Boys of the Hood
Their coaches call it a push-pull relationship. Wiley Maple and Sam Coffey dont get that specific about their friendly rivalry, only acknowledging that ever since they first met years ago theyve been chasing one another. For the past two years, its been Coffey just four months older than Maple doing most of the pursuing. On his best days, though, he can still beat his friend, pushing him to do better, ski faster, the next time he shoves out of the start gate. Or is it pulling?I was always faster when we were growing up he would always be chasing me, but this year and last year hes started to break through, Coffey said. Ill catch him, then hell come back and beat me. Its pretty good for the both of us.Two of the most promising young skiers in the country at 17, Coffey and Maple were chasing each other again last week at Oregons Mount Hood, pushing and pulling while learning from U.S. Ski Team coaches at an invite-only 10-day National Development System camp.Camp Grenada this was not. Both rose before daybreak each morning, trained on Mount Hood’s glacial snowfields from 6:45 to 11:30, ate lunch, then spent the afternoon training on dry land before hunkering down for classroom sessions after dinner. For two intense competitors, both with big dreams of one day racing on the World Cup, it was the perfect setting to continue their constant tug-of-war.”At the camp they said they were training us because they want to see us in the Junior World Championships in 2009,” said Maple, the top-ranked downhill skier his age in the country and the second-best in super G. “Personally, I’m hoping to make it earlier.””I thought it was great,” Coffey added of the camp, which ran through Friday. “I really got a good feel for the coaches and the team. They kept emphasizing that these are the kids you’re going to be with the next 10 years of your life racing with. Every day there was competition, even if it was just a fun game of soccer. It showed you who is really athletic and who is competitive.”
While both Coffey and Maple are best in the speed events, the camp focused on giant slalom, a technical event where both skiers admitted they need improvement.
Maple was slowed during the winter when he contracted mononucleosis and said his technical skiing suffered most.He got terribly sick in December while skiing in FIS races at Beaver Creek and didn’t ully recover until the J2 Junior Olympics in early March at Oregon’s Mount Bachelor.”I used to be really strong in the tech events, but with mono, I was pretty tired at the end of all the races because they require so much more movement,” Maple said. “With the speed events, there’s slower movements, and you can flow better.”With his strength finally back, Maple showed national team coaches his versatility at Mount Bachelor. He took gold in the downhill, a bronze and a silver in two super Gs, the silver in slalom and was sixth in the GS. Coffey was also impressive, besting his friend to win the first of two super Gs, as well as finishing ninth in the downhill and seventh in the other super G.The strong results earned both skiers bibs at the U.S. Alpine Championships at the end of March at Alaska’s Alyeska Resort, where Maple turned in the best finish among the two – a 24th in one of two downhills.Their strong seasons didn’t earn them discretionary nods to make the alpine team’s development roster, but it did get them invitations to the NDS camp in Oregon – an elite training ground for 18 of the top male skiers between the ages of 15 and 17.
“NDS is a step between the club program and our national team,” said competition director Walt Evans in a ski team press release . “We pull together the best athletes in each age group to focus on high quality and highly intense content. And we’ve got an outstanding group of coaches working with these kids.”If the two locals continue to progress, and add to their national and world rankings, more opportunities should come, Maple said. Both earned their first NorAm Cup downhill starts in February at Big Mountain, Montana, and will likely get more starts this season because of their results last winter. The NorAm Cup is one level below the World Cup circuit, and features all the best up-and-coming skiers from Canada and the U.S. At the NDS camp, they received coaching from 13 regional and national coaches, and U.S. Ski Team alumnae Jonna Mendes and Alex Krebs.”We did a lot of drills, just breaking down the basics,” Maple said. “Just finding our balance in a few gates, working on our times. The development team was actually up there, so we got to take a few runs with them and hang out with them. A couple of the guys came and talked to us and they said they were doing the same stuff.””More than anything,” Evans added, “we want them to understand that they are their own best coaches. So we’re trying to instill really solid skiing with them and give them a quiver of tools so that if they hit a slump, they know how to pull out of it.
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“They also will be able to take what they’ve learned here at the NDS camp and take it home with them.”Coffey left Oregon for a family vacation in North Carolina, but Maple, already back home, has already taken Evans’ words to heart.He has continued to do dry land training and also is taking Internet classes so he can take large chunks of next winter off from school, when he and Coffey will both be seniors at Aspen High.”I’m trying to get as much work in before the end of July when I go down to Chile for a regional [on-snow] camp,” he said.The chase continues.Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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