Erickson's goal: 2014 Paralympics
Megan Erickson's final ski race of last season was at Wild Mountain. This winter her final race of the season was at Winter Park, Colo., competing against and in front of the top adapted skiers in the nation during the United States Junior National races.
Erickson's aspirations don't stop at Junior Nationals. The 13-year-old is eyeing the Paralympics in 2014. In athletics nothing is for certain. But every drive to a local ski hill, workout at Courage St. Croix or trip to Winter Park brings her dream closer to reality.
"Paralympics are actually on my mind more than last season," Megan Erickson said
Erickson began skiing when she was 7 years old. She is a mono-skier, using an outrigger held in each hand for balance and support. For the past few years Erickson has skied with able-bodied friends and ski leagues, giving her top-flight competition in her age bracket.
At the age of 6 months old Erickson lost her right leg due to Amniotic Band Syndrome. The syndrome is caused when the amniotic band breaks, then wraps around a body part cutting off blood flow and causing damage to that portion of the body.
Erickson began skiing at Courage St. Croix, through the organization's Courage Alpine Skiers program. Through Courage, Erickson also made the appropriate connections to advance as a top adapted ski prospect.
During the last weekend in March, Erickson and volunteer ski coach Lisa Gasek were at Winter Park for the adapted skiing U.S. Nationals. It was the first time Erickson had competed on the national level. It was also the first year she was old enough to compete against other Junior National racers.
Erickson placed fourth in the slalom and third in the giant slalom where she competed against adapted skiers in the 13 through 17-year-old age range.
Gasek was impressed with how Erickson handled herself during the competition.
"The runs out there are much longer than here in the Midwest," Gasek said. "That challenge in itself was something she had to come up against. She did very well."
Over the next several months Erickson plans to better prepare herself for those longer runs. She intends on working out at Courage St. Croix twice weekly, going through a series of exercises that focus on building core strength and balance.
Lamont Kelly, a physical therapist at Courage St. Croix, has helped design an exercise program for Erickson. Gasek lauds Kelly's ability to help Erickson focused and working hard throughout her bi-weekly training sessions.
"It takes something special to make a 13-year-old dedicate themselves to a workout program," Gasek said.
The program Kelly helped design for Erickson is based on a packet of information given to her by top adapted ski coaches during her recent visits to Winter Park.
"Sitting on a ball has nothing to do with skiing," Kelly said. "But developing that core strength and balance translates for the sport that she is doing. You could essentially do the same things for most sports.
"We are putting a little bit of a slant on [the exercises] that is geared toward the sport that she is participating in."
No matter how focused the training, how focused the exercises, nothing will be accomplished without the proper dedication. That is another area in which Megan's mother, Angie Erickson, has seen rise over the last year.
"Her dedication has improved drastically this year," said Angie Erickson. "The last couple years Bill [Megan's father] and I have been waiting for her to kind of decide that yes, this is the path she wants to go down. She has taken huge steps toward deciding that is what she wants to do."
What Megan Erickson wants to do now is train hard for race season next winter. With an eye on the future she understands there are decisions to be made if she would like to continue her pursuit.
"If this is her dream we support it," said Angie Erickson. "But at the same time that's going to be a big thing. She'll have to move out to Colorado to train. It's kind of a scary though, but if that's what she wants to do ..."