A group of high school athletes in southern Vermont had a guest coach Friday—with an Olympic gold medal on her resume.
“It’s really cool to be able to give back,” said Jessie Diggins, whose team sprint win with Kikkan Randall at this year’s Olympic Games in South Korea broke a long drought for U.S. cross-country ski racers.
The gold medalist joined Stratton Mountain School coaches to give tips to the young athletes on tight turns and fast starts.
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“When you start to specialize, it’s really nice to have these great role models,” said Stratton Mountain School’s Nordic program director, Sverre Caldwell.
Diggins trains at Stratton in the off-season with a team of pro skiers who often make time to mentor the SMS students.
“You’re with the best of the best—and there’s nobody better than Jessie to teach you,” Stratton Mountain School junior Will Koch of Peru, Vermont told necn & NBC 10 Boston.
“I think her positive attitude has really made an impact on me because she’s so enthusiastic about everything,” added SMS senior Anna Lehmann, from Winhall, Vermont.
The win by Diggins and Randall marked renewed excitement for the sport of cross-country skiing, which Diggins said is on the rise in the U.S.
“All the fire, all the passion is right there,” Diggins said of the U.S. Ski Team. “Everyone’s working super hard. I’m really, really hopeful about where this is going. I see a lot of positive momentum.”
The competitor said she is also encouraged for the future of her sport by the drive and skills of young athletes she meets, including the students at SMS.
“They’re sprinting at a really high level, so that’s really really cool to see,” Diggins said Friday during her guest-coaching visit with the Stratton students.
From Vermont, Jessie Diggins is off to the U.S. Ski Team’s camp in Utah in October, a few weeks before starting her competitive season in Europe.
You can bet the students at Stratton Mountain School will be cheering her on.