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Upper Valley cross country skiers go the distance on their own

  • Keelan Durham, 19, of Corinth, trains at Oak Hill in Hanover, N.H., Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Durham plans to attend Williams College. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Keelan Durham, 19, of Corinth, right, trains with mentor Jordan Fields, of Lyme, left, at Oak Hill in Hanover, N.H., Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Durham plans to attend Fields' alma mater, Williams College. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth College senior Adam Glueck in an undated photograph.

  • Dartmouth College senior Adam Glueck in an undated photograph.

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 3/8/2021 9:30:25 PM
Modified: 3/8/2021 9:30:23 PM

Instead of preparing for a national championship ski race, Dartmouth College senior Adam Glueck recently spent eight hours covering 70 miles of snow-covered ground around Hanover. With no competition on his schedule, former Oxbow High athlete Keelan Durham has contemplated skiing across Vermont along snowmobile trails.

Such are the options available cross country skiers in the winter of COVID-19.

College athletes around the Upper Valley, be they at Dartmouth or elsewhere, have been idled for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, with many limited to training sessions at best. Those who participate in individual sports have had it a little better, with local clubs or regional organizations doing what they can to present athletes some means of gauging speed and fitness.

In a perfect year, Glueck would be looking toward this week’s NCAA championships, which start on Wednesday at Cannon Mountain and the Jackson (N.H.) Nordic Center. With a good season at Williams College, Durham might have been heading to the White Mountains as well.

Instead, both have also enjoyed the chance to do some of the things a typical college campaign wouldn’t allow.

“Being in a non-team-oriented sport is a bit of an advantage during COVID because you can do a lot more of it on your own or in a socially distanced manner,” Durham said in a phone interview last week. “I would say that it’s probably easier to be a runner or Nordic skier or even an Alpine skier in a pandemic than it would be for a hockey or soccer player.

“If there was no COVID this year, everybody would be entering championship season. All junior skiers would be thinking about either junior nationals or the regional championships that happen in New England, and college skiers would be thinking about the NCAAs.”

Without Ivy League or school support, Glueck and Durham have had local club training and regional races upon which to fall back.

The New England Nordic Ski Association usually stages Eastern Cup races across Northern New England in the winter. With travel curtailed, NENSA instead set up single-state competitions; Durham, a Corinth resident, was able to attempt Vermont Cup races, and Glueck, a Hanover native, did the same in New Hampshire. The Hanover-based Ford Sayre Ski Council, with which both athletes have been members, has also run time trials.

“I’ve gotten an opportunity to race, but that hasn’t been particularly informative,” said Glueck, 21, last week. “Most of the people, a lot of the college students, even some of my Dartmouth teammates who live in Vermont, have been going to Vermont Cups, and I’ve gone to New Hampshire Cups. It’s given us a chance to race, and I’ve done some random events for fun.”

College races help Glueck gauge his fitness for NCAAs. Without that, he’s tried some novel events such as last month’s Ski to the Clouds race up Mount Washington, a 10-kilometer uphill event he won in 50 minutes, 41 seconds, beating out two dozen competitors. Without the need to tune up for races, he recently did loops of a groomed route through Oak Hill, Garipay Field and Hanover Country Club — 114 kilometers, or about 70 miles, in eight hours.

“If I do that in a normal season, my coach would say that’s not an ideal training plan for peaking for races,” Glueck admitted. “As a pivot, I’ve had the opportunity to do things that are hard or things that I’d normally not do.”

After graduating from Oxbow last spring, the 19-year-old Durham decided to take a gap year when it became apparent his freshman classes at Williams would be done remotely and he’d lose his skiing schedule. He connected with former high school and college cross country ski racer Jordan Fields, now a Dartmouth doctoral candidate, and the two have trained together.

Durham also found races where he could. That included taking up an offer for two events in Bend, Ore., where he won the Tour of Meissner 30K classic on Jan. 30 and Oregon Invitational 10K the next day.

“I think I made the right decision,” Durham said of putting off college for a year. “I’m also not sure if there really was a right or wrong decision. Either way, it worked out fine.”

Glueck was halfway through competition for Dartmouth at last year’s NCAA championships in Montana when COVID-19 canceled the remainder. He bristles at the notion of NCAAs being held this year given how many schools didn’t have seasons and the uncertainty of the virus.

But this odd winter has done one thing for both athletes: They can look forward to a normal competitive schedule next year. Glueck, an engineering major, has an added season of racing eligibility, and Durham has four years at Williams ahead.

“This winter has been interesting,” Glueck conceded. “For me, just the love of racing and competition, it was honestly frustrating in the summer and fall not getting to practice and train. It was hard to know if I was doing my training right or making positive steps with nobody to compete against. I had no reference.

“I’ve been looking hard to find races to do that would give me a chance to test myself and push my limits and just race. It’s fun to get out there and try going hard.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.




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