with sports.
"They've done an amazing job on a shoestring budget. They have to work as hard as the athletes to put on this event."
He added that while the organizers have had to work really hard up to now, "they'll have a lot of good memories once it's over."
All agreed that they want to come back to stay at the Mountain Spring Farm for next year's Nationals.
Between days at the U.S. Nationals, these skiers enjoy a homecooked spaghetti at their temporary home at Mountain Spring Farm Bed and Breakfast. Clockwise, from left, are Duncan Douglas of the National Guard team from Vermont, and Gustavus Adolphus College members of Saint Peter, MN -- Danielle Burgmeier, Anders Bowman, Jen Brabbit and Erica Hett. (Times photo by Bruce Farrin)