Parkite continues to improve with Utes
Lange opted to stay close to home and it’s paid off
When local Nordic skier Leah Lange was originally deciding where she wanted to go to school, the idea was simple: get as far away from Park City as possible. Lange knew she wanted to venture off somewhere new, even though living in the mountains was still a priority
She, instead, did just the opposite, committing to the University of Utah, just a half-hour away from her hometown.
“It’s kind of funny, because I always told people that I wouldn’t come here because it’s so close,” Lange said. “I didn’t want to go to school in Salt Lake.”
Lange said if she knew then what she knows now, her decision to stay close to home would’ve been an easier one. Lange seamlessly entered the Utah program as one of the team’s few true freshmen and has formed instant clicks with the coaching staff and teammates.
“We spend all day together,” Lange said of her team. “Then, we’re on trips together and spend car rides together, and then nights together. Always with each other. They know what I’m going to eat. They know what I like.”
Lange’s first season with the program has been a successful one for the rookie. Her best finish of the year, so far, came at the Seawolf Invitational in Alaska, but she also has six other top-20 finishes in the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA).
Though it’s taken some time for her to get acclimated to the intense skiing that comes at the collegiate level, Lange has learned how to improve in each race.
“When I skied in the Intermountain, Park City area, I definitely had some competition, but it was like, I could kind of stand on top,” Lange said. “Whereas now, I’m really learning to race differently.”
Like she does in her races, Lange is finishing the season strong. She feels her best skiing is yet to come with the RMISA Championships coming up on Saturday and Sunday.
“I’m feeling much more confident than I was at the beginning of the year,” Lange said. “The beginning of the season was a little rough for me. I think I was over-trained and iron deficient and a bunch of things were going wrong. I’m kind of coming out of it now, so each race is better and better.”
Lange doesn’t have concrete goals for herself at the RMISA Championships this weekend, but she believes her team has the talent to win the title. Should the Utes have a successful weekend, their season will extend to the NCAA Championships, which will be March 8-11.
This season has been somewhat of a dream come true for Lange, despite remaining just a short drive away from home. With the constant travel, training and schoolwork that comes with being a collegiate student-athlete, Lange hasn’t had many opportunities to make that drive to visit her old stomping grounds and her family.
Her family, meanwhile, has been a huge driving force for her in the sport of Nordic skiing. Her dad, Gordon, skied at the University of Colorado and has been a coach for the last 30-plus years. Her mother, Lori, was also a skier at Wyoming.
Having a ski connection with her parents helps motivate Lange to become a better skier.
“[My parents] had a huge influence, for sure,” Lange said. “I could always go ski with them. It was an activity that we did a lot. Also, with my dad being such a widely-known coach, it’s a huge benefit for me. Any questions that I have, he’s so quick to answer. It’s made a huge difference in my skiing to have him help me.”
While she originally wanted to get away from the family and the area, Lange couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
“I didn’t want to stay close to my family,” Lange said. “I really didn’t want to, but it’s so nice being close to them. I love being close to Park City. I have such an appreciation for it now.”
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