Sprints often come as a form of punishment in sports. Coach says you didn’t push hard enough on that last play, or the team didn’t stick to the game plan, or, simply, better conditioning is necessary.
Few welcome the aches and pains that come with pushing the body to its limits, but often those competitors who fight through it are the ones who win medals.
Maggie Lee still loves that fight.
“Think about it,” she says, the excitement growing in her voice. “You’re going through 45 minutes of excruciating pain in your bones and in your legs and everything hurts. You finish a long race and it’s an amazing feeling. You look down at yourself and you’re like, ‘My body just did that.’ It’s a pretty immense feeling.”
Lee wanted her senior season with the Kearsarge Nordic team to be a special one. Not only was it her last winter representing the Cougars on the Nordic trails, it was also her last season skiing for her father and coach, Kevin Lee.
It’s been a special ride for Kevin as well, as he watched his daughter grow into one of the best skiers in Division III.
“I think as she gets older she’s gotten stronger, and longer races come with maturity as you get older,” he said.
Maggie’s linear progress as a skier runs congruently with the growth of the Kearsarge Nordic program. Kevin was starting from scratch seven years ago after all five of his skiers graduated. The next season, he had nine skiers, including Maggie competing with high school athletes while still in seventh grade. The team grew to 12, and then 20 and then 26.
“The continual development of the culture of our team, that’s one of the things Maggie will go away from high school with the feeling that she can come back during, say, Christmas break and she’ll see it is still there after six years of building,” Kevin said.
For a sport so heavily focused on individual performance, the Kearsarge Nordic program strongly emphasizes the importance of team chemistry and supporting each other.
Ask Maggie about her individual accomplishments all you want, but she’ll always shift the focus back to her teammates and how they made her the athlete she is.
“If I didn’t have my teammates, I would not be very good,” she said.
Their strategy on the course is to not lose each other, a chain of skiers trying to keep their sights on the next one ahead. That’s how they push each other to be better, and that team mentality carried the Kearsarge girls’ to their second consecutive D-III title.
“The benefits of team and sport are not tied in with the success we have,” Kevin said. “It’s what we do as a team, and Maggie has been a huge part of that.”