The Mammoth Middle School Girls’ Cross Country team. (Photo courtesy Nancy Fiddler)
Programs taken under MMSA’s wing
Nancy Fiddler can finally breathe a sigh of relief. For the first time since she started the Nordic ski teams in Mammoth in 1993, she is able to share the weight of the winter program with Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.
That’s not to say that the volunteerism and involved parents over the years haven’t been a tremendous help, but the financial support as well as additional tools that go hand in hand with being in MMSA’s inner sanctum are expected to raise the bar of a program that already has a great reputation, and help push it to the next level.
“It’s great to know that someone else is watching out [for the program],” Fiddler, a Nordic Olympian explained. “And having Mark to use as a sounding board has also been really helpful,” she added, referring to Mark Brownlie, MMSA’s Managing Director of Athletics.
The catalyst for the change came two years ago when MMSA began helping Fiddler with her summer program for the Junior Competition Team, or the group of kids who train for Nordic races on a more elite level. These athletes dedicate themselves to the sport year-round rather than just December through February when the school races take place.
“That’s when everyone started talking,” Brownlie explained. “Before that [Nordic] had always been its own satellite and no one thought about bringing it all together under one roof.”
But once they did, it made sense. “Nordic is ideal in our environment,” Brownlie said. So the change was made last fall and has supplied Nordic athletes with a larger, paid coaching staff, better programming, more tools such as video cameras and waxing benches, and more; the same luxuries that the ski and snowboard teams under MMSA’s umbrella already enjoy.
“It is part of the bigger vision of MMSA and the Mammoth Mountain Community Foundation to provide athletic excellence,” said Brownlie, who also sits on the Mammoth Mountain Community Foundation’s Board. “We want to strengthen the Nordic faction by bringing it all together.”
The new set up puts the middle school and high school teams, as well as the Gliders (5-10 year olds), and the Junior Competition Team all within MMSA’s domain.
Currently, there are two young women on the Junior Competition Team, Joelle Romo and Laurel Fiddler (Nancy’s daughter). However, Nancy and Brownlie believe that streamlining the Nordic program will put it in the spotlight and subsequently develop a bigger feeder program for Junior Competition.
But first MMSA will need to gauge where the program stands now, something Brownlie believes can be accomplished after league races this Friday, Feb. 4.
“It’s our first home weekend event,” Brownlie explained. “We’ll have the home advantage and it will be a good measuring bar for where the program is and will help us evaluate for the next go-round.”
The Friday races are only open to middle and high school students. Schools from North and South Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Incline Village and more will attend to duke it out to get one step closer to a spot at State Championships, the culmination of the schools’ season that wraps up at the end of February.
If you want to support the middle and high school teams, cheer them on at their races, which begin at 11 a.m. and take place in the Lower Basin.
Then either compete or spectate on Sunday, Feb. 6 when Tamarack hosts the Allen Bard Memorial Race. The race is open to the public and acts as a qualifier for the Junior Nationals, the end goal for Joelle and Laurel.
Both events are classic races. Sunday’s races begin at 9:50 a.m. and registration is open until 9 a.m. on the same day. However, Tamarack XC Director Ueli Luthi recommends that racers allow at least 30 minutes from the Ski Center to the start of the race near Pokonobe Lodge in the Upper Lakes Basin.