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Esko skier embraces training

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DULUTH — The cold snap, or “polar vortex,” that struck the Northland earlier this month didn’t figure to make for fertile training for any athlete, much less a downhill skier who spends more time dallying up the hill than down it. But Esko’s Sarah Severson found there’s no better time than that to find a competitive edge.

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“There was that one night it was negative 20 on the chairlift,” said the affable junior. “I’ve found I like the colder days better. You’re braving the elements and, because a lot of people don’t go, you get better training those days; coaches are focusing on fewer athletes, so you get more attention.”

Severson’s response to training has been better than ever before. She’s finished first once and gathered a host of second-place finishes so far this year, including another second at Thursday’s Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Invitational at Spirit Mountain, where she finished just behind her friendly rival Madison Danelski of Hermantown.

The meet featured two runs each on two separate slalom courses; Severson managed both flawlessly in short order.

“She’s a real talented skier,” said CEC Coach Ryan Zimny. “She’s very outgoing, real positive to have around. She works hard.”

In the midst of her breakout season — Severson also skis for Team Duluth, something most of the area’s best skiers do — she is displaying a penchant for doing things she’s often overlooked.

“This is the first year I’ve started to fix things,” she said. “My age has helped me understand more of what the coaches are saying. Last year, coaches would tell me, ‘Your shoulders are leaning,’ and I’d be like, ‘So!?!’ Now, I’m like, ‘Oh, I get it. That makes me get off my outside ski and that’s why I’m slowing down.’ I’ve started to put it all together.”

If the secret to her success is braving the coldest elements, she’s got to have a secret to that, too, right?

“I’ve gotten into the neck gaiter business,” she said, tugging on the fleece around her neck. “I have so many of these now. They’re heaven sent. My mom makes them in, like, two minutes. She’s a speed demon.”

Clearly, it runs in the family.