Edina skiers accomplish great feats on the national level

Mia DiLorenzo, freshman apprentice

Edina High School freshmen Virginia Higgins and Will Utendorfer are described by coaches and peers as relentless when it comes to pursuing their goals. It isn’t surprising that both of these EHS alpine skiers qualified for the prestigious Canadian American Challenge Cup race in Sugarloaf, Maine last spring. The skiers compete for Team Gilboa, a Bloomington-based club team that practices 8 hours a week at Hyland Hills.

Prior to the Canadian American Challenge Cup (referred to as Can Ams), Higgins and Utendorfer had never experienced an international race. To qualify for Can Ams, one must first qualify for the U14 Junior Championships in Steamboat Springs, Colorado where the Rocky region competes against the Central region. Rocky is comprised of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Wyoming, with Central encompassing both of the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan.

At the Rocky/Central Junior Championships, one must be consistent in all the events, finishing in the top 5 overall to qualify for Can Ams. Typically, the Rocky division and the Central division are competitors vying for the highest amount of points at the race. However, at Can Ams, the two regions combine as one. “When you go out to Junior Championships you feel like you’re continuously going against them. They don’t really feel like your teammates and you feel like you need to beat them. But when you go out to Can Ams, you really do get to know each other and you are all on the same team. You come together as Rocky/Central,” Higgins said.

While the ski world does seem glamorous at first glance, it doesn’t come without difficulty. “In the winter, I don’t really hang out with friends unless they’re ski friends because you’re skiing 4-5 nights a week and then on the weekends you have races. With academics, you just have to grind when you get home from school,” Utendorfer said. The pair explained that with camps and out-of-state races, the school you miss catches up to you fast. “It is really tough, especially with traveling. It was a lot easier in middle school but with the [EHS] attendance policy it’ll be tough. For some of the bigger trips I even start homework a month in advance,” Higgins said.

Utendorfer and Higgins are members of the Federation International de Ski or FIS Prep Program at Team Gilboa. The FIS Prep program is designed to train racers to compete at the national level, preparing them for the highly competitive FIS program. FIS Prep racers will train in Colorado two times a month during the season, and consequently, they miss a lot of school. Both athletes explained that the stress of schoolwork and skiing can be overwhelming. However, they both expressed how the stress was worth it in the end. “Sometimes when I get back I’ll just be like ‘I have seven tests tomorrow’ and it’s hard. But it’s all worth it, you know—what you get to be doing, where you get to go, and who you get to be with,” Higgins said.

art by Tiffany Qian