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Cameron Smith

Part-time skiier beats full-time foes in major national race

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Minnehaha (Minn.) Academy sophomore alpine skier Bjorn Halvorson is already making a name for himself as one of the state's fastest competitors, a reputation which was firmly cemented last week when he won the Welch Invitational, which happens to be among the single largest high school Alpine skiing event in the nation. All Halvorson's success is made more impressive by how he's different than most of the high school students he skis against: According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Halvorson only trains part time.

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"I play two other sports, so that takes up a lot of my time," Halvorson told the Star-Tribune. "I've never wanted to give that much time to skiing. Most skiers miss a lot of school over the winter. I didn't want to do that."

Halvorson is far too busy playing football and getting his homework done at Minnehaha Academy to train and compete in skiing full time, which is why he only competes with his high school team. Most of his counterparts on the Minnesota high school circuit also ski competitively in Unites States Skiing Association races that are held around the Midwest in between high school races.

All that extra racing did little to help other skiers catch up to Halvorson, who won the Welch Inivitational on the back of a blazing second run. His combined run time of 59.24 seconds was a full 0.7 seconds faster than the nearest competitor, a massive speed edge in alpine skiing.

Halvorson said he's never aspired to full-time competition, and he can offset any of the limitations that provides with a powerful weapon at his own disposal: His mother. Sarah Halvorson, who serves as the coach of both the boys and girls ski teams at Minnehaha, was once a Euro Cup skier and competed at the 1980 Olympics. Now she focuses on helping Minnehaha compete with the state's other powerful programs, while shepherding Bjorn and his older sister, Kirsten, through the high school competitive ranks.

"All three of our kids go to Minnehaha Academy, and when our oldest got to eighth grade, she said she'd like to ski for the high school ski team," Sarah Halvorson told the online television program Life to the Max. "They had just lost their coach, so I called up the athletic director and said 'Well, I hear you need a coach, and I'll coach for you.'"

In 2009, Sarah Halvorson was named the Minnesota Alpine Skiing Coach of the Year, a title which followed Minnehaha Academy's run to the back-to-back steet meet qualifications.

Despite the past success, Bjorn Halvorson's latest victory might be the most significant individual achievement for the program, with the sophomore overcoming a bit of stage fright before his runs to pull out the best performance of his young high school career.

"It was a little intimidating," Halvorson told the Star-Tribune. "Usually you go out there and you inspect the course and there's like 50 people there. At this race there were 150 boys and 150 girls."

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