LARAMIE, Wyo. - Kai Sharp's collegiate skiing career is off to a great start.
Sharp, a graduate of Houghton High School who won the 2010 Michigan individual cross country title as a member of the Copper Country Ski Tigers, recently competed at the World University Games in Ezerum, Turkey.
Sharp and his new teammates at the University of Wyoming, who are the defending University Ski Club national champions, were chosen as a part of a larger U.S. team that competed in six different events. They began their training for the Games in mid-October once they received word of their selection.
Their rigorous training schedule included long distance training with skis on wheels. Once the snow fell in Wyoming, the team concentrated on speed work.
After their training sessions were complete, the team competed against each other in three different events to see who would qualify for the Games. Sharp was one of 12 skiers - six men and six women - who made the squad.
"The training (for the Games) was very similar to our normal routine," Sharp said. "It took about a month to fine tune everything."
But the training and qualifying were not the toughest part of competing in the Games. The toughest part came when the team had to take the actual trip itself.
"No matter how in shape you are, you can't prepare for 38 hours of travel," Sharp said.
The team also had to deal with a nine-hour time difference and an entirely different culture. It was tough at times to focus on the job at hand when so many of the skiers wanted to absorb this new lifestyle.
"One of the biggest challenges was to concentrate on the race and not being out trying to experience the culture," Sharp said.
But even with all the difficulties and distractions the team faced, they were able to lock in and performed very well at the competition.
Sharp himself posted his best finish in the 10K Classic race, taking 43rd overall.
"It was an amazing experience," Sharp said of the trip. "It was really good to learn about all the different types of skiing."
Since their return to the U.S., the team from Wyoming has begun preparations to defend their national championship at the Nationals in Sun Valley, Idaho in March.
Sharp will not compete in the event as he and all the other freshmen on the squad have been redshirted for this season.
"It's a good thing," Sharp said of his redshirt year. "I'm on a five-year plan for school.
"That extra year will hopefully help me get faster and prepare for Nationals (in 2012)."
And if Sharp's first year at Wyoming is any indication, his career will be full of lifelong memories.