A week spent at Mount Hood, Ore., during the summer months can make all the difference.
“Mount Hood is on a glacier, so there’s snow there all the time,” said a Rochester beneficiary of that glacier, Eric Welch.
Welch attended the Mount Hood Summer Ski Camp last July.
It paid enough dividends that on Monday, he and Century alpine ski teammate Max Sargent were making a 4 1/2-hour drive to Giants Ridge in Biwabik, just north of Duluth.
Giants Ridge is the site of the annual alpine skiing state meet.
Welch gives a tip of the hat to that week’s worth of summer skiing. It made enough of a difference for him that he’ll be performing on Wednesday in his first state meet.
Welch, a junior, finished 19th in last week’s Section 6 meet at Buck Hill in Burnsville. Sargent, a sophomore, was 12th. The top 19 finishers qualified for state.
“Having skied at the camp in Oregon helped me polish my skills a bit,” Welch said. “They helped me to take smarter lines at the gates (course obstacles) when I ski. And it really helped that they’d video your skiing and then you would come back and watch it in slow motion.
“But getting to state was a goal of mine from early in the season. So, I’m really happy.”
It will be the first state meet for both Welch and Sargent. They’re the first Rochester alpine skiiers to reach state since Mayo graduate Joey Viggiano did it in 2017.
Welch is more of a surprise at having advanced than Sargent.
“I was 75-percent sure that Max would make it,” said Max’s father, Nick Sargent, who is the first-year coach for all of the Rochester high school alpine skiers. “But Eric is surprising. He handled the conditions that were challenging (in the section meet) really well.
“It also helped him that he doesn’t tend to get nervous. He just had a solid race. And the fact that he put in the time last summer at Mount Hood, that really helped. He just has so much fun with skiing. He’s loose and fast.”
As for Max Sargent, the best way to describe him is re-energized.
A top soccer player at Century, Nick Sargent said Max’s alpine skiing focus began to dip some as he immersed himself year-round in soccer.
Club skiing had been something he’d been involved in for years. But he quit that last winter, opting instead for the high school team only (the Minnesota State High School League allows skiers to participate on high school and club teams in the winter).
“There aren’t many great skiers who aren’t also club skiers,” Nick Sargent said. “Max had done the club-level skiing all while growing up. But he didn’t want to do it last winter and we told him that that was totally up to him.”
One year later, Max Sargent is back double-dipping, going full bore on his high school and club teams. It’s got him skiing better than ever, as his 12th-place finish in the section meet attests.
He was thrilled with what happened last week.
“This is really satisfying,” Max said. “It’s been a dream of mine since the seventh grade to get to state. I’ve put a lot into this.”
Max says he is hoping for a top-30 state finish.