With thirteen years of nordic skiing experience and twelve years of racing experience, Co-Captain Neil Thorley ’19 joined the Nordic team upon entering Andover as a new Lower.
Thorley followed in his parents’ footsteps as recreational Nordic skiers in college.
Thorley said, “I started when I was 6 years old, my parents have both skied recreationally in college, their whole friend group was really into it, so they pick[ed] it up there. When I was six my sister and I joined a local club in upstate New York and I skied for them until eighth grade when I moved to Vermont and skied for a couple teams there.”
Thorley learned valuable leadership skills from the team’s captain his Lower year, especially regarding integrating skiers of all different backgrounds and experience levels.
Thorley said, “I was a new Lower and the Captain my Lower year, Aditya [Krishnamachar ’17], really was a role model for me because I was already a good skier but I wasn’t necessarily a good leader at that point and just watching him and how he handled the team and made a good balance trying to get everyone faster and make sure everyone was having a really good time is something I’ve tried to emulate.”
Thorley’s depth of nordic experience makes him an exemplary captain because his teammates can learn from his skills as a skier to improve their own abilities, according to Head Coach Keith Robinson and Co-Captain Eli Newell ’20.
Robinson said,“He loves the sport. He’s a hard worker, willing to work hard, and he grew up in that culture of Nordic and so for him he’s very aware of the big picture, but I don’t have to worry about him in terms of getting ready for a race, in terms of getting to the start line, or making sure that he’s going to get his work in, I know that he’s going to be out there doing it, leading by example. He knows how to prepare himself as an athlete and he just does it without complaining and without prodding.”
Newell added, “I first met Neil in 2015. I was at a Nordic ski camp in the summer of 2015 and he was my counselor and even from that first time meeting him, it’s pretty exciting to be around him. He’s really excited about the sport and takes it very seriously and it makes everyone else want to do the same. He clearly loves skiing and loves the team and that definitely shows so it makes everyone want to emulate that. I think he and I [work] together really well. We have a lot of fun together with the warm up, switching things around every once in a while, and leading people through that. I like him a lot and I have a lot of respect for him.”
During races, Thorley always races seriously and with integrity, once again setting an example for the rest of the team, according to Newell and Robinson.
Newell said, “I think anybody watching him compete will be very impressed. He races really hard, and he leaves it all on the snow. Both in terms of preparation for races and the race itself, Neil is a really good leader on the team because he makes sure everyone is preparing well in practice and during the race he shows how a good skier should race.”
Robinson continued, “If we go to a race he’ll go out and pre-ski the course, he’ll do the race, and he’ll go out there and ski around some more after to take advantage of that. I think it’s that sort of thing that just rubs off on people, you see it done well on someone who is doing really high up in the league and it gives you the sense of, ok, I can see what it takes to get to that level.”
Upon reflecting on his nordic experience at Andover, Thorley remarks on how the wide range of skills the team accumulates results in a strong team dynamic because everyone works together and strives towards a commons goal.
Thorley said, “Probably my favorite thing about being a part of Andover Nordic is that there’s a really great team dynamic going on and it’s a really big family, we all have a lot of fun at practice. We’re all there to have fun and get faster and have a good time. There’s a whole range of experience, from people like me who have been skiing pretty much their entire life to people who have never skied at all before coming to Andover. It’s a really great opportunity for everyone to learn and have a good time together.”