Mads Groeholdt had enjoyed a pretty strong year in 2016-17, but admittedly, he wasn't keying in on many of the races throughout the year.
The Whistler Nordics skier's attention was on the Cross Country Canada Ski Nationals in Canmore, Alta., which wrapped on March 25.
The newly minted 16-year-old had been training relentlessly all season to get himself in peak condition for the event. As one of the bigger competitors in his age category, though, Groeholdt had to slog through some soft snow at the end of the competition, giving some of the smaller racers an advantage.
"I've had a goal all season that the only race I wanted to be in shape for was nationals week and I definitely felt like it worked out great," he said. "The first day when I won, I had really good skis and I felt like the conditions were perfect for my kind of skiing technique and the way I like to ski.
"When it gets pretty soft like it did on the two last days, it gets pretty tough for a guy like me."
The strategy worked early, and Groeholdt got off to a hot start, winning the juvenile boys' free technique interval start on March 19.
In the race, he said he got behind early, but coach Chris Manhard spurred him on to a convincing victory.
"You go out of the stadium and up a huge hill. At the top of the hill, my coach, Chris, was standing and giving splits. On the first lap, he said I was about five second behind the lead at the top of that hill," he said. "I thought that was a lot, considering I had been racing for about two minutes. I kept pushing that whole lap and at the top of the hill on the next lap and on the last lap, Chris said 'You're 20 seconds up on everyone, just ski to the finish, you've got this covered.'"
Throughout the season, Groeholdt's approach was to develop his upper athletic limits by giving his all each time out as opposed to conserving energy in advance of races.
"My whole goal this year was to work harder during my racing season, improving my aerobic capacity and keep going hard on the intervals. Usually when race season comes, you back off a bit because you have the races and you have to have a lot of energy for those. Because my main goal was nationals and then my next season, I focused more on building the main strength of cross-country skiing, which is aerobic capacity."
Groeholdt also finished eighth in the classic technique sprint, fifth in the mass start free technique and 10th in the classic technique interval start.
Other teammates also shone. Michael Murdoch and Benita Peiffer were second overall on aggregate in their respective birth years. Peiffer also took a gold medal alongside Groeholdt in the junior girls interval start free technique and third in the mass start free technique, while Murdoch took third in the junior boys interval start classic technique. Joe Davies also attended, taking a best result of fifth in the juvenile boys interval start classic technique. Complete results are available at www.crosscountrybc.ca.