Parkites juggle military service and Nordic combined competition through Army program
Regardless of what athletes want out of life, they all know that, at some point, their careers will end.
Despite the successes that Parkites Ben Loomis and Jasper Good have had in Nordic competition, all of those good times on the snow will end and the next step in their lives will take precedent.
But for the USA Nordic skiers – and recent graduates of U.S. Army basic training – they’re getting a head start on their futures with the Army’s World Class Athlete Program.
Although both were ecstatic to compete through the program, they admitted that this wasn’t where they saw their lives going.
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“Joining the Army was never something that actually crossed my mind because I didn’t think I could ever do it as I was skiing,” Good said. “But after hearing about the program and seeing what it really was about and had to offer, I was hooked and thought, ‘This is what I want to do.’”
Loomis sees an opportunity to invest in more than just athletics.
“I never thought about this as a realistic career because all I’ve ever wanted to do was ski, but I knew I was never going to give that up right now to start something else,” Loomis said. “But when I stepped back and thought about, I started to think that it really made a lot of sense. I could develop a career in the military and the same time I could advance in skiing.”
The WCAP program allows soldier-athletes to compete internationally during their service. The rigorous program is only available to top-level athletes with Olympic aspirations, according to Good.
Soldiers from all Army duties are eligible for WCAP once they’ve joined their respective units, are trained by part elite civilian and military coaches for their respective sports, while also keeping up with their Army requirements, where they attend military school for training.
While it may seem like a lot and the process can be overwhelming, both Good and Loomis credit their coach, Jeremy Teela, with helping make the process as smooth as possible. Teela, a 15-year National Guard serviceman and former biathlete who was a big part of the WCAP program through three Olympic cycles (2002, 2006 and 2010), is the boys’ cross-country skiing coach.
“He (Teela) was the first person to really tell us about the program,” Loomis said. “Seeing someone who’s had the sort of success he’s had at the highest level of sport while also loving what he does outside of the snow, it was definitely motivating for us.”
It’s been a whirlwind journey for Good and Loomis over the past two years. After competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics, where they both took home top-45 finishes, they decided to enter the program.
They then competed in last season’s winter schedule, finishing and returning to the States in the middle of this March. The day after they arrived, they went down to Salt Lake City and were sworn into the National Guard.
While the rest of their team members were training at the Utah Olympic Park or competing in the Springer Tournee National Championships over the summer, Loomis and Good were in basic training for four months in Missouri.
“We came back in the middle of August and since we got back, it’s been all about figuring out our new system or way of life,” Good said. “We’ve had to do a couple of drills down in Salt Lake City with our National Guard unit, but it’s truly a different world for us so balancing the two has been tough.”
After going through the process, both of them admitted that the sort of workouts they were taking part in during basic training could possible negatively affect them. According to Good, Nordic combined skiers aren’t the bulkiest of athletes but he and Loomis made sure to not build too much upper-body mass, but just enough to do well during the four months.
Both of the boys will be competing in the Continental Cup this weekend in Park City, an event they both missed last year. But they’re looking forward to representing Team USA again, even if they have now have bigger plans to represent a different type of “team USA” in the future.
“Representing our country at the Olympics was such a tremendous honor and something I know we’ll never forget,” Good said. “But being able to represent our country in the National Guard is a totally different type of pride. There is an added level of honor and I’m really excited to pursue this and see where it goes.”
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It’s going to be at least another month before Summit County’s high school athletes have any chance of getting onto the field again.