By: Scott Arnold, ProMotion Ltd.
Release: January 31, 2013
By: Caryn Maconi,
BOULDER–University of Colorado Nordic skier Joanne Reid had barely mastered walking when she competed in her first ski race.“I grew up in Michigan, so there wasn’t much else to do besides skiing,” Reid, a senior, said. “I was probably in my first race at age 2.”So far, her performance as a senior is reflective of a lifetime in skis. Reid has always been a high-caliber athlete — she finished in the top five in 16 races during her freshman through junior seasons, and she has been named as an All-American five times. Before her senior year, though, she had only won one collegiate race.

This season, Reid has already come in first in three of her four races and second in the other. At the Denver Invitational the weekend of Jan. 19, she took first in both the 5K freestyle and the 10K classical race, finishing more than 17 seconds ahead of the closest competitor in both races. With the victories, Reid helped her team come back from what was a 100-point deficit to Denver after day one to eventually take the team title.

“I’ve surprised myself in pretty much every race this year,” Reid said.

What changed Reid from a top competitor to a champion in her senior year? Though her improvement is undeniable, a modest Reid isn’t quick to credit her own talent for the wins.

“We had a lot of seniors graduate last season, so I have a feeling that’s partially it,” Reid said. “And (teammate Eliska Hajkova) is usually ahead of me, but she’s had a bad hamstring for awhile.”

Reid said, however, that one of her most improved areas and biggest focuses in training has been classical skiing. It was, and perhaps still is, her weakest area, though it certainly hasn’t kept her off the podium’s top spot this season.

Though Reid may have surprised herself in her first few races of the season, her natural athletic ability is no surprise. Reid comes from a family of highly accomplished athletes.

Her brother, Garrett, also skied at CU from 2006-07 and was part of that year’s national championship team.

Her mother, the former Beth Heiden, is a world-class jack-of-all-trades. Heiden was the Division I NCAA cross-country skiing champion at the University of Vermont before becoming both the world all-around champion and Olympic bronze medalist in speedskating and — to top it off — the world road champion in cycling.

Reid’s uncle, Eric Heiden, was the first athlete in history to have won all five speed skating events in a single Olympic Games, a feat which will very likely never be repeated because skaters now focus on either sprinting or distance and don’t compete in both.

“I definitely wouldn’t train as much if it weren’t for (my mom). When I’m at home, she gets me out of bed for training camp,” Reid said. “She doesn’t race all the time anymore, but she still trains and trains and stays super fit because that’s just what she does.”

Though Reid was born in Wisconsin and spent her early childhood in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, she and her family moved to Palo Alto, Calif., when she was eight and have lived there ever since. When they first moved, Reid and her family took a couple years off of skiing because the mountains were a four-hour drive from home. When she began competing again, she spent several years debating whether or not to continue the sport at the collegiate level.

Eventually, though, she found she couldn’t stay away.

“I definitely struggled for a long time deciding what to do, whether to continue skiing or not,” Reid said. “Every year I thought, ‘This is my last year.’ But it was so hard to give it up in the end, I couldn’t do it.”

Now, while at home in Palo Alto, Reid mostly trains on roller skis, runs, and occasionally cycles to maintain fitness.

Reid’s season is only just beginning, but for the rest of the year she said her biggest hope is to see her team excel. While she and her teammates have close friendships, she said, they also necessarily push each other in practice and races.

“We ski together, but if we’re racing we also have to be competitive,” Reid said. “It’s a lot like running in that sense. But we all love each other a lot, for sure.”

Teammate Eliska Hajkova, who in previous seasons has been one of the team’s highest-placing athletes, is quickly returning to top form after suffering some illness early in the season. Though a healthy Hajkova would mean more competition for that first-place spot, Reid said she hopes her teammate will be back in full force soon.

“How the team does has always been more important,” Reid said. “Like if I have a crappy day and Elishka wins, I’m still happy.”

Reid and her team generally hit the mountains for practice with head Nordic coach Bruce Cranmer three times per week, but their own training doesn’t stop there.

“There are limits on the amount of practicing you can do with the coach,” Reid said. “But most of us want to do more, so we go up on our own.”

In addition to the commitment of a varsity sport, Reid excels in school as a mathematics major considering a possible minor in computer science. After graduation, she plans to continue her education with a PhD program in math.

The CU ski team’s next competition, the New Mexico Invitational, begins Feb. 1 and 2 in Red River, N.M.