Park City skier headlines US contingent at Nordic World Championships
by Torin Koos KSL News 1/27/15
PARK CITY, UT — At the U.S. cross country ski championships in Houghton, Michigan, snow kept falling, temperatures never hit double digits and Park City native Rosie Brennan kept winning titles.
"I'm really ecstatic," Brennan said in a telephone interview from Estonia after nationals. "It's been an incredible week. I couldn't have asked for more. That was by far the best race series I've ever had in my life.”
Brennan’s performances didn’t go unnoticed. Monday the U.S. Ski Team announced an extended itinerary to Brennan’s current international tour. She will race at the 2015 Nordic World Ski Championships that begin in mid-February in Falun, Sweden.
Brennan joins seven other women and eight men that will compete from February 18 to March 1.
While this will be Brennan’s first go-around at the world championships, the 26-year-old has shown the fitness and moxie to mix it up with the athletes at nordic skiing powerhouses like Russia, Sweden, Finland and Norway.
“I’m just so happy for her success now,” Park City Ski Team coach Gordon Lange said. “This has been a long time coming for her, these results.”
Brennan’s first coach added, “Rosie’s motivated. She got that belief within herself. She’s got that confidence that when she’s 100 percent those (international stars) aren’t any better than her.”
Four days after the U.S. Championships, Brennan was starting the World Cup in Otepaa, Estonia. She placed sixth in the second race of the weekend to pace the American contingent.
Racing outside the national team, international race starts are a rare commodity for athletes like Brennan. After the sixth place, Brennan didn’t even know to pick up her prize money.
“Wow, that World Cup check — that caught me by surprise,” Brennan said after the race. “But I’m obviously pretty psyched about that.”
This weekend on the World Cup, Brennan finished 13th in the 10 kilometer Saturday and 20th in Sunday’s 15 km in Rybinsk, Russia.
Academic studies and athletic performance
Since graduating from Park City High in 2007, academics and racing have kept Brennan away from home.
First, Brennan left Utah for Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. After graduation, Brennan moved to Anchorage, Alaska to pursue skiing and a masters degree focused on education.
“I love Park City — all of Utah, really,” Brennan said. “I still definitely consider Utah home. When I’m done racing, I’d love to move back to Utah and start teaching.”
Work in the native Alaskan communities
Brennan began visiting bush communities in Alaska’s far north. Last April brought her to Kaktovik, a small village on the northeastern edge of Alaska. Soon after, Brennan began turning her experience in the North Slope Borough into her masters thesis.
“I’m writing the school program curriculum for SkiKu, this non-profit that teaches kids in rural Alaska how to (cross country) ski,” Brennan said.
The non-profit’s founder Lars Flora said many college students approached him to work on the school curriculum project that better integrates sport into the native Alaskan communities. But only Brennan was “a perfect fit” according to Flora.
“Rosie’s so focused and determined to pull off her goals, I have total confidence in what she’s doing,” Flora said. “When kids learn something that they perceive as challenging and then they accomplish it, this creates a potent confidence within them. With Rosie excelling in academics and athletics, how kids identify with her is incredible.
“It’s so undervalued how good it is to bring athletes longterm into a school. For the communities we’re working with, there’s some of the highest suicide rates in the world. Theres certain social things going on in the villages volunteers like Rosie can make an even more lasting impact.”
Brennan first heard about SkiKu from other elite skiers who had visited the bush communities.
“I thought I really need to do this,” Brennan said. “I don’t foresee myself living in Alaska for the rest of my life, so I’m trying to make the most of the years that I’m here. I really wanted to see the parts of Alaska that were really remote, that you couldn’t reach by car. It’s also a way to spread skiing, something that I love.”
Outside the U.S. national team, but training with reigning world champion
These days, Brennan trains with Alaska Pacific University, where she’s finishing up her masters study this spring. Brennan’s APU teammate is reigning world champion Kikkan Randall.
Both Brennan and Randall (a four-time Olympian and former Salt Lake City resident) are coached by Erik Flora, a former University of Utah skier from the early 90s. In 2013, the U.S. Olympic Committee named Flora the national coach of the year. Not just in skiing, but all sports.
Perhaps it isn’t surprising that it was Randall who last pulled off a trifecta at U.S. nationals five years before.
