Rosie Brennan didn't try cross-country skiing until she was in 8th grade. Reese Hanneman was on skis before he could walk, having grown up in Alaska. But despite their different paths, both skiers can now call themselves national champions.
"I always alpine skied," said Brennan, who hails from Park City. "I never raced. The races never really appealed to me. I didn't have really much going on in the winter, so my mom asked me to come try out for the Park City nordic team, and mom's know best!"
"It's one of those sports where usually there is a direct corollation if you put in some work and dedicate yourself, you usually see a payoff," said Hanneman. "That's really rewarding."
You really need to get onto the course to see just how hard these skiers are working during the race. They are climbing steep hills, requiring incredible endurance.
"The downhill is way more fun," said Hanneman. "I'd rather just go downhill all day, but you're not going to win any races without really going fast on the uphills. That's what cross-country is all about."
"It's hard not to respect people that are out there just dying," Brennan said. "But you push that hard, it gives you a sense of accomplishment that is really hard to come by any other way."
But whether it's a 30-kilometer marathon or a one kilometer sprint, that's what makes cross-country skiing such a compelling sport. You can actually see the determination, the passion, the glory and the anguish on these incredibly fit athletes' faces.
"I think a lot of people enjoy watching it and seeing it because it's so obviously difficult," said Hanneman. "The courses are difficult and the hills are really big. I think people just appreciate that aspect of it."