I was hypnotizing the drive away with a good mix of This American Life Podcasts and The Vaccines discography when my phone beeped. Yeah I’m well aware that phones are off limits while driving but I glanced. One word, just one word on the screen of my phone. A dreadful feeling rose up in my gut when I read that word. I immediately felt sick.
The message read, “Cut.” The message was from my girlfriend. No I wasn’t getting cut, this wasn’t a breakup text. My girlfriends name is Brenna Egan and she is a member of the University of New Mexico Ski Team. On April 13th the University of New Mexico decided to cut the ski team. She got cut.
The rest of my drive was horrific. I couldn’t hypnotize myself with music. My brain was firing around thoughts rapidly. How could something like this happen? This brought flashbacks of when I was eighteen years old. That winter I had achieved the criteria to qualify for the US Ski Team, an elusive dream I had since a seven year old boy. After the season I figured “the call” would come any day. “Hey Ben congratulations on a great season, welcome to the US Ski Team, lets get to work.” I never got that call. The call I got came weeks later. It went something like this. “Ben, Nordic Combined was cut from the US Ski Team. We have no funding and no idea what is next. You are welcome to move to Park City, train, and see what happens.”
Yes I could relate on a fundamental level but emotionally, I could never understand what if felt like to truly be in these athletes’ shoes. I had so many questions that I could not ask from the driver’s seat of my car, so I drove a little faster hoping to get some answers. I arrived to the saddest home one could imagine. Brenna’s home consisted of five skiers and a swimmer. The girls were all stunned. They had traveled here to Albuquerque from all over the world to represent this team. This team was no longer. I didn’t get any answers because these young men and women didn’t have any either. There was one answer though, “We are going to fight.” Earlier I said that on April 13th the University of New Mexico Ski Team was cut. I would like to rephrase that accurately. On April 13th, 2017 the University of New Mexico Ski Team began to fight.
Over those four weeks the Lobos Ski Team devised a plan and attacked head on. Whether handing out fliers around town and campus, taking part in interviews, holding press conferences, or reaching out to the ski community, the team stayed diligent. On top of all this responsibility they continued to train and study for the final exams that were looming ahead. Many believe that the Ski Team belongs in Albuquerque because of their extraordinary results. Others believe it is because of their school leading GPA. Obviously those are valid reasons. For me though, I believe that the Ski Team belongs in Albuquerque because when they were told it was over, they said NO.
Brenna though, she remained composed. Yes the ski team is back but it isn’t that simple. The effects of the cut will last. There are many unknowns still. Unknowns such as budget size, stability of the team in the future, and athletes coming back to ski. However she is a Lobo and she will return. She will return because that is her team. That is where her loyalty lies. That is where my loyalty lies as well, now more than ever. Not with the university or the athletic department. My loyalty lies to the team of incredible humans who fought back and won. Well done Lobos.