Brennan and the legacy of 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in Utah
Brennan credits Lange and the Park City Ski Team for turning an impressionable teenager onto nordic skiing.
“Seeing the Olympics come to my hometown was so exciting. For those three weeks, we were out of school. I went and saw all these different events. This definitely inspired me to find a winter sport to become competitive in. I really wanted to embrace the winter sport culture I’d seen at the Olympics.”
Brennan first tried out for skeleton. On the cross country ski trails, though, she found her calling.
“Nordic skiing just clicked with me right away,” Brennan said. “I liked the idea of doing an endurance sport. I had never done something like that before. It’s cool to see, oh, you work really hard and then you get fast? This idea resonated with me.”
Since she left, nordic’s foothold has grown noticeably in Park City. Where once there only was skiing on the municipal golf course, now venues and many more kilometers of trails abound.
Brennan also races for Rossignol. While the ski company’s headquarters are in France, Rossignol’s North American home base is in Park City.
“It was pretty obvious that she was going to be something spectacular,” Rossignol’s nordic racing manager Paul Clarke said. “She’s just a great ambassador for the sport here. It’s really cool to see how the young generation, especially the young girls in Park City, identify with her.
“We’ve watched her the last couple years go through some pretty tough times and she’s battled through it all. We wish her all the best, especially at the World Champs.”
For Brennan, the darkest hour only has sixty minutes
Brennan breakthrough performances coincide with what she calls her most difficult time of her life: the unexpected death of her father last August.
“Obviously that changed my life forever,” Brennan said. It was only while taking long walks and runs in the Wasatch Mountains that Brennan found any peace with the loss.
“For whatever reason, getting out in the mountains was about the only time I felt good and had some clear thoughts in my head,” Brennan said. “Especially when I went harder, I found clarity. I actually started training pretty hard. At that point, I knew I had to keep racing. This was right for me. Doing this brought me the most happiness.”
The loss brought a new perspective to both her life and her sport career.
“Results didn’t really matter to me anymore,” Brennan said. “After you lose someone like your father, ski racing — it’s just… there’s so many more important things in life.
“My life, it’s still definitely a roller coaster. Somedays are very tough, somedays are easier. But I’m lucky. I have a family that’s really supportive. I’m only racing now because I love it and it makes me feel good.”
Spotlight on Rosie Brennan Courtesy: Dartmouth Release: 02/10/2011
It was all happening so quickly for Rosie Brennan. Like most kids growing up in Park City, Utah, she’d been an occasional recreational Alpine skier but she hadn’t skied cross country more than a couple of times until 8th grade. And even when she finally picked it up, it was only because her mom, Wiggy, was pushing her to do something in the winter after her gymnastics coach moved out of town and she gave up the sport.
It didn’t take long for her to catch on.
Three short years after picking up cross country skiing as a high school junior Brennan was surprising herself and shocking a lot of people in the tight-knit Nordic community by winning a couple of J1 races at Junior Nationals in Truckee, Calif.
Less than a year after that she was accepted early decision at Dartmouth, with every intention of skiing for the Big Green, which won the NCAA championship the spring of her senior year at Park City.
And then this: an invitation to join the U.S. National Team.
What to do? Put off college for a few years and dedicate herself to the dream of the Olympics and success on the world stage the way so many others had before her? Or take a scholarship at one of the big state school powerhouses and risk the chance of never skiing for her country, at least not while she was in school?
It was a tough call, and one that even today she rethinks on occasion. Fortunately for Brennan, however, it didn’t have to be one or the other. That’s something she came to appreciate on a visit to Dartmouth that got off to a less-than-auspicious start.
“To be perfectly honest I really didn’t want to come to Dartmouth when I first started thinking about college,” she said. “And my visit was horrible. It was April and sleeting out and I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is not what I was looking for.’
As a Westerner, she was used to towering peaks, wide-open spaces and powder. Spring sleet and all those pine trees blocking views of hills Easterners called mountains had her wondering what in the world her parents were thinking when they encouraged her to look at Dartmouth. Then she met with coach Cami Thompson and everything changed.
“I had a great meeting with Cami,” she said. “If you go to a state school and you get a scholarship to ski for them you are really there to race NCAA races, and you are there to help them win NCAA championships. While that was important to me I also wanted to develop as a skier for the U.S. I was interested in going to international races and racing some of the higher-level domestic races.
