From Spartan to Olympian: Hart’s skiing journey


Submitted: Annie Hart

Annie Hart (’10) winning the 2009 skate pursuit race at the state meet. “I dabbled in and out of skiing until I was in ninth grade, when I joined the high school team in earnest,” Hart said.

The Olympics represent the pinnacle of athletic achievement, and those select few who qualify are revered as elites; almost superhuman. Few high school athletes set their sights beyond the scope of collegiate-level competition, let alone international competition. St. Paul Academy and Summit School alum Annie Hart ‘10 was one of those athletes, until her post-collegiate success paved the way to PyeongChang, South Korea where she will compete for Team USA in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

I haven’t always had my sights set on the Games. I wasn’t a little kid watching the TV saying ‘this is what I want to do!’ It wasn’t until after college when the Olympics became a reach goal for me,” Hart said.

Hart’s path to the Olympics began when she joined SPA Nordic ski team in ninth grade.

I dabbled in and out of skiing until I was in ninth grade, when I joined the high school team in earnest. Up until that point, I had focused my athletic efforts primarily on cross country running and track. The running coach told me I had to do some organized fitness in the winter, so I rounded up a group of friends and we all joined the ski team,” Hart said.

Hart’s foundation in running and determined attitude transferred well to the snow-covered trails. She earned great success at the high school level: she was the state champion as a junior (‘09), and state runner-up her senior year, when the whole team qualified. Upon graduation, Hart was recruited to Dartmouth, and joined their NCAA Division I team. Hart qualified for the NCAA championships three times, and was an NCAA All-American five times.

“My best memories from racing and skiing are at Dartmouth. I went straight to Dartmouth from high school, and landed on not only one of the best teams in the country, but also a team filled with the best people,” Hart said.

Hart continued to cultivate her skiing prowess post-college with the Stratton Mountain School T2 team based in Vermont. She has spent the last three and a half years training and competing nationally and internationally.

I’ve traveled from Kazakhstan to New Zealand. This last season, I spent a lot more time getting to snow in the summer.  This summer and fall alone I travelled to Bend, Oregon, New Zealand, and Norway to find snow before the race season began.  I have found that to be invaluable in my preparations for the trials.”

From high school meets to the Olympic trials, Hart prepares the same way for each race, with visualization and precise planning.

“I do my best to approach all races the same. That said, the added pressure when I know a race is very important–such as during the Trials–can definitely throw a wrench in the calm. The night before big races I like to draw out the course and go through it. I want to compete to the best of my capacity. I remind myself that I’ve been training for hundreds of hours, and the reason I’m training is so that I can shine when it counts the most,” Hart said.

This commitment and determination has propelled her far beyond high school and collegiate competition, onto the national stage. Hart’s stand-out performances are part of a trend toward increasing competition in women’s skiing, so she knew qualifying for the Trials was feasible, but would be no easy feat.

“Currently the United States is seeing a level of competition and success in Women’s cross country skiing that it has never seen before. So going into the season I knew that making the team was possible, but also that there were many other very talented and hard working women all gunning for the same goal,” Hart said.

“After nationals when I knew I was leading the Olympic Qualifying Sprint List, I knew that there was a chance. I was at our house in Stillwater when I got the call from the head coach of the US Ski Team telling me that I was packing my bags for PyeongChang.  I was immediately overwhelmed with a deep sense of humbleness and happiness, and then called just about everyone I knew.”

I remind myself that…the reason I’m training is so that I can shine when it counts the most

— Annie Hart

Looking ahead to the Olympics in South Korea, Hart is eager to take in all the new experiences. She intends to maintain a humble attitude, and use her time in PyeongChang for athletic and cultural growth alike.

“I’m very excited to get to the race courses, and being a part of the success that I know Team USA will have in South Korea. I’m also very excited for meeting other athletes from different sports and different countries to hear their Olympic stories,” she said.

As an athlete, Hart is of course looking forward to pushing herself to new limits in this international competition. However, she is also excited by the more symbolic aspects of the Games as well.

“I am incredibly excited for the opening ceremonies. In conversations with friends who have been to the Olympics, they say that walking in the ceremonies and donning the red white and blue for that event is one of the most memorable and emotional moments of their lives.”

The 2018 Winter Olympics begin on Feb. 9 and run through Feb. 25. Women’s cross-country ski races begin on Feb. 10.