After a long winter of training and racing with the U.S. Ski Team in Europe, CXCâ€™s 19-year-old Jessie Diggins was ready to get back to her home turf and race her final Junior Nationals â€“ the only question was, was Minneapolis ready for her?
In what would be a major feat, uncommon in any field, Diggins won all four races at the U.S. Junior Nationals in the Older Junior class. She dominated in the freestyle sprint, 10km classic mass-start, 5km skate, and anchored her relay to a win. The races marked a special ending to the culmination of her Junior Nationals career.
Jessie took time off from her training schedule to reflect upon this past year, her time with the U.S. Ski Team, and what would be her final Junior Nationals.
CXC: Coming off of racing and training with the U.S. World Championship Team in Europe, what were your goals going into the Junior Nationals (JN), and how did you prioritize your races (did any of them have any special significance)?
JD: My goals going into JN were to have fun, and to race in a stress-free environment, while still being competitive. The atmosphere at Junior Nationals is always great so it wasn't hard to do. I wanted to see my friends and have a good time, but was also excited to race and catch up with my family. Staying healthy was another big goal because I had just come off of so much travel was jet lagged. The plan was to originally skip the 10km mass start if I was feeling too tired, but I felt good and was able to adjust quickly. I decided to do all the races and try to sweep all four.
The relay was the most important race to me, because I absolutely love relays. Itâ€™s more fun to be able to share the podium with friends that you've worked and trained hard with for years. The first JN relay I'd ever done, five years ago, was one I did with Libby (Ellis). She scrambled, and I anchored â€“ and that's how we did it last Saturday too, so that race had special significance for me. Itâ€™s kinda sweet to start and end your JN relay races with some of the same friends!
CXC: What are your fondest, most special memories from the Junior Nationals drawing from either this year, or past years?
JD: My favorite JN was probably my first, at Soldier Hollow, Utah in 2007. It was totally new to me and the first year I'd even heard of Junior Nationals. It was also beautiful and sunny and I got to meet skiers from other teams around the U.S. for the first time!
CXC: What goes on in your mind before a race â€“ calm, hysteria, or something in between? Explain how you focus before a race and prepare for the challenges of each race. What went on in your head in Minneapolis â€“ anything specific going on before you left the gate?
JD: I always get nervous before a race, although this year I'm better at handling it. I have learned to use my nervous energy as a way to help me go faster instead of wasting it. Before I start a race I'm usually playing out the course in my head, remembering what I want to be doing on specific parts of the course. Snatches of songs get stuck in my head, along with other random stuff. In Minneapolis I was excited because my parents, my grandparents, and some of my cousins were there to cheer me on. It was the first time they'd seen me race all year, so I tried really hard to maintain good technique and to ski fast so I would impress them.
CXC: Looking forward, what are your plans for the off season? Have you made any major decisions about next year.
JD: My ski season will end after the SuperTour finals out in Sun Valley, and then I'm going to have a nice vacation in Mexico with my family, which is something I'm really looking forward to. I have yet to make a final decision about next year.
I would like to say as I reflect on this past year, that I'm extremely grateful to our coaches, Jason Cork and Gus Kaeding for all of their hard work. It was their first year coaching with CXC and they slid quickly into their roles, and did a fantastic job. Racing on Team CXC was easy knowing we'd always have good skis!