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Though she is better known for her power than her technical finesse, Nordic superstar Anna McLoon proved that she has more in her arsenal than brute strength. McLoon finished first in the 10K Classic at UVM’s Winter Carnival last Friday.
“She’s kind of like a machine,” said Sarah Mitchell, who is a freshman on the Nordic team. “She’s in a league of her own.”
While the hilly terrain of the course played to McLoon’s strengths, the two-loop circuit also had some very technical aspects. But McLoon managed to navigate its narrow chutes and sharp turns to edge University of New Hampshire’s Kate Underwood by 13 seconds, finishing in 39:47.7.
“She doesn’t like technical courses,” said freshman Anna Bingham. According to Bingham, McLoon often talks about her ideal Nordic course at practices: “Really slow snow and hard hills.”
But on Friday, even crisp snow and tight turns could not contain McLoon and her gutsy racing strategy. McLoon’s win was the Crimson’s first cross-country carnival victory since Judy Rabinowitz, a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. Furthermore, it came just one week after a career-best third-place finish in the 15K classic at the UNH College Carnival.
With two straight personal-best performances already under her belt, McLoon has high hopes for the rest of the season.
“My goals are to continue to get top-five finishes in regular season carnivals and beat my past finishes at NCAAs,” McLoon said.
According to new Harvard coach Peter Graves, there is no reason why she shouldn’t meet and exceed these expectations.
“Anna is in great shape and is an exceptional climber,” Graves said. “The sky’s the limit as to where she could go with her racing.”
This praise is not to be taken lightly. Graves was a U.S. Ski Team cross-country coach and NBC cross-country commentator at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
“I think Anna is displaying her huge potential in the sport,” Graves said. “[She] trains very hard and has an amazing work ethic.”
But while McLoon is clearly focused on her personal goals, she has not lost sight of her responsibilities to Harvard’s otherwise young and inexperienced Nordic squad. Since Graves can only come to Cambridge one or two times during the week from his home in Putney, Vermont, McLoon and co-captain Ross Feller essentially act as coaches at practices.
“My goal is to get the whole team skiing as well as possible,” McLoon said. Talk to any of McLoon’s teammates and you will find that she means business, too.
“Anna is very direct,” Bingham said. “She’ll always correct my technique.”
This year, the NCAA Skiing Championships will take place at Dartmouth, which McLoon says has a technical course with steep downhills and sharp turns. If she wants to place well, she will have to maintain her power while improving her quickness on downhills and turns. And if this week’s performance is any indication, she’ll be a top contender again.
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