Whitman College freshman Emma Lungren isn’t the fastest Nordic skier. Nor will she place highly for the Fighting Missionaries’ club skiing team in the 38th annual USCSA National Championships, held March 6-12 in Lake Placid, New York.
Neither of those facts bother her, however.
Lungren, a 2015 graduate of South Whidbey High School, qualified for the national meet with her team. Over 500 skiiers will compete on the same course used in the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics for collegiate titles in Nordic, Alpine, snowboard and freeski events.
Lungren has alpine skied on and off for most of her life but recently picked up nordic and skate skiing as a hobby and means for exercise.
“At this level, it’s just for fun for me,” Lungren said.
In nordic skiing, the heel of the boot is not fixed to the ski. Growing accustomed to the sport and all its nuances, including competing in distance races of 21 miles, has been a learning experience for Lungren.
“It was very frustrating,” Lungren said. “Before I did that, I had only classic skied a little. There’s a whole way of shifting the body and balancing on each foot. The first time I did it, it was very frustrating. But I still had fun at the same time.”
Though she is well aware she isn’t the strongest at the sport, her teammates haven’t thought anything different of her. Lauren Benedict, a junior skier at Whitman, praised Lungren for her positive attitude and uplifting spirit in face of being new to the sport. She served as a refreshing reminder not to take the sport too seriously.
“I think that she is so bold in everything she does with skiing,” Benedict said. “It doesn’t seem like she has any pressure on herself. She just wants to do her best.”
Benedict added that Lungren helped the Fighting Missionaries qualify for the national event at the team’s regional qualifying meet in January held in Bend, Ore. By filling in for a teammate who couldn’t participate, Lungren helped the team avoid being penalized in the team standings. Teams were required to field three competitors.
It wasn’t the smoothest race for Lungren, who finished last after taking a few wrong turns along the course.
“She was a little frustrated, but we were so grateful she was there,” Benedict said.
Lungren’s father, Kevin, thought her willingness to try new things was part of her nature. He also felt it was a tool for transformation.
“I think she gets that the worse you are at something when you first try it, the more it’s worth trying and the more of a reward that’s gonna be there,” Kevin Lungren said.
Emma Lungren said she is looking forward to the atmosphere of the national meet. She’s been told by her teammates the competitors are all inclusive and competitive spirit often takes backseat to having fun, much like a cross country meet, she said. Knowing this, she said, was comforting.
“I don’t know if I would’ve gone if I knew it was going to be cutthroat or judged for being slow,” Lungren said. “There’s something about this kind of sport where everyone is suffering that much together. Everyone is going through the same thing. It always releases some friendly endorphin when you exercise like that.”