Two UVM skiers win Rookie of the Year: First-year earns honor

PHOTO+COURTESY+OF+UVM+ATHLETICS%0AFirst+Year+Alayna+Sonnesyn+competes+in+a+nordic+skiing+competition.+Sonnesyn+won+the+women%E2%80%99s+nordic+Rookie+of+the+Year+award.+She+competed+in+the+NCAA+Championships+Mar.+11-+14.

PHOTO COURTESY OF UVM ATHLETICS First Year Alayna Sonnesyn competes in a nordic skiing competition. Sonnesyn won the women’s nordic Rookie of the Year award. She competed in the NCAA Championships Mar. 11- 14.

A first-year Nordic skier earned the title of 2015 Eastern Intercollegiate Skiing Association’s Women’s Rookie of the Year Feb. 28.

First-year Alayna Sonnesyn was awarded the title at the EISA Carnival Feb. 27-28 in Lake Placid, New York, according to the March 7 UVM athletics press release.

“I actually didn’t even know it was an award and then my coach said something about it the night before and he kind of mentioned that I’d probably be one of winners,” Sonnesyn said. 

“So when they announced it I was excited and stuff, but I guess I had thought about it a little bit.”

Patrick Weaver, UVM Nordic ski coach, knew Sonnesyn would be a contender, he said.

“We were looking at all the incoming people from the league, and I knew she had as good of a chance as anyone,” Weaver said.

Sonnesyn placed fourth in the 5-kilometer race Feb. 27 at the EISA Carnival, according to the official results on the UVM athletics website. 

“After that, we knew she had a really good shot at [the award],” Weaver said.

Additionally, Sonnesyn was named to the 2015 National Collegiate All-Academic Ski Team March 8.

Sonnesyn is originally from Plymouth, Minnesota, and is a nursing major at UVM, according to the UVM Nordic ski team roster.  She has been skiing since she was three or four years old, she said.

“My parents taught me, and it was just a fun activity that we would all go do together,” she said.  “Then I started taking it more seriously once I got into middle school and then I joined my high school’s ski team.”

Sonnesyn has only ever competed in Nordic skiing, though she grew up Alpine skiing, she said.

“I really like that [Nordic skiing] can bring you to so many different places,” Sonnesyn said. “You can experience different parts of the country or world. I kind of just get lost in the woods and go out there for hours and not really think about anything else.”

Sonnesyn is ranked sixth in the region with her best combined scores for both the 15-kilometer race and the 5-kilometer race for the 2014-2015 season, according to the NCAA ranking of the EISA conference.

“I’ve definitely had some of the best races of my life this season,” Sonnesyn said.  “I was really surprised by the improvement that I’ve made transitioning from high school to college.”

Weaver agrees that she has transitioned well from high school to college, he said.

“The transition from high school to college can be pretty tough sometimes as far as new school, new team, new training, new place to live and she’s super organized and she trains really hard,” Weaver said.

“I believe she’s transitioned as well as anybody for as long as I’ve been here,” he said.

At the NCAA Championships March 12-14 in Lake Placid, New York, the UVM women’s Nordic skiing team placed fourth overall.

“It was a really cool experience and I was really excited to be there with the team,” Sonnesyn said.

Sonnesyn placed 22nd in the five-kilometer race at the NCAA Championships and 24th in the 15-kilometer race, according to the official NCAA results.

“I didn’t have the best races.  I was just not quite as thrilled about them,” Sonnesyn said.  Now the ski team is in their offseason, she said.

“A few of us are doing a fun race this weekend.  For the most part it’s a lot less intense training.”

In a normal season, Sonnesyn spends anywhere from 12-24 hours per week training, she said.

“We still meet a few times a week and go running or skiing just for fun even in the offseason,” Sonnesyn said.  The ski team practices and trains in a variety of ways, Weaver said.

“[Training] is kind of everything – skiing, running, lifting, cross training and stuff like that,” Sonnesyn said. Sonnesyn looks forward to next season, she said.

“I really hope that I can just keep improving and build up more intense hours and more intense intervals and just keep getting faster and faster,” Sonnesyn said.