Merrigan excited for opportunity to race against country’s best

Dave Kearsey
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Jamie Silken Merrigan earned a temporary spot on the provincial nordic ski team.

Jamie Silken Merrigan has hopes of being a full-fledged member of the provincial nordic team.

For now, she will embrace a temporary spot on the team and an opportunity to race against the best in the country this week at the 2014 Haywood Ski Nationals unfolding in familiar territory at Blow Me Down Trails.

“If I’m in the top 50 that would be good for me,” Jamie Silken said with a hearty chuckle when asked of her expectations.

Jamie Silken is a budding skier who won silver medals in both the classic and free technique five-kilomtre races at the provincial nordic ski championships held in Plum Point a couple weeks ago.

Being on the nordic trails is something she’s grown accustomed to as the Merrigan family have made a lifelong commitment to embracing nordic skiing as a way of life to keep fit and together as a group. It’s something she does simply because she loves it.

“I’ve been skiing since a toddler, pulled by the chariot,” she said of her early introduction to the sport.

Her performance at the provincial championships is a good indication that she’s a strong contender for provincial team hopefuls in the near future.

But, now it’s time to take on the challenge of skiing against girls bigger and stronger from all over Canada.

Instead of focusing on how she places, she just wants to do her best and use the national stage as a means to catch the attention of the provincial team coaching staff.

She spends seven days a week on skis, so it’s safe to say she is committed to the cause. But, she’s also aware that no matter how much time she put into preparation, it all really comes down to what you can handle on race day.

“Even if you train your hardest the race is the ultimate test,” she said.

Her goal for her four races at nationals is pretty realistic for a 13-year-old youngster with lots of time to develop.

“Just do really well in my races and work really hard,” she said of her mission.

She will be in the spotlight on four days of the national showcase of cross-country skiing in Canada, a pretty exciting time for her because she will get to see some of Canada’s Olympians in action and may just get a chance to meet some of them.

“That’s going to be really exciting,” she said. ““It’s going to be really, really fun and I’m glad my brother Daley is going to get to do something in the nationals even though he’s a little too young.”

Oh yes, Daley, her 11-year-old brother, may be a tad young for the big stage, but since his dad Jamie Merrigan will be in charge of assigning forerunners for the classic events the little guy will do some forerunning when he’s not watching races.

“They go out on the trail in a classic race and they stay in the track so the track isn’t full of snow for when the racers come through and it will also be faster,” Daley said of the role of a forerunner. “I’ll ski a certain distance and then somebody will pick up from there and ski the rest.”

He doesn’t expect to have any problems with his role.

“I don’t think it’s too much work,” he said. “Forerunning at a lower level wouldn’t be as exciting, but forerunning at nationals you know that you’re forerunning in one of the biggest races your country does.”

Daley’s day to compete on the national stage will certainly come with age. He’s known as a speedy guy on the trail network who showed his true form at the provincial championships this year, winning a gold and silver medal. He was also a member of the Western relay team that claimed gold at the 2014 provincial Winter Games last week in Clarenville.

“I really like going fast on skis. It’s really fun,” he said.

Travelling fast along the trail network is a blast for him, but he’s had his share of falls and tumbles along the way.

“No I think the worst I’ve gotten hurt on cross-country skis is winding myself in a crash,” he said.

The most important thing he has learned at an early age is that success isn’t an easy ride. He knows hard work and patience will help, but he also knows it simply means never giving up no matter how many times you falter.

“Try to get back up as fast as I can,” said Daley, who finished 12th in classic sprint and ninth in free technique at Winter Games.

Nordic skiing is a family venture for the Merrigans. Mom and dad, with five children in tow, are familiar faces during the winter months at Blow Me Down Trails. The family don’t plan any family vacations during the winter season because skiing is a priority. All of them will be out in full force this weekend with the youngest Rebecca having the honour of riding in the chariot.

“We don’t leave the snow. The only reason we would leave Corner Brook in the winter is for snow somewhere else,” Jennifer said with a huge laugh. “We kind of joke that we’re our own little ski academy.

Safe to say Rebecca will be out of the chariot, sooner than later.

Geographic location: Plum Point, Canada, Clarenville Corner Brook

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