Hastings sophomore Linnea Urban is in the middle of an incredible athletic year for the Raiders and recently added yet another accolade. Just days after competing at the state Nordic skiing meet for Hastings this past February, Urban raced in the final of four junior national Nordic ski qualifying races and qualified for the U.S. Junior National Nordic Ski Championships in Anchorage, Alaska, as part of the Midwest Junior National Nordic Ski team.

This follows up a dominant cross-country season for Urban that saw her just miss the state tournament and then an equally good Nordic ski season for the Raiders where she qualified for state. She said that she started doing the junior national qualifier races as just a way to race against some good competition to supplement her high school season. There were four racing weekends - Saturdays and Sundays - spread over the winter and held throughout the Midwest. Skiers accumulated points from each of the races depending on how they finished and Urban placed seventh to qualify. She said it was unexpected, though after the last races knew it was a possibility.

"My coaches for the club team that I do kind of thought 'Yeah you're probably pretty close but we don't wanna jump to conclusions, see how it goes'," Urban said. "When we got there they had all the lists and they called out everyone's name and I heard mine and I was like 'Oh my goodness, wow'. I wasn't expecting it at all, it probably took a week to sink in, 'I'm gonna go to Alaska, this is really crazy.' It was really exciting and hard work pays off."

Urban said that there was not a lot of time to get to know the team before they headed for Alaska, but that she knew several of them who were on her club team and had raced against others. They had more time to spend together once they were in Anchorage.

"It was really cool to meet all the new people from around the Midwest and I made some new friends so that was a lot of fun," she said. "From my club team I knew probably four or five girls who I had trained with over the summer and some more that I was acquaintances with. We all kind of knew each other and were all a good fit so it was a lot of fun."

They left Friday, March 8, and came back on Sunday, March 17. There were four races during that span with some training days in-between and some time for sight-seeing. However, the experience got off to a slow start for Urban.

"The jet lag was really hard. It was like a three-hour difference, so that was a little rough but we made it," she said. "I ended up getting sick though the first couple days because I'm not used to flying, I haven't flown since I was 2, it was kind of rough and I didn't race the best but I learned quite a lot and it was fun. I would say my favorite day was probably the relay day which was our last day there, it's just exciting. It was a really good experience and I'm super glad I did it."

She also said that she learned quite a bit about skiing in new situations and environments.

"The whole experience, learning how to fly, having to work with people that I really didn't know, it was really interesting that dynamic," Urban said. "And also in skiing I ended up starting 73rd in the mass start where everyone goes at once out of 74 people, so it was learning patience. It wasn't the greatest race but learned how to weave around people and how not to get flustered, because we don't race with that many people usually."

When not skiing, Urban said they spent a lot of time as a team.

"We didn't do much sightseeing but we were right by the mountains, so that was really fun to see," she said. "We went to Beluga Point, it's not really big or huge or anything but we could see the ocean and the mountains together, so that was fun to see. It was really windy but it was still a lot of fun, everyone went and we just had a good time hanging out on the rocks. That was probably my favorite scenery element, otherwise I would just say hanging out after we'd race or going out and just walking around and talking to everyone, having a good time."

Urban has had a special sophomore year in terms of athletic success and she said that the support she received from the community was great as she fundraised to be able to go on the trip.

"Yeah it definitely is kind of crazy (talking about her successes so far), I get congratulations from people I know but don't really talk to," she said. "It's really nice having everyone's support, we did some fundraising stuff and the community kind of came around us and that was really helpful and just to see that people are interested in our sport a little bit more than usual."

Urban is in the middle of the track and field season where she does the long-distance events for the Raiders and said she thinks it will help transition her into her off-season nordic training. She said many of her Raider teammates have expressed interest in joining her Nordic club to train in the summer and is looking forward to seeing the progress they make. Her goals for next winter's Nordic ski season are to make the state tournament again, place in the top 10, enjoy her last season with teammate Trevor Caflisch and qualify for junior nationals again - this time in California - though she will have moved up an age division by then.