“Cami was really encouraging because she saw all of that as important. She explained that because you are a not a scholarship athlete the coach can focus on some of those other events and help get you to world juniors and whatever else. That was something I was encouraged by.”
Thompson sees that as Dartmouth’s somewhat unique niche and hopefully an attraction for elite young skiers.
“The bigger state scholarship schools bring in a few of the best athletes, from wherever, that they think are going to help win championships,” she said. “They carry small teams and expect a full commitment from those athletes. And then there are the smaller schools that have programs just for the love of college skiing.
“I think we are one of the few schools that tries to attract some of the best athletes and actually encourages them to think outside of skiing in college, and to pursue going to World Juniors, the U-23 Championships or World University Games, or to ski with the National Team.
“It doesn’t always make for the best results but we happily send those athletes out somewhere else like we did this year with Ida Sargent. I think that is how we attract some of the best athletes.”
Athletes like Rosie Brennan, a four-time NCAA All-American who last year could claim a second place in the NCAA Classical and a 16th place in the U-23 World Championship Sprint despite a knee injury that made training painful and would require surgery after the NCAA’s.
Although she lost her place on the US Team after her first two years at Dartmouth, Brennan is the rare elite skier on track to graduate college four years after finishing high school. While she’d eventually like to teach and coach, she is looking forward to finally putting all her energies into skiing after collecting her diploma this spring.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself and grown up a lot at Dartmouth, and that can only help my racing,” she said.
Her coach is confident that the skier who took a chance on Dartmouth has a bright future.
“It’s been a long recovery from surgery after NCAA’s last year but it is great to see her starting to come around,” said Thompson. “This may not be this season where she races the best she will ever race in her life, but I think she will continue to get faster as the season goes on.
“It will put her in a good position for next year, when she won’t have school anymore and she can just focus on skiing. She is fairly young as an endurance athlete so she still hasn’t reached her potential as an athlete.”
Here is an interview done by the U.S. Ski Team published December 3, 2008 on Fasterskier.com
Rosie Brennan is a native of Park City, Utah and began skiing in 8th grade. After a slow start as a J2, Brennan believes that she “really began to understand ski racing” in her first year as a J1 in 2005. She attributes much of her quick rise in the skiing arena to the support of her family, her close friend Tiffany Callahan during her junior years, and her coaches in Park City. In 2007-2008, while a student at Dartmouth University, and a member of the US Ski Team, Brennan finished 10th in the World Junior Sprint, 5th in the US National Sprint, 6th in the NCAA 5K Skate, and 7th in the NCAA 15K Classic. “Skiing is great because there are so many little things that everyone can improve,” Brennan believes. Brennan’s work ethic carries over into her life outside skiing as well; when she is not training, she spends her time studying and volunteering at a nearby elementary school. “The biggest challenge,” according to Brennan, is keeping “good communication between my coaches…and finding the balance between continuing to raise my level of skiing while going to school.” When Brennan retires from ski racing, she hopes to become a teacher.
Hometown: Park City, UT
Current Residence: Hanover, NH/ Park City, UT Ski
Club: Dartmouth Ski Team and Park City Nordic Ski Club
Status on U.S. Ski Team: Continental Cup team member
Height: 5’6” Weight: 145
Best Results: 10th 2007 World Junior Sprint 5th 2007 US National Sprint 6th 2008 NCAA 5k Skate 7th 2008 NCAA 15k Classic
Sponsors: Rossignol, One Way, Toko Full Interview
When did you start ski racing, and what were some highlights of your young skiing career?
I started skiing when I was in 8th grade. I was a first year J2 and had finally decided to give Nordic skiing a try after a year or so of my mom pushing me to do so. I was nothing special as a J2, but I did love skiing and began to put more and more time into it. Tiffany Callahan was one of the few other girls on the team and was much more experienced than I was and she did so much to help me along the way. We had a blast traveling to qualifiers and she taught me the ins and outs of racing and everything else that comes with it. As a first year J1, I had a great season. I started off a bit slow but things came together for me and I finished the year off with an outstanding JOs.
Where is your favorite place to ski, where is your favorite place to race, what is your favorite part of the season, what are your favorite ski conditions?
