Being Better Than Yourself - Calvin Bates in the USSA Senior Nationals Nordic Races

 By: Rachael Jennings

During the first week of January, Calvin Bates ’17 traveled to the frozen northern peninsula of Houghton, Michigan for the USSA Senior Nationals. Calvin, who made the journey with a Nordic club called CSU Massachusetts, competed in a rigorous week-long series of races—against elite Nordic racers from across the country.

 Bates traveled with eight other athletes and five coaches to represent his club, and he credits DXC Coach Kathy Maddock, who recently joined the team and has been “super helpful” in Bates’ progress as an athlete. 

Bates has been skiing his whole life, and his passion for the sport radiates. While recognizing the great impact of his current coaches, he also adds, “my dad has been my coach my whole life. He has really motivated me.”

 That motivation, practice, and passion helped Bates fare well in a series of races.

 In the competitions, individuals were grouped by men’s or women’s categories; they were not categorized by age. That means that Bates raced against athletes of all ages. “I was definitely ‘in it’ for most of the races,” says Bates, humbly but with excitement. “I was in a group that was competing for the top six spots, which designates the six who will go to a u18 (under eighteen category) World Championship in Europe. It’s in Estonia this year.”

 On Sunday, he raced the Classic 15K, during which he faced over fifty u18s; on Monday, he competed in the Skate Sprint; on Thursday, he performed his best in the Skate-10K.

The Skate 10K was certainly a favorite for Bates. 

“[It was my favorite race] because it was a mass start,” he says. “You all start together, and then you can see where you are. I was battling it out with a kid from Michigan for most of the race, and by the end, I ended up passing him. That was pretty cool.”

In the Skate 10K, he placed eighth out of over fifty competitors. It was his best race of the series. 

 In fact, in the 10KM race, he was the top skier from New England, besting skiers from the elite eastern ski academies and finishing ahead of the one New England skier who qualified for the trip to Estonia

 One of the greatest challenges of the week arrived when he and his eight teammates realized that their ski wax did not suit the conditions for the Classic. 

 “There are skate techniques and then classic techniques,” Bates explains. “You have this sticky wax on the bottom of your ski for classic that helps you push back—because you’re running, but you also want to glide. And there are specific waxes for specific snow conditions. There was some weird snow condition, and our wax just didn’t work. There’s a wax testing hill, and we were testing it and it worked fine. When we got to the race course, so many people had raced that the tracks iced up with their wax. We ended up not using the wax at all.”

 Regardless, even with challenges, the USSA Senior Nationals reminded Bates of the spirit of the sport and the community that follows. 

 “There were four guys that I knew well from New England who I see all the time, and then there was a group from Sun Valley and some from Alaska,” he says, “I went to a national [Nordic] camp before, so I got to see a bunch of people I hadn’t seen in two years, which was really nice.”

More so, Nordic has a refreshingly different quality to its competitions. Bates explains, “One thing about the sport is that—and I’ve done many sports in my life—but here, there’s no hostility between competitors. The people I am competing against are my best friends. We hang out before and after the race. There’s no hostility. No one has any hate for their competitors. It’s a really cool thing. It’s a different kind of motivation. It’s more about doing better than yourself, comparing yourself to yourself, not beating other people.”

With that spirit in mind, he looks forward to this winter’s upcoming challenges and opportunities—both on and off Dublin’s campus. “I am in the Eastern Cup circuit, which is a few weekends this winter that have qualifying races for junior nationals. I am also in the new Hampshire Coaches’ Association races, which are qualifying for Eastern High School Championships. That means that you would be one of twenty-four to represent your state team. I am also doing the Dublin School high school races every Wednesday.”

 Bates’ advice for aspiring Nordic athletes? “Definitely don’t be afraid to race. Many beginners are afraid to race. Especially in Nordic, it’s a fun rather than an intense or stressful experience. Have fun.”