Tuesday, March 11, 2014
WATERVILLE -- You would expect that Alex and Erica Jenson's parents were lifelong competitive skiers. They weren't. Ironically, that made it more likely that the Jenson sisters would get into skiing at an early age.
A very early age.
"My parents started skiing in their teenage years," Alex said. "My mom told my dad, 'We're going to get them in early, because it was awkward starting at 13.' I'm kind of glad that they got us in early, so we didn't have to go through that awkward phase, and we could go through it when we were little."
Alex, 17, and Erica, 14, are both standout skiers at Carrabasset Valley Academy. Alex placed third in the dual moguls at the Freestyle Junior Nationals in March and has an eye on the 2018 Olympics, and Erica won both the slalom and giant slalom in the under-16 division at "The Opener" earlier this month at Sugarloaf. They each started skiing at about 2 years old.
"I've seen pictures and videos where my dad's holding me, and it doesn't really look like skiing," Alex said. "So I guess when I really started skiing, I was probably 3."
Both sisters split their schooling between Waterville Senior High School and CVA. Alex attends Waterville from March through June, while Erica also goes to Waterville in the fall so she can run cross country. Alex is on the track and field team in the spring, and in June, she won the 100-meter hurdles and the triple jump at the Class B state championships.
This time of year, they're both training about 20 to 30 hours per week. Alex describes it as a co-curricular system at CVA, so a typical day might be four hours in the classroom and four hours skiing.
"Definitely some late nights and early mornings," Alex said. "A day off is much needed and appreciated when we actually get to sleep in or go to bed early."
"It's not a hard adjustment, because they make it so easy for you," Erica said. "They're used to working with such difficult schedules."
In February and March, Alex said she'll be competing every weekend -- usually out west, with a handful in the Northeast. She's working on a new trick, one she tried recently in competition but wasn't quite able to nail.
"The new trick's called a back full," Alex said. "It's a back flip with a 360."
Erica won't incorporate any such moves into her skiing, simply because it's not part of what she does. She can't make an apples-to-apples comparison of what Alex was doing at the same age.
"She does freestyle moguls, and I do racing, so it's completely different," Erica said. "But looking at her, she inspires me to be better at what I do."
Erica says the endurance needed in cross country helps her in skiing, while Alex says the focus and work ethic are interchangeable in skiing and track. Alex did find that being in a crouching position all winter didn't prepare her for track, and until she addressed the problem, she developed patella tendinitis as a freshman and sophomore when she extended her legs for track.
But that was just a blip, and neither sound like burnout is any kind of issue.
"I'm just kind of happy where I am with skiing," Erica said. "So I just trust myself and hope for the best, instead of thinking of what other things could be. I like to ski, and I've had success, so I just want to keep getting better."
Alex is a senior, and could probably star in track at the college level if she wanted to go that route. Skiing is her priority, and she even tweeted Thursday that she had to tell the track coach at her top college that she couldn't commit to track next year.
"At least for next year, I'm going to take a gap year and put everything into skiing and see where it gets me," Alex said, "and then make my final decision after next year of where I want to go to school, and what I really want to get out of skiing."
As a freshman, Erica isn't quite looking that far ahead yet, although she is interested in skiing in college. Alex's dream is a little more than five years into the future, at the 2018 Olympics.
"The first step would be either to get World Cup starts or make the U.S. ski team," Alex said. "I'm in all the events I need to be in to qualify for those things. I just need to have my best run on that day.
"I kind of set my goals high, but I'm on the right track right now. I'm just going to keep working towards it, and see where I get."
Matt DiFilippo -- 861-9243