Local 15-year-old cross country skier, Bailey Johnson returned from Thunder Bay, Ontario this past week where she spent nine days competing in the Cross-Country Skiing National competition where she placed fourth in her age group.
The Hunting Hills High School sophomore said she was thrilled to be back home after a grueling and rigorous race schedule at the elite competition, which was comprised of four practice races and four real races.
Johnson, who skies out of the Red Deer Nordic Ski Club, explained she had a mixture of results during her time in Ontario including a tough start where she encountered an unexpected crash in her first race which left her in 37th at the end of the course.
The following days she saw better results with two fifth place finishes and a 12th place finish.
With nationals wrapped up, Johnson’s season comes to an end however she added it was one of her best to date.
With her season beginning as soon as the snow falls – usually the end of October – she trains six days a week straight until the end of March. Her grueling training schedule means it’s often challenging to find time to be a 15-year-old teenager. She adding that she doesn’t get to see her friends outside of school much during the season.
“But it’s not so bad because I also have my ski friends, and I get to see them when I go to races,” she said on the challenges of racing at such a competitive level. She added that her course load also offers challenges. “It’s definitely gotten harder this year because I’m taking some Grade 11 courses and it’s a challenge to get caught up after a big weekend like nationals.”
Overall Johnson said her season was a successful one in which she placed first in four out of 10 of the Alberta Cup races throughout the season as well as two second place finishes and one fourth place finish during Westerns.
She explained her love of the sport comes from the intensity and mental aspect present in the races.
“When it comes to big races like nationals, it’s anyone’s race – everyone who is there is an incredible athlete and is there for a reason, but what it comes down to is who wants it the most,” explained Johnson.
“I’ve definitely had days where mentally I wasn’t as in it as much as I could’ve been and I didn’t get the results I wanted but then there’s also the days where you have these killer races where you just want it so badly.”
She credits the Alberta Sports Development Centre, based out of Red Deer, for helping her to hone in on her mental game. Since becoming a member of the centre she has partaken in a number of sessions to help her compete at a higher level including sessions on nutrition, self-talk, and mental training. She also wished to thank her coach Lauren Brookes as well as her assistant coach and father, Brian Johnson who got her into skiing 10 years ago.
“It’s all about the intensity,” said Bailey. “That’s why I like shorter sprints more than the long distance endurance races – I think because there is that intensity present.”
While the month of April is a break in her training she begins her off-season work again in May which includes a volume of cross training activities such as cross-country running, track and field through her school and this year she hopes to make the high school soccer team.
For more information on getting involved with cross-country skiing in Red Deer visit the Red Deer Nordic Ski Club’s web site at www.reddeernordic.com and for more information on training opportunities with the Alberta Sports Development Centre visit www.asdccentral.ca.