by Colin Hodd, Saltwire, June 23, 2021
A ‘Classic’ Challenge
Jack MacMillan has come a long way on his skis in just over four years. The Lockview High School Grade 12 student is on the 2021-22 provincial ski team despite not putting on a pair of skis before grade 9.
I had some friends that were on the ski team and I kinda started hanging around with them and they kind of taught me all the ropes of skiing and kind of absorbed me into their community. They just said, ‘You’re enjoying yourself, you’re one of us, you’re coming with us now.’ I didn’t really think too much about it and I’m very glad I didn’t.”
Jack MacMillan has been named to the provincial cross-country ski team just over five years after being introduced to the sport. (Credit – Dangley Media)
One of MacMillan’s first ski experiences was a learn-to-ski session with a paddling club he belonged to. He was attracted to the collegial atmosphere of cross-country skiing.
“Everyone was happy and helpful and wanted everybody to succeed,” he remembers. “I thought it was a really good community to be a part of and it just made me want to come back each time I was out.”
MacMillan came to skiing with a decent fitness level thanks to his background as a swimmer, paddler and cyclist. But skiing is a tremendously technical sport, whether in the skate or classic disciplines, and he’s had a lot of catching up to do.
I started on skate, so classic’s a bit more of a challenge for me right now,” he says. “It’s pretty tricky. As soon as you think ‘I have it today’ then the next day you go and you put on the wrong wax and you can’t even do it anymore.”
Everyone wants to go fast immediately, but when you’re learning technique in any sport, speed often comes last. No matter where he was the members of the Halifax Nordic Ski Club were there to offer help.
“Everybody that was on the team and everybody that was out on the trails was always really great and helpful to give me tips or drills or something to do to work on my skills and develop over time.”
Despite a relatively good 2020-2021 season in terms of snow cover and training opportunities, COVID-19 robbed MacMillan of the opportunity to compete this year. Normally, a skier can accumulate points on a a national list depending on their results at different events. These points help them qualify for provincial A or B team status. Instead, MacMillan will learn the ropes on the development squad.
While the team is technically divided into those three groups, all of Nova Scotia’s athletes train together under the same coach, Daniel Murray.
MacMillan credits Murray, fellow skier Grace MacIntyre and her father Eric with helping him learn the ropes, but he wanted to make it clear that each member of the team has helped him in some way.
“The first camp I went to two years ago, every single person at the camp was helping me out the entire time,” he says. “Eric and Daniel are far above and beyond. They’ve taught me a lot, but the entire team has really taught me almost everything I know.”
This summer will be spent on his road bike, trying to build up his fitness for next season. Next fall, as MacMillan trades his road bike for roller-skis, he’ll be starting the first year of a four-year bachelor of science in aviation at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B.
“I always had an interest in being a pilot. In school I’ve always found a lot more enjoyment in the sciences,” says MacMillan. “I thought it would be a good program to have some studies in the sciences and also be able to get my pilot’s license.”
And skiing will remain a passion. It’s often thought of as an individual pursuit, but MacMillan wishes more people saw it for the team experience it can offer.
“Somebody can’t move your arms and legs for you, but it is a sport where you’re with people that are like-minded and just such a great community to be a part of.”
MacMillan attends a team training camp at North Highlands Nordic. (Credit – Melanie Macdermid)
MacMillan attends a team training camp at North Highlands Nordic. (Credit – Melanie MacDermid)