ConVal’s Sydney Michalak never stops pushing herself
Her unique drive led her to complete her preseason goal — to be the No. 1 girls Nordic skier in the state of New Hampshire
Sydney Michalak was crowned Division II state champion in girls Nordic skiing last Wednesday, putting an exclamation point on her successful four-year career at ConVal.
Michalak, 17, set high goals for herself before her final season began, wanting to be the best skier in the state. Her goals did not waiver throughout the season, going into her final state meet, she wanted to win titles in both the classic and freestyle disciplines.
Before a race, Michalak visualizes herself doing well, while repeatedly telling herself that she can do it. “According to the officials, you’re suppose to be at the [starting] line five minutes before your race begins, I cannot be standing around for more than like 2 minutes; so I’m always getting in one last little sprint warm-up and then skiing over to the line just before the start.”
Her confidence was not shaken at her final state meet, even with a pesky sickness she knew her goal was attainable. “I had been a little sick and was not fully recovered, I decided to go all out in the first race [classic] to be sure I achieved half of my goal,” Michalak said.
Michalak took first place in the classic race; pumped up by her victory, she skied with high adrenaline for much of the freestyle race before her body betrayed her. “I was looking really awesome and I felt really awesome, and then all of a sudden, two-thirds through the race, everything stopped working,” she recalled. “I raced as hard as I could and that’s all I could have done.” She ended up taking sixth in the freestyle race.
Overall, Michalak was pleased with the results of her final state championship. “It was a fun day. I got to race with all of my friends from other schools – in the end, we are all racing for team New Hampshire.”
Michalak will move on to the Eastern High School championships. (She’ll also be racing in the Meet of Champions at Dublin School this Saturday, but her top finish has already qualified her for the Eastern meet.) The top 24 combined times from the state meet qualify for team New Hampshire, and will compete against the other states in New England on March 14-16 at Black Mountain Ski Resort in Maine. “They send one or two guest teams from the Midwest, and those teams are usually pretty competitive.”
Michalak credits skiing with introducing her to athletes around the state, both competitors and friends. “It’s serious when you’re racing, but after [racing] you get to talk and cool-down with friends from other teams.” Michalak enjoys knowing peers from across the state, “It’s nice to catch up with people, and have friends outside of ConVal.”
Believing that becoming a full-time skier would benefit her performance, she joined the Cambridge Sports Union club team last summer. Michalak skied with the Cambridge, Mass., team through the summer and fall months. “I couldn’t make it to Massachusetts everyday, but I did my best,” Michalak said.
During the winter, skiing for ConVal was the priority because of its convenience. “I would train with the ConVal team but also do what my Union coaches were telling me [to do].” The fusion of different coaching techniques has been a big part of her success, according to Michalak. “CSU provides amazing coaching and support at non-school races along with the training you need to become a full time skier.”
Michalak was introduced to cross-country skiing as a freshman in high school. “My mom recommended that I do it,” she said. “Scott McGovern was my first coach. He showed me what [cross-country skiing] was all about.”
At first, Michalak was not sold on the off-season training, but that all changed when the winter season rolled around. “Once I got on snow, I thought [cross-country skiing] was awesome.”
Although her time skiing for ConVal is coming to an end, Michalak feels as though she has left her mark on the program. “I try to be a role model and leader for my team, show them why I love the sport. Nordic has done so much for me, I wanted to show the incoming freshmen how much [skiing] meant to me.”
Having worked a lot with the underclassmen, Michalak sees a solid core of returning skiers that will try to fill her shoes. “There is a good core group of freshman and a couple juniors that were on the team this year.” She believes that if they train hard, they will succeed and continue to push the ConVal Nordic program forward.
Scott McGovern, coach of the ConVal Nordic team, has been coaching Michalak for four years and knows that he is losing a big part of his team. “Sydney is a gifted, natural athlete,” he said in a recent interview. “She has a really strong drive.
Although next year’s team is “novice,” McGovern believes that the returning members have “come a really long way and will be in a good place next year to build on their foundation.”
As for what her plans are moving forward, Michalak has been accepted into the honors program at the University of New Hampshire. “I definitely want to ski in college, and UNH has a great ski team,” Michalak said. She is also looking at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. “My goal is to ski in college. I’ll do whatever I can to make that happen.”