by Bob San
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
While most Minnesotans were moaning and groaning while digging out from yet another snowstorm last week, Osseo High senior Kaley Shagen was jumping for joy. For Shagen, another snowstorm meant another fun day out cross country skiing in the park.
Cross country skiing is Shagen’s favorite thing to do. And she does it well. Shagen has been a member of the Osseo varsity ski team since seventh grade and she achieved a rare feat by qualifying for five straight state meets from eighth to 12th grade. And to top off her senior year, Shagen earned one of 12 spots on the Midwest Team and recently competed in the USSA Junior Nationals in Fairbanks, Alaska.
“It’s kind of a big deal to make the team. It’s a really good opportunity,” Shagen said. “We raced against teams from Alaska, New England, and Rocky Mountains. All the top skiers around the nation were at the nationals.”
Shagen spent one week competing against some of the top skiers in the nation and achieved an unbelievable high but also tasted disappointments.
“I had a few not so great races but I had a very strong race in the skate sprint and ended taking fifth in the nation,” Shagen said. “That was very exciting.”
Shagen not only had to contend with some of the most talented skiers in her age group, she also had to deal with very challenging and unforgiving trails, the kinds she cannot find in the Twin Cities.
“The nationals is a big jump from the state levels. In addition to the competitions, the trails are very technical,” Shagen recalled. “There are a lot of hills. When you practice at Elm Creek Park, which is very flat, when you get to the hills, it’s very different and a lot harder. So in three of the four races I wasn’t very happy with my results. But in the sprint I kind of looked past that. I can be satisfied with that race. It was a great experience.”
It got even better after the competition because Shagen got a chance to spend two weeks visiting with her relatives who live in Anchorage. Shagen was born in Chugiak, Alaska, and grew up in Wasilla, Sarah Palin’s hometown. Her family moved to Minnesota when she was 8.
One would think every Alaskan puts on skates and skis as soon as they can walk, but not so with Shagen.
“I never actually skied in Alaska,” Shagen said. “I started skiing in my seventh grade when my friend Sara introduced me to the sport.”
Once Shagen discovered cross country skiing, she fell in love with it.
“Ever since then it’s been my life,” she said. “I just love it. I wouldn’t wake up at 5 in the morning every day in the summer to train if I didn’t love it. It’s just really relaxing. It’s so beautiful.”
Shagen is a natural for the sport because she has endurance and strength.
“There are a lot of endurance athletes in my family, so I have the genes,” she said.
Shagen used to run cross country and track for Osseo but decided to concentrate on skiing in her senior season. In addition to competing for Osseo, Shagen trains year round with the Loppet Nordic Racing Club on the Twin Cities and competes in various qualifying meets during the winter. She did well enough in those meets to earn a spot to the Junior Nationals.
Shagen will continue to train because she wants to realize her full potentials. Her coaches have told her she has immense potential and talent for the sport, but she has not consistently competed up to those potentials.
“I was not consistent,” Shagen said. “I trained so hard but my racing hasn’t been matching up with my level of training. Something has not really clicked yet for me. It clicked in the sprint race. My coaches told me I have a lot more potential, I know I do.”
Perhaps it will click for Shagen in college. Shagen has been accepted to Dartmouth College in New Hamshire. In addition to its academic excellence, Dartmouth also has a tremendous cross country ski program. Shagen will be exposed to some of the best coaches and skiers in the country.
“I will ski in college but I don’t know to what extent,” Shagen said. “The college I am going to has a very strong ski program so I don’t know how I will fit into that. I kind of want to focus on academics, but I definitely will continue training and pushing hard to be the best I can be.”
Contact Bob San at [email protected]