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Runners become skiers at Park, Forest Lake

11/09/2013, 10:30pm CST
By AARON PAITICH, Special to the Star Tribune

At Park, Forest Lake and other schools, cross-country runners are taking off their shoes and stepping into skis.

Quinn Duffy


It’s easy for runners to slack off in the winter. Park of Cottage Grove’s Evan Bonneson knows it. But three years ago, he found a solution to maintain and improve his fitness, all while having fun with friends.

He joined the Nordic skiing program.

“It keeps you moving all throughout the winter, which is something a lot of guys forget to do,” Bonneson said. “If it’s really cold outside, you don’t want to go for a run. That sounds horrible.”

Bonneson, a senior, just finished his fourth season of cross-country. This past Monday, he already started running captain’s practice in anticipation of his third Nordic season for the Wolfpack.

He’s part of the trend that sees certain athletes participating in cross-country, Nordic and track and field — three sports that are compatible but still different.

“It’s kind of the distance trifecta that you see with a lot of the guys who go on to do great things in college and after that,” Bonneson said.

Both sports work a lot of the same leg muscles, but Nordic “brings out a whole school of different ones, including the inner legs. That’s always a whole new experience for most of the guys that come out,” Bonneson said.

At Forest Lake, 18 of a record 33 boys who ran cross-country this fall are coming out for Nordic skiing this winter.

Park girls’ and boys’ Nordic head coach Joe Wacker believes athletes shouldn’t specialize in one sport, and this is a great option with an easy transition between seasons.

“I think our best athletes come from doing multiple sports, even if the sports are similar, like cross-country running and skiing, where you’re building a base and aerobic threshold,” Wacker said.

Wacker is also cautious about burnout. Bonneson will take a few extra days off here and there while continuing lighter workouts before starting to ramp up again in a few weeks.

“They come to a point where they need to restart and hit the refresh button,” Wacker said. “Sometimes kids will burn out early or blow up during sections. You just have to be smart about it.”

Deno Johnson coaches the Forest Lake boys’ cross-country team along with both the boys’ and girls’ Nordic teams. He believes burnout is a concern, but they take many precautions. It also helps that Johnson is around the athletes for both seasons to oversee them.

“The athletes are very disciplined and are made well aware of the signs of fatigue and overtraining,” Johnson said. “Also, the kids understand the training principles and are closely monitored for signs of fatigue. Older athletes are also required to keep a personal training log as their training goes up exponentially in volume.”

Johnson praised the benefits of participating in both sports. Two of the Rangers girls’ cross-country state meet participants will also race in Nordic. Some standouts in both sports include freshman Miranda Overland, seventh-grader Regan Duffy and juniors Quinn Duffy and Leo Hipp.

Bonneson was “giddy” about potential snow accumulation heading toward Minnesota last week. There’s a different element to the sport that keeps him fresh and having fun.

“Unlike cross-country, you can go into every skiing race thinking it’s going to be a blast,” Bonneson said. “In cross-country, it’s not quite that way. Those races hurt. After you’re done with a cross-country race, it hurts. Skiing will hurt, but it’s a different hurt. It’s not mechanical. Your muscles might be sore, but your joints are fine. I can’t wait to get started.”

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