My favorite place to race is Donnor Pass outside of Truckee, CA. It is absolutely beautiful there and I have always had great races there. I also love skiing in West Yellowstone as it is the place I really learned how to ski. My favorite place to do intervals is Mill Creek Canyon which is in Salt Lake City. Racing on bomber klister is my absolute favorite.
What drives you to succeed at the highest possible level, and what are your short term and long-term goals as a skier?
I am driven by the desire to always improve and make myself better skier, to see how far I can push myself. Skiing is great because there are so many little things that everyone can improve. There is no one out there that has perfect technique or perfect training habits. There is always something you can work on everyday. I am struggle with technique a lot so I have put more focus into that, especially technique on gradual downhills.
Do you have any consistent training partners? Do you prefer training alone or with others?
Most of the time, I love having a training partner. This works well at school as I have a great team and always someone to train with.
What is your favorite on snow and dryland workout?
I have to admit, I love doing intervals. Moose Hooves are my favorite in the summer.
What do you enjoy doing besides skiing?
These days I spend a lot of time studying when I’m not training. I’m not sure I always enjoy studying, but that’s what I have decided to do. I volunteer at a nearby elementary school as well and I love working with kids and being in the classroom. It’s a blast. In the summer, I love doing all kinds of things outside with friends.
If you don’t end up ski racing for a career, how would you be employed? What is your dream job?
When I am done skiing I hope to become a teacher.
How long do you think you will ski professionally, if you do? What do you see yourself doing after you finish your ski career?
I plan to ski as long as I am having fun doing it and keep making some improvements. I will probably teach when I’m done, maybe go back to school, I don’t know, I haven’t really thought that far ahead….
How did you rise so quickly through the ranks of American skiers? Was there a specific turning point? Describe your training or other factors that have allowed you such success.
I just love skiing so much, I didn’t mind training and spending time focused on improving. I have always just set goals with my coach at the beginning of each season and worked toward those goals. Most years, I reached them. I have always had great coaches that have invested a lot of time into helping me get there and have had lots of support from my family that has allowed me to accomplish everything I can. I had large improvements most years as a junior skier, but I think in 2005 as a first year J1, I really began to understand ski racing and things came together quite quickly.
You ski in the incredibly powerful Dartmouth Skiing program. How has skiing for Dartmouth, and in the east, affected your skiing career?
I love skiing for Dartmouth. The program here is amazing. I have the opportunity to train with great people and to continue to improve in all aspects of skiing. Our coach, Cami Thompson, wants what’s best for us and gives me the chance to compete for both Dartmouth and the US Ski Team. It is a wonderful opportunity. As for the east… I am a wetsterner at heart and always will be, but Hanover is a great place to train. There is good running and good roads to roller-ski on. Oak Hill is a fun place to ski, but only if it snows. The weather gets my down sometimes, but bad weather does make you tougher. More than anything, I just miss looking at the mountains everyday.
Do you enjoy racing/competing in other sports during the offseason, or did you play other sports as a kid? What are some favorite non-skiing competitions?
I ran cross-country and track in high school. We had a great team and won a handful of state championships. It was a lot of fun and I miss cross-country, but focusing on skiing in college was definitely the right thing to do. I played soccer and did gymnastics as a little kid.
How do you pass the time while traveling? Do you have an essential item that you bring with you everywhere?
I always have my computer. These days, I spend most plane rides doing homework, but when I am not in school I watch movies or read magazines.
What does your diet consist of? Do you have a favorite pre-race dinner and breakfast? Do you enjoy eating foreign food when you travel?
Nutrition is a weak spot for me. I am rather picky. I do like trying foreign food on the road though. I love chocolate and eat it just about everyday. For a normal meal with my roommates, we pick a meat, a carb, and some veggies and mix them all together.
How has the transition to the U.S. Ski Team gone? Has there been a major change in your life?
It hasn’t been a huge change as I choose to continue on the path I choose before becoming a member of the team. The biggest challenge for me is to keep good communication between my college coach, my club coach, and the US Ski Team coaches and obviously finding the balance between continuing to raise my level of skiing while going to school is an inherent challenge.
Do you have a message for aspiring young skiers? How does a young skier get to where you are now?
You have to be having fun and hold a lot of passion for what you are doing. Set goals and go big, you never know what you’re capable of until you give it try.