Jack Carlyle was an outstanding high school cross-country runner.
He won the boys city championship three years in a row.
Now, the 18-year-old former Korah Collegiate student has moved up. Not only has he moved up North, to Thunder Bay, but he has moved into the upper echelons of training to pursue his dream of becoming a world-class cross-country skier.
Carlyle is one of 12 athletes attending the National Development Team Training Centre in Thunder Bay.
He became part of the team in early July. The centre is one of four national cross-country training facilities in the country.
"It's a training centre where athletes across the country and Ontario come together to make each other better," Carlyle said Tuesday from his home in Thunder Bay.
While training techniques are not much different from what he is used to roller skiing, running, strength training Carlyle says they are more intense. And the atmosphere is considerably different.
"It's just a more supportive environment and community. I'm surrounded by 11 other athletes that all want the exact same thing in life that I do. They all want to succeed in the sport, and they all want it really badly. We feed off that, everyone does. It just makes everyone better."
He trains six days a week with coaches he describes as, "Amazing, world class, for sure."
Carlyle qualified to be part of the national team by winning races and posting good times at ski-meets last winter. He placed third in a 15-km race and fifth in a 3.3-km event at the Eastern Canadian Championships in Ottawa, eighth at the national championships, and also won two sanctioned local races.
He was nominated by a body of cross-country officials to be part of the training centre.
But, he is part of the team for just one year. There are no guarantees after that.
"You have to re-qualify every single year," he said.
Which means he must perform well and continue to put up impressive times this seaons if he hopes to remain on the training centre team next year.
Carlyle is a part-time student at Lakehead University, where he takes two science courses because that's all he has time for.
"With my training load, I'm going to be away on so many ski trips, it's almost impossible to perform well in school and to perform well at skiing. It's a full-time thing."
Attending the national development training centre costs about $12,000 a year. The money covers only the training costs, he says, adding that accomodations and living expenses are all extra. The money comes from his parents and some local sponsors.
"I'm always looking for more (sponsors)."
Cross-country skiers generally hit their peak later than many other athletes, and Carlyle knows he must be prepared for the long haul, so his goals are more long term.
"I'd love to represent Canada racing for the national team in the World Cup and get to the Olympics, of course. It's a senior sport so it's a long way away. You have to have patience and you have to know that that comes later in life."
On the immediate horizon is a training session in Vernon, B.C., in December, where a world championship master event was held last year.
"That's an early season race. It's basically a training camp."
The big upcoming races are the world junior trials, which are set for early January in Callaghan Valley, B.C., where the 2010 Winter Olympics were held.
At that event, Carlyle will get a chance to qualify for the 2012 world championships in Turkey.
"It would be amazing to have the opportunity to go race in Europe. It would be quite a privilege and experience."
Carlyle began skiing when he was about six, but he was "never really into it."
If fact, he didn't ski for about three years before high school. However, when he started Grade 9 he again laced on his cross-country boots and became hooked.
"I just dove right into it. I never looked back. I just kind of fell in love with it. I fell in love with the sport and the time I spent out at Hiawatha on the trails in the Sault."
He skied with the Soo Finish Nordic Ski Club for a number of years, then took up cross-country running in high school to stay in shape during the off season.
He also competed at the St. Joseph Island Triathlon. Earlier this summer he and a few other members of the development team participated in a triathlon during a training session in Orillia, Ont.
"We just thought it would be fun to test ourselves at this point of the season."
Carlyle finished 19th overall out of 526 competitors, and was tops in the 19-and-under group.
"It was pretty good. I was pretty happy with myself," he said
He has little time for recreation because training takes up most of his time as he focuses on getting better and better.
"You try to have fun and relax, but at the same time you have to think about the future."