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Dartmouth Grad Sargent Learning, Enjoying Life on U.S. World Cup Squad

Dartmouth graduate Ida Sargent (18) starts her team sprint semifinal heat with United States teammate Jessie Diggins in pursuit during a Dec. 12 World Cup race in Quebec City. Sargent, an Orleans, Vt., native, is competing on the World Cup circuit just months after graduating.(Peggy Shinn photograph)

Dartmouth graduate Ida Sargent (18) starts her team sprint semifinal heat with United States teammate Jessie Diggins in pursuit during a Dec. 12 World Cup race in Quebec City. Sargent, an Orleans, Vt., native, is competing on the World Cup circuit just months after graduating.(Peggy Shinn photograph)

Ida Sargent is learning to take the good with the bad.

The 2012 Dartmouth grad spent last weekend at the World Cup cross country ski sprints in Quebec City. Though she crashed twice in the final, Sargent was happy to just make her first World Cup team sprint final.

In the 12-lap race, where each team member skied two laps, then handed off to her teammate three times, Sargent and teammate Holly Brooks finished ninth, 36 seconds back from winners and fellow U.S. Ski Teamers Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins.

“Sometimes I have to stop and think even if I have a day like today, where I fell three times in one race, it’s important to be like this is really fun. I’m in Quebec City racing with awesome teammates with a ton of friends and family cheering me on in a World Cup,” Sargent said after the final. “So it’s pretty amazing. I feel really lucky.”

For Sargent, a 24-year-old from Orleans, Vt., competing in a team sprint final marks another step in her steady progression up the World Cup standings. Last February, she earned her first World Cup points and helped the U.S. women take a best-ever fifth place in a 20-kilometer relay in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. And she credits her teammates with helping her get there.

“Our team chemistry has been amazing this year, and definitely a huge part of the success of the group,” said Sargent via email after the Nove Mesto relay. “Everyone is very supportive of each other, and we just have a lot of fun. … With a team of such strong skiers, there is always someone who is having a good day and skiing fast, so we all feed off that positive energy. 

“Skiing with these girls has been incredibly beneficial for my own training and racing. They are all really inspiring, so I’m very grateful to be part of this team.”

Sargent skied for the Big Green for three years, with 2010 serving as her best season. With her blonde hair dyed bright pink — a Dartmouth tradition, she said — Sargent took fourth in the sprint at the U23 World Championships, then swept through the Carnival races that February, winning three races and finishing top three in two others. Though she had a disappointing NCAAs that year (finishing no higher than 20th), she went on to beat Randall in a SuperTour sprint later in March 2010.

Sargent made her World Cup debut in November 2010 and thrived on a team that knew how to compete hard while still having a good time.

It’s an atmosphere similar to what Sargent experienced on the Big Green ski team.

“The ski team was my family at Dartmouth,” she said. “We were incredibly close and pushed each other, but also had a lot of fun.

“Carnival racing was a blast, but also competitive racing and skiing with the Dartmouth team pushed me and helped me improve, just as racing and training with the U.S. women is now making me a much faster skier.”

Another key element to Sargent’s success has been off-season training camps with other top World Cup skiers. In August, the U.S. women trained with the Swedish team, going on three-hour bog runs and doing intervals and races on rollerskis. Before the camp, some of the U.S. women feared their Swedish counterparts would be so fit that they would ditch the Americans out on the tundra.

Their fears turned out to be unfounded. Not only did they hang with the Swedes, they gained valuable confidence.

“A year ago, I never would have imagined myself feeling comfortable enough to laugh and joke or run and ski alongside these [Swedish] girls, many of whom are my idols on the World Cup circuit,” wrote Sargent on her blog.

With this confidence, Sargent started the 2012-13 season cheering her teammates to a best-ever third place finish in a 20K relay. A week later, Sargent finished ninth in a World Cup sprint and 18th in pursuit (combined classic and freestyle races) in Finland.

“It’s really inspiring to be a part of (this team) and fun to be here,” she said.

In Quebec City, she and Brooks made the team sprint final for the first time (they finished 14th and 15th in two team sprints last year; only the top 10 teams make the final). World Cup team sprints are typically only held twice each season.

“If you’ve been in college like Ida has, you haven’t skied anything like a World Cup team sprint,” said head coach Chris Grover. “She’s building experience right now. She skied great. It was really fun to see her and Holly’s team make it into the finals. She had some bad luck with a crash. But this is a step. Kikkan hasn’t been pushed around in an event like this for a long time.”

Asked if she ever envisioned herself in a World Cup final while she was at Dartmouth, Sargent said it was always a goal, as is competing in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. But mostly, she wants to “just continue training and racing with these girls.

“They’re awesome and they’re fun,” she said. “I love what I’m doing.”