As the cold winter’s breeze sweeps the light snow across her face, Mary Wellington doesn’t seem to notice. Standing near the starting line at Silver Star, British Columbia, she focuses her thoughts on the 10 kilometers of nordic skiing between her and the finish line. A dozen of her fellow racers join Wellington in completing their last-minute mind and body rituals. The skiers shake out their muscles, tap the snow off their skis, and await the starter’s gun signifying the mass release to the freshly groomed trails.
A long way from the county parks and local golf courses she grew up skiing in Stillwater, Minnesota, as well as her current NW Bend home where she lives with her husband and daughter, Wellington is no stranger to nordic ski racing. Now a 25-year resident of Bend and a proud member of the XC Oregon Nordic Ski Team, she has spent thousands of hours honing her mental and physical game for competition. Wellington started as a junior racer in the Midwest, then became a scholarship nordic skier and runner at Northern Michigan University, and now she competes as an age-group competitor based out of the trails at Mount Bachelor and the sno-parks dotting Central Oregon.
Back home in Bend, Wellington serves as a Spanish teacher at Pacific Crest Middle School and a nordic ski coach for the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation (MBSEF). Her background in keeping mentally and physically fit has allowed her to weather the current rough conditions of teaching and coaching during a pandemic. “We are all just trying to stay positive and keep a growth mindset,” explains Wellington. “The teachers try to focus on what’s important and don’t want to overwhelm the students.” Wellington has been teaching middle school Spanish for over two decades and currently navigates her online classrooms of between 30 to 40 students by trying to translate what she used do in person into what she now does on the computer.
At the Mt. Bachelor Nordic Ski Center, Wellington gears her lessons towards the students having fun first and foremost. “I want the kids to enjoy their time with me so they’ll come back,” says Wellington. “So, we focus on playing games that teach the skills and techniques,” she says. In her free time, Wellington can be found on the trails practicing what she preaches. During the winter, when the snow is good, she skis four days a week. If not, Wellington stays in town to cycle, run, or hit the gym. In addition to competing in nordic races throughout North America, Wellington is a 20-year participant in MBSEF’s Pole, Pedal, Paddle multi-sport race, with 15 years as a solo racer and a victory in 2002. To the many junior skiers who can only ski during the weekends, Wellington offers good advice suitable for us all. “Just get outside and move,” she says. “Find something you like to do and do it.”