I am excited to announce the winner of the second annual Jeffrey Howard Conord Scholarship for Team Leadership and Valor for the 18-19 School year is Ben Olson.
Ben is a 2018 Graduate of Blaine High School in Minnesota and is an accomplished cross country skier with reputation for training with dedication and focus. His coach says of Ben, “I have been super impressed with Ben as a teammate, student, citizen and athlete..I know that if I need something done correctly and 100% completed I can rely on a small number of teenagers, and Ben would be at the top of that list. His leadership and his willingness to work for the good of the group makes my life as the coach much easier and more rewarding.”
I will include the rest of his coaches’ recommendation below, and you can see why Ben fits the description of a Leader with Valor. We are very pleased to award this scholarship to him in Jeff’s memory.
Ben, on behalf of the entire family and friends of Jeff Conord, we wish you the best in your next chapter! This year’s scholarship is valued at $1000!
“I have know Ben Olson for the last 4 years. I have been his cross country ski coach at Loppet Nordic Racing (LNR) which is based in Minneapolis. Over the last 4 years, Ben has trained very diligently for cross country skiing. LNR has been the Junior National Club Champion 4 of the last 5 years- bottom line is that it requires substantial dedication and focus. In addition to regular training sessions, Ben has attended an average of 5-6 weeks per year of training and competition camps with LNR. I get to see not just how young adults treat each other during a 2 hour practice, but how they interact over a 6-10 days of living, eating, and travelling together.
I have been super impressed with Ben as a teammate, student, citizen, and athlete. In a “camp” environment, its all hands on deck. Everyone must pitch in, in a pro-active way, with the communal duties of the day. Ben is always eager to help, whether it be with food prep, clean up, packing the van, or picking up garbage around the camp or hotel. I know that if I need something done correctly, and 100% completed, I can rely on a small number of teenagers, and Ben would be at the top of that list. I can rely on him to recruit other, less willing individuals, to whatever task needs doing. His leadership and his willingness to work for the good of the group makes my life as the coach much easier, and more rewarding.
Training and competition trips can be difficult social settings for new or young members of the group. Ben is always looking out for these athletes, whether they be the youngest ones, or just newest. In a club where athletes are competing at a national level, being the new person can be very intimidating. I have seen Ben go out of his way on many occasions to help the “new” person feel welcomed- this can be during a meal, during training, or in the van or bus, or including a new person on a quick shopping trip for snacks to the convenient store. I am very lucky, and proud, to have him as such a great example to the youngest athletes.
We travel to many regional and national events where student-athletes need to be very disciplined in order to stay caught up with school. Though I do not check anyone’s homework, its very clear to me who are the individuals who are using all their spare time- in airports, on the bus, in the hotel- to get their studying done. Ben is always one of those athletes, using his time wisely.
LNR is part of the Loppet Foundation, an organization that has a wider mission of helping youth of a diverse economic, ethnic and racial backgrounds experience the outdoors through the medium of endurance sport- xc skiing, mt biking, trail running, orienteering. We need volunteers on a regular basis for trail projects, fundraising, competitive events, and programming for a youth age 7-12. Ben has been one of the most active to volunteer his time. This summer and fall he as volunteered 11.5 hours on projects ranging from phonathon, erosion control, to Loppet Games (age 7-12 event).
Finally as an athlete, Ben is outstanding. At LNR we are proud of being one of the very top junior XC skiing programs in the nation, but our focus is never on RESULT. Our focus is always on PROCESS, and this is where Ben is most impressive, and where his skills as an athlete transfer to the rest of his life. He has learned how to excel at the process and the details of training, and the enjoyment of the journey. Along the way he has had many excellent results, but this is less important to me, and surprisingly less memorable as well. Ben is an athlete that does the process right: with enthusiasm, focus, attention to detail, and a large element of joy.
Ben serves as a role model to the youngest and to the most experienced athletes in our club. In LNR we have two athletes who are Olympians and veterans of many World Championship teams in XC Skiing. Caitlin and Brian Gregg attend training with our Juniors (14-19 years old) as mentors and athletes. Caitlin and Brian, who are training now for their last Olympics, have continued to train with our juniors in large part because they knows that Ben will be there, and the focus and energy level of the training will be world class. Caitlin and Brian have many options of where or who they can train with, but they have chosen an environment that Ben has helped cultivate- focused, positive, high energy.
Ben has made my life as a coach much easier, and more fun. I will be very sad to see him head off to college. I have the highest regard for this student-athlete-young adult.”
Piotr Bednarski, Head Coach
Loppet Nordic Racing
Ben’s Great Grandfather earned a purple heart in World War II, his grandfather was in the Army, his uncle an officer in the Navy, and his cousin is currently serving in the Army. We pray for safe returns and protection over your family members still serving our great Country!
In memory of my cousin, missed and loved by so many,
Jeffrey Howard Conord 1985-2017