All ski racers have one thing in common. We are all always constantly wondering about other people. Rarely our selves. “What was his time?” “What Place did you end up?” “How far out are you?” Now, there is a competitive side to things and the caring side of that.
Growing up I always noticed these things, between coaches and coaches, and athletes and athletes, we all care about each other. The first instance I noticed was Ashley. Ashley was a ski racer from Rocky/Central that was under guidance of the same coaches I had growing up, tragically, she was killed in a snowmobile collision. I noticed the entire community come together. Region to Region, and State to State. I was only a J4, and didn’t think much of it.
Several years later: Spencer Nelson, was killed in a mountaineering accident. I met Spencer in Mt. Hood over this past summer when he poached a few runs with us. I would frequently see him around at various FIS races and the Loveland Derby. I don’t think I ever heard a negative statement out of his mouth. He had a passion for Ski Racing and Skiing in General. Once again, the whole Nation, East to West ( Which is typically so bound in our coastal rivalries) Come together, to support one another. I remember reading various posts on Facebook and on the Ski Racing Magazine Website Quoting Spencer. My personal favorite: ” No struggle, No Progress.” at that point in my life I was struggling with making decisions, and reading that made me feel ten times better. Spencer, You were truly an amazing individual and we all miss you.
Less then a year after that, something tragic could have happened. While driving down the valley from Mt. Hood Meadows to Hood River, Scott Veenis, and a portion of the Rowmark Men’s Team were involved in a Motor Vehicle Accident with a Jeep. Scott Veenis and Hank Shipman, (both sitting on the driver’s side of the vehicle) were critically injured and LifeFlighted to Portland Hospitals. The other athletes in the car had non- life threatening Injuries and were released from the hospital later that evening.
This was yesterday. April 9th 2011. I have lost few too many friends in car accidents in the last three years. It took a few minutes to hit me as I was cleaning up the tuning room after our usual post race meeting. I could slowly feel the tears welling in my eyes as I was trying to avoid making contact with Jay Hey, who is close to Scotty. I waited for Jay to leave the room, I then leaned my head against the wall and started to break down. It still hadn’t hit me yet. It brought back memories from deep in my head. The pictures flashed before my eyes of mangled cars and packed churches with crying mothers and grown men and high school boys crying in their royal blue soccer jerseys.
I walked outside, with small tears dripping down my face. Andrew and Zach had just returned from the hospital. They were giving Jay details about Scotty and Hank. Then it started to hit me. I walked as fast as I could out to the parking lot, hoping that the fresh Oregon air would help me relax. When I thought I was done. I lost it again as I was walking back to the room. I was fumbling in my pocket for the room key and getting frustrated. Finally as the door opened I walked in and slid down the wall in the bathroom. Sweating and crying, Scared and Happy at the same time. Three of my good friends came in and sat with me. I finished crying and got up. I called my mom to tell her what happened. Her voice always soothes me. Even when I feel like I am at my lowest.
When I was done hyperventilating I opened Facebook to see hundreds of posts about Hank and Scotty, and the rest of the Rowmark men’s team. It made me think, ski racing is considered an individual sport, yet we all have the upmost care and respect for our fellow athletes. As Christoph Lentz once put it, ” I’m a ski racer, we all have heard of each other.” The more often you see someones name, the more you feel like you are somewhat close to them, even in the slightest way. I have always been close to the Rowmark boys, and before my own eyes I saw the whole Western Region come together for a coach, and an athlete, no matter your point profile or what your jacket says. Everyone was willing to give a piece of their heart and their prayers to a fellow athlete. Hank and Scotty are both in the hospital as I write this. Recovering. With our prayers.