Gilford Nordic Coach Nina Gavrylyuk noticed early in the season that Mark Young had arrived more focused for his senior year on the team.
“He seemed tougher, older, smarter,” she said. “He understands that without hard work you can’t reach a high level.”
Gavrylyuk was able to push Young a little more this season, and he pushed himself even harder. It paid off in the end as Young took first in classic and tied for first in freestyle at the Division III Nordic championships.
Young was back on the podium a week later at the Meet of Champions at Proctor Academy. He completed the course faster than anyone else in the classic race, beating out the runner-up by more than 20 seconds, and took second in freestyle.
How is this kind of success created? It’s hard to pinpoint the beginning and end because it never truly does begin or end. Perhaps it was all the hours rollerskiing and dry-land training in the spring, summer and fall. Running with the cross country team helps prepare athletes for the Nordic season as well.
But if you ask Young, it was his coach that pushed him every inch of the way.
“Nina is very dedicated to us,” Young said. “She knows what she’s doing and she pushes us. I always have a detailed training plan from her. And basically whenever I lose motivation, she’s there.”
Young tried his hand at team sports and played baseball earlier in his high school career, but he was more attracted to the endurance competition of Nordic and competitive running. He’s been on skis since he was 8 years old and his parents enrolled him in an after-school Nordic program at Gunstock in Gilford.
Young got his first taste of competitive skiing in middle school and continued to ski with the Gunstock Nordic Association through high school. As he grew older, the training became more intense and stretched beyond the winter. He started running cross-country in the fall and outdoor track in the spring, all to keep him in shape for the Nordic season.
The biggest difference as he matured, Young said, is the relaxed approach he began to develop when entering a race.
“Not that you take it any less seriously, but to be a lot more relaxed about it,” he said. “When I was younger, I would get stressed out before a race and that could affect my performance.”
Young is still figuring out his college plans, but he’s leaning toward a couple schools in Maine where he could have the opportunity to continue competing.
If he does reach that next level, he knows who to thank.
“Nina is the reason I’ve been successful,” Young said. “I’m alright at running, I was alright at baseball, but skiing is the only sport I excel at and that’s because of my coach.”