Bailey grew up on a dairy farm in Andover, Maine, near Rumford. Generally quite serious talking about skiing, he gets downright animated describing races, particular exertions to pass a rival, individual and team success that resulted from “hammering” a little harder. But he grew to realize, working with Colby’s head Nordic ski coach, Tracey Cote, that a serious training regimen determines just how hard a racer can hammer.
Cote credited Bailey’s leadership as captain for helping raise the bar among his teammates. Talking about the fine balance between athletic achievement in the context of rigorous academics and general student life, Cote said, “It’s crazy that you can get the education while you are training at that level. It takes a lot of organization and dedication to do it ... but my team is doing a really good job of it.”
“We like to say there are three S’s—school, skiing, and social, “ she said. “And that you can only keep two.”
During his senior season, Bailey and the team set some daunting goals. “I didn’t think that was possible,” Cote admits. But, after taking their bet, she had to buy Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and T-shirts when they took second as a team at a carnival. Colby ultimately placed six skiers in the top 20 in a race, and sent two skiers, Bailey and Nick Kline ’08, to the NCAA championships.
At the NCAAs Bailey finished 20th in a field of 38 in the 10K skate and 29th in the 20K classic despite ski problems—the result of an earlier pile-up crash in the final carnival race that left him without enough time to determine optimal “wax zones” for another pair of skis. The fact that half of the higher NCAA finishers weren’t Americans throws more light on Bailey’s status in the pyramid of elite U.S. skiers.
He says there are about 50 elite Nordic skiers in the United States—on the U.S. Ski Team, in programs like his, and on a couple of corporate-sponsored teams. And Cote agreed. “He’s right in that mix—the next group chasing the U.S. Ski Team,” she said.
It will require patience from Bailey and from and those following his career. But he may well be part of the future of U.S. Nordic skiing.