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2018 State Champion Spotlight-Niko Naranja

Our next state champion spotlight is Niko Naranja of Fort Kent.  Niko won the Class C Freestyle and helped his team win the Class C Nordic title.  We asked him about his team winning and his thoughts at the start line.

1. What were your preparations leading up to the state meet ? 

We were very fortunate to have states at home this years, so preparing for the race was very easy. It was the same course that we had raced all year, and many years before that, so I knew the course as easily as I knew my own name.

2. How did you deal with the pressure and emotions that come along with competing in a state meet?

The state meet was the only race that I actually got nervous for. So I had no idea what to do to keep myself calm. I ended up just pacing a lot, to try to keep my mind off of it. To be honest, my hands are shaking and getting sweaty just thinking about the state meet. The whole time I just wanted to start the race, because once I’m on the course, I can just do what I trained to do.

3.  What was going through your mind at the start, especially at the freestyle pursuit?

“Oh my God, I’m going to finish first!!” I know this sounds cocky, and I didn’t even end up first in the pursuit. I knew for a fact that I was going to take first in the race… I just had too many advantages to lose. I love freestyle, partially because I play hockey, so it just comes naturally. I was on my own course, so I knew exactly where everything was. And I was tired of getting 2nd to Max throughout the year to not want it. That is what made me lose the pursuit. I was so hyped to get out on the course, I tried passing them way too early in the race, and they just stuck right behind me and sucked the energy out of me.

4.  You have had some great races this season, what do you contribute your great  success to?

I didn’t necessarily win any races this year. I usually would come in second, behind Max Bartley. I contribute my success to my mom, who gave me the amazing genes to do what I do. My motivation came from my many brothers and sisters, who always gave me a bar to beat. They always gave me a standard to reach, and I will stop at nothing to beat them.

5.  What are some of your best memories from the past season?

Ski team will always just hold great memories. To pick a favorite is nearly impossible. There have been practices where we would ski on snow shoe trails, or hide from Carl, so we could skip a difficult hill. Any time the team would be together, there would be a great memory.

6.  What are your plans/goals for next year?

I’m planning on attending school at NESCom. A communications school that is associated with  Husson. Sadly, there’s no skiing there. I really want to keep in touch with skiing though, I really learned to love it this year. There’s something about just getting on skis, and admiring how beautiful the world is. Even during races, you can’t help but look up and love the beauty of the trail.

7.  What are your favorite things about nordic? 

Some of my answer is in the previous question. I love how pretty is is out on the trail. It’s the type of scenery that you see online, or in magazines. We live in one of the prettiest places in the world, and we just ski right through it every practice. I also love the environment of the team. The way it is coached is in a way where if you want to have fun, you can have fun. If you’re more serious, you will be coached more seriously. Also the team atmosphere is even more fun. Like I said before, everyday there would be another remembrall event. Skiing is just a great way to relieve yourself of stress (does not apply to races). It’s the type of sport anyone can do, at any age.

8.  What was your reaction when you found out that you won states?  And when your team won states?

I was not surprised that the team won states. We blew the competition out of the water. I know that sounds cocky, but our team this year was just outstanding. We definitely had the strongest team out of the state in Class C, this is obvious by the fact that we won states by so much. Now just because I wasn’t surprised, does not mean that I was not joyess of the fact that we won. When we won, it felt like all the years of skiing finally paid off.

9. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

There really is no better way to top this year (obviously getting first in pursuit would’ve been nice, but I’m fine with just winning the freestyle race). As a kid, I got to see my sister (Gabrielle Naranja) ski. She and my other brother got me into skiing so I joined the ski team with two other friends (Reece Voisine and Sam Johnson). For six years we skied together. It’s just the best feeling being able to win states with the same guys that I joined the ski team with.

 

 

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