Late bloomer that she is, Holly Brooks' latest great news arrived this week, about a month after she turned 30 -- she's on the U.S. Ski Team for the 2012-13 season.
The nordic skier from Anchorage, who made a stunning rise from ski coach to Olympian in 2010, was one of four Alaska-connected skiers nominated to the U.S. Ski Team.
Three-time Olympian Kikkan Randall, 29, of Anchorage, was one of three women named to the A team -- duh, she's the reigning World Cup sprint champion and finished fifth overall on the Tour this past season. Brooks and Sadie Bjornsen, 22, were named to the B team, and Erik Bjornsen, 20, was named to the D, or developmental, team.
All four skiers train with Alaska Pacific University's Nordic Ski Center.
In all, 13 skiers -- seven men, six women -- were nominated to the U.S. Ski Team, which will officially release its roster in the fall. That's considered a formality -- a nominated skier must only plan to compete in the 2012-13 season and abide by responsibilities set by the team.
Brooks, who this week is training at the U.S. Ski Team's Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah, signaled her joy via Twitter: "So. Freakin. Pumped!''
Brooks spent last season on the World Cup tour -- she finished 55th in the overall standings -- but was not a member of the U.S. Ski Team. That meant she received some logistical support and represented the U.S., but basically raced World Cup events on her own dime.
Even so -- and despite suffering a broken wrist, which did not stop her from finishing the grueling Tour de Ski stage race -- she continued to excel. She qualified for World Cup races on the early part of the Tour and parlayed strong results then into qualifying for the rest of the World Cup calendar.
Among Brooks' best results were a 13th-place finish in a 15-kilometer freestyle race and helped an American team to a fifth-place relay finish. She also won the prestigious 50-K American Birkebeiner in Wisconsin, which not only earned her $7,500 but redemption for 2009, when she lost that race by an inch.
Randall this season became the first American to win a World Cup title in the last 30 years and posted the best overall finish by an American woman in history. The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association this week named Randall its Cross Country Athlete of the Year.
Sadie Bjornsen combined with Randall to finish in second place at a World Cup tam sprint race, and she finished 98th in the overall standings.
Erik Bjornsen is considered one of the strongest young skiers among American men. After being All-America at UAA two seasons ago, he joined his sister in the APU program last season, was named to the U.S. team for the U-23 World Championships at finished ninth overall in the season-ending domestic SuperTour in Vermont.
Coaches Bevington and Alborn honored
Dan Bevington of Anchorage this week was honored by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association as its Jumping/Nordic Combined Domestic Coach of the Year.
Bevington's work has increased the number of local jumpers from a handful to about 30, and he took four athletes to the U.S. Junior Championships this season.
Also, three-time Olympic jumper Alan Alborn of Anchorage, who now lives and coaches in Park City, shared the award for Jumping/Nordic Combined International Coach of the Year.
U.S. Ski Team
Nominations for 2012-13 Nordic Team
Women's A Team -- Kikkan Randall, Anchorage; Jessica Diggins, Afton, Minn.; Elizabeth Stephen, East Montpelier, Vt.
Men's A Team -- Kris Freeman, Andover, N.H.; Simeon Hamilton, Aspen, Colo.; Andrew Newell, Shaftsbury, Vt.
Women's B Team -- Holly Brooks, Anchorage; Sadie Bjornsen, Anchorage; Ida Sargent, Craftsbury Commons, Vt.
Men's B Team -- Tad Elliott, Durango, Colo.; Noah Hoffman, Aspen, Colo.
Men's D Team -- Erik Bjornsen, Anchorage; Skyler Davis, Jericho, Vt.