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Meet Alayna Sonnesyn, MYSL almuni
Hello MYSL families! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Alayna Sonnesyn and I am in the midst of skiing and traveling around the world- chasing my dreams as a professional cross country ski racer!
I grew up in Plymouth, MN where my parents taught me how to ski at a very young age. They encourage my siblings and me to spend as much time as possible outside and to turn activities into adventures with few limits. They brought us to MYSL practice at French Park every Sunday afternoon throughout the winter where we got to ski with our friends AND play games with them.
Learning how to ski with the French Park MYSL Club (and my dad).
When I was young I usually preferred to spend the afternoon inside; watching a movie, hanging out, and not working too hard on anything. The best way my parents could get me moving was to reward me with a warm hot chocolate and maybe a cookie if I skied extra far that day! You could say that I was a bit of a lazy kid…
Finishing one of my first ski races as a kid- The Junior Birkie!
I learned a lot while I was skiing with my family, but my biggest obstacle was keeping up with them. One day, I got so mad that everyone was skiing ahead of me and not waiting, that I skied as fast as I could to catch them. Once I caught them I decided to keep skiing fast until I was far in front of my parents. This way, I could be the one in charge of deciding when we get breaks. I quickly realized how great it is to be the one in charge and I continued to ski fast whenever my parents took me out. I found a thrill in this type of excitement that made me fall in love with the sport!
Starting to find that competitive spirit.
As I grew up, I started to notice what my older sister, Marit, was doing. Marit is two years older than me and I’ve always wanted to be just like her! In middle school, she decided to join the high school cross country ski team. It looked like she was having a lot of fun with the other skiers and she was really fast at racing so I decided that I wanted to join the team too.
If Marit was going to race, then I was going to also!
As a member of the Wayzata High School Ski Team I got to go on really fun trips with the team. We went to Maplelag Ski Resort for ski camp when I was in 7th grade and it snowed so much while we there that the buses couldn’t drive us back home. We were snowed in for an extra TWO DAYS! We missed school and got to ski as much as we wanted that weekend. I made some really good friends with people on the team. When we finally made it home safely, we started racing every single week. I had a lot of fun racing with the team because I was fast enough to make the varsity team. My teammates used to call me “Baby Sonney” because I was so much younger than all of them (this nickname had originally been given to Marit, but they were sure to pass it down to me too).
Dressing up in PJ’s for the MN State Banquet when I was still the “baby,” had to keep things fun and goofy!
I soon loved going to practice with the high school team because I thought it was super cool to hang out with some of the older kids. I always did my best to keep up with my teammates while skiing and they encouraged me to keep trying. I realized that I had found something that I was very passionate about that was also a ton of fun. I started setting goals for myself, like roller skiing in the summer, which gave me even more motivation for the sport. Soon, I was spending so much time running and skiing year round that most of my best friends were also my teammates.
Traveling out to West Yellowstone, MT to ski with a few of my high school teammates over Thanksgiving Break.
With a fun loving yet competitive attitude, I started training and racing a lot faster. I began qualifying for races like Junior Nationals where I could compete against people from all over the country! I thought it was really exciting to travel to new places and meet so many people throughout high school. By my senior year, I had even talked to a few coaches about skiing in college. My favorite school and coach that I visited was the University of Vermont. I liked this school and ski program because they had a great balance of competitive skiing while also having fun working hard. At first, I was really scared to move away from the Midwest. After all, my parents were the ones who got me started in skiing and had cheered for me at almost every race, I didn’t want to say goodbye to them! However, I remembered the thrill that I found while traveling and racing and realized how much I wanted to continue this.
Traveling with the Midwest Regional team to Fairbanks, AK for Junior Nationals. Of course, we never took ourselves too seriously…
I moved all the way out to Vermont to earn a college education and ski on a Division 1 team. (Division 1 is the category for the biggest colleges). Again, I was thrown onto a team where I was one of the youngest athletes, but I took that as an opportunity to learn a lot from my older, wiser teammates. AND I LEARNED SO MUCH! For four years, I went to school and started racing internationally. I got to ski in places like Norway, Sweden, France, Spain, and even Kazakhstan (which is almost to China)! I thought this was so cool! I also got to meet a lot of new friends and form relationships with people from over the world.
Pretty silly teammates at the University of Vermont.
By the time I was about to graduate from college, I didn’t want any of this to end. That is why I recently decided to continue cross country skiing as a professional athlete. I am now on the Stratton Mountain School Elite Ski Team in Southern Vermont and get to train with Olympians like Jessie Diggins (also fellow MYSL skier) and Sophie Caldwell! I am so grateful for this opportunity and to be a part of such an incredible team. I hope to be able to share this experience with all of you and help spread the love for cross country skiing!
Even these professional skiers like to mess around a bit…