News & Stories

Busy Summer for Members of the Nellie Stone Johnson Junior Loppet Team

nsj-3Lazy, hazy days of summer? Not for Nellie Stone Johnson Junior Loppet team members Kemari Williams, Donovan Blatcher and Sherman Powell. The young men have been training hard all summer with Loppet Nordic Racing (LNR) and with their NSJ coaches Jon Miller, Nancy Nelson and Andrew Magill.

On Wednesday, August 5 that practice paid off for Donovan at the Age Gap Relays as part of the final race of the Mountain Bike Series: he and partner Craig Rudd took first place (picture on left)!

“Given summer schedules and out of school time we tend to shift to smaller practices in the summer that focus more on individual kids who demonstrate leadership, talent and commitment,” said Coach Miller. “The kids make tremendous progress, which obviously we love to see as their coaches and mentors.”

The young athletes especially made great strides in their mountain biking during their weekend trip in early July. The weekend after the July 4 holiday nine NSJ athletes and their coaches headed up to the Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trail System near Ironton, Minn. about two hours north of the Twin Cities. They biked three-to-four hours each of the two days of the trip, went swimming, ate great food, and had a lot of fun. And they got a LOT of exercise!

NSJ athletes and Coach Nancy Nelson (aka Coach Mom) at the Mountain Bike Series final race and potluck.

NSJ athletes and Coach Nancy Nelson (aka Coach Mom)
at the Mountain Bike Series final race and potluck.

The NSJ athletes have also attended Loppet Adventure Camp over the course of the summer. The team sent team members to five of the nine weeks of camp, splitting the time across 15 different youth throughout the summer. Overall they had a blast paddling, roller skiing, mountain biking, playing capture the flag, doing relay races and making new friends. Two of the girls on the team – Nayeli Hernandez and Jennifer Moreno – enjoyed the Girls-Only Loppet Adventure Camp in mid-July. This was the second year that the Loppet Foundation offered a week of girls-only camp, and brought it back again given the great feedback from the inaugural year.

The Ringer Roll

The three NSJ athletes who have been training with LNR this summer all competed in the Ringer Roll, a roller ski race at Baker Park sponsored by LNR. Sherman Powell, Donovan Blatcher and Kemari Williams braved slick pavement to complete the 3K race. Results are not available for their race, but Coach Jon estimates that both Sherman and Donovan were most likely in the top 5. The 3K course was set up so that the young athletes got to ski with older athletes who were completing a 10K race. Coach Jon was finishing his 10K race as Sherman started his 3K and was amazed that when he caught Sherman, Sherman kept up for most of the next kilometer. And Donovan finished even faster than Sherman. “It is exciting to see that these young athletes are very soon going to be faster than me,” reported Coach Jon.


Summer’s End; Fall News

Overall the team has had a great summer. It is amazing to think that the start of school is just around the corner.

The big news for the youth on the NSJ team is that they will be attending a new school as NSJ will now serve students through fifth grade instead of eighth. Most of the youth on the team will be at Franklin Middle School this fall so the NSJ team will soon be the Franklin Junior Loppet Team.

The NSJ team will miss the eighth graders who are moving on to high school this fall – Li’Tavius Munn and Cesar Velasquez. Li’Tavius has been working as a Junior Counsellor at Loppet Adventure Camps this summer and Cesar has been working on the Step-Up summer trails crew with Loppet Crew Supervisor Mark Relson. Li’Tavius and Cesar plan to join their high school ski teams.