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Athlete of the Week: UAA skiing’s JC Schoonmaker

Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 2:26 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - JC Schoonmaker captured his first ever national championship and collegiate victory over the weekend at the L.L. Bean U.S. Cross Country Skiing Championships at the Soldier Hollow Nordic Center in Midway, Utah.

Schoonmaker won the freestyle sprint with a time of 3 minutes, 21.05 seconds, just narrowly beating out the second-place finisher’s time of 3:21.88. While the times did look close after all was said and done Schoonmaker left no doubt that he was the fastest racer in the final heat winning convincingly if you watch the race with just your naked eye.

“My plan was to come over that hill in either second our third, and try to make a move on the downhill with the draft and then just hold it into the finish, and it worked out pretty well,” Schoonmaker said.

For about 90% of the race all 6 racers were bunched up until the final stretch when Schoonmaker did exactly what he had planned. Slingshotting himself past the skier who was in the lead and winning the national championship. Schoonmaker has spent a lot of time on world cup circuit in the past couple of months and he said that was key in getting him to where he is today, that and the training he does with UAA.

“Anchorage has been great. It’s one of, I think, the best training locations in the U.S. for cross-country skiing, and just being on the UAA team has been awesome,” Schoonmaker said.

JC is the first national champion that University of Alaska Anchorage Nordic Skiing Head Coach Trond Flagstad has coached. Back in 2006 was the closest that UAA has come with another racer getting second in the exact same event on the same course as Schoonmaker.

“He had his first national championship and his first collegiate win in one day,” Flagstad said. “For us it’s just ... motivating for sure.”

Schoonmaker has been on skis as long as he can remember. The 21-year-old told Alaska’s News Source that even before he could stand his parents would pull him in a sled behind them as they skied. The sport truly runs through Schoonmaker’s veins and right now he is ranked in the top 15 sprint racers in the world. Becoming a national champion has always been on his list, but he knows that there are even bigger achievements to cross off.

“My goals are to win world cups and win world cup overalls someday, but for short term right now I’m focusing on the Olympics. And I’m mostly just hoping to make it there but I feel like once I get there like, I’m shooting for a gold medal because I feel like it would be, I think, kind of stupid not to shoot for that,” Schoonmaker said with a smile. “If it’s a possibility, which I think it is, that’s my goal.”

The next two weeks at nationals and in Sun Valley are the two most important weeks in Nordic skiing in the next four years. Olympic qualifying ends on Jan. 16 and soon after that the Olympic team will be selected. While Schoonmaker has made a name for himself doing well in the World Cup and now winning the national tittle, making the Olympic team is not a given.

One thing is sure however: Schoonmaker has come quite a long way since being pulled behind his parents in a sled.

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