By Jordan J. Michael
GUILDERLAND –– Cross-country skiing can bring Laurie Knapp a lot of pain during a race, but the amount of accomplishment she feels from finishing well makes all that suffering worth it. Skiing since her freshman year at Guilderland, Knapp, now a senior, will compete at States for the first time.
“You fall apart, but recover,” Knapp said of cross-country skiing. “It feels good. After I’m done racing, I feel like I did something that I didn’t know I could do.”
The last female Guilderland skier to make the state competition was Courtney Davis in 2009. Head Coach Barbara Newton said that Knapp’s overall fitness is her biggest asset.
“Skiing is highly aerobic, so your endurance needs to be at the top of the line,” Newton said. “Laurie is one of the hardest workers at anything she does. She’s a great kid, and deserves everything she’s earned.”
Knapp finished seventh at the Section 2 championships on Feb. 13 and will be one of 12 girls representing Section 2 on Feb. 25 and 26 at Harriet Hollister Park in Canandaigua for the state championships. Knapp had five top 10 placements during the regular season’s ski schedule.
“This is new, exciting territory,” Knapp said. “It’s my last race, so I’m going to leave it all out there.”
When Knapp is racing, she tries to focus on her long glides and keeping her fast tempo. Her mind doesn’t wander too much because she’s trying to catch the skiers in front of her.
“Mentality is the most important thing when you’re out in the woods by yourself,” said Knapp. “You have to push yourself and keep yourself going.”
A downhill skier before taking up cross-country, Knapp got her hands on cross-country skis as a freshman and noticed that they were much lighter than downhill skis, but also longer. Still, she thinks the balance of being on cross-country skis and downhill skis are similar.
“I picked it up pretty quickly,” Knapp said of cross-country. “I’m an athletic person, so I just got it down after a while. My technique got better and I started doing more with less effort.”
Knapp said she does her fair share of running while playing soccer year ’round. She was a key piece on Guilderland’s soccer team that went to the state semifinals last fall. She would like to play soccer at the State University of New York at Geneseo next fall while studying to become a physician’s assistant or something in the health profession.
“I’m definitely bringing my skis to college even if the school doesn’t have a team,” said Knapp. “Originally, before I fully understood cross-country, I used it to stay in shape, but now that I’ve done it so much, I really do love it.”
Newton said that Knapp is competitive and very coachable. “She takes this stuff seriously,” she said. “She wants to perform well.”
Knapp will ski at States, but there probably was a moment in the past when she thought something like that was unrealistic. She kept skiing on the weekends in her spare time so she wouldn’t lose touch with the snow.
“I’m a little different than some other skiers,” Knapp said. “A lot of skiers glide up the hills, but I’m more of a stomper. I’m kicking my way up the hills.”