Minocqua native Kevin Bolger has excelled at every level of cross country skiing during his career.
Bolger was a force in the Wisconsin Nordic Ski League during his time at Lakeland Union High School. In March 2017, Bolger helped the University of Utah win an NCAA National Championship after winning the U.S. National Championship in the skate two months prior.
After cruising through the U.S. SuperTour events this season and taking second place in the skate at the National Championships in Alaska this year, Bolger qualified for the World Cup. It didn't take him long to make an impact there either.
Bolger placed 11th in his first World Cup Final in Lahti, Finland and followed it with a top 30 finish in Falun, Sweden two weeks later.
Returning to the United States in March, he placed 14th in the U.S. SuperTour in Vermont to end the season.
As a result of all his success recently, Bolger has been named to the U.S. National Cross Country ski team.
"I didn't want to expect it to happen, but it was definitely in the back of my mind," Bolger said. "I was getting a lot of support from other people saying the same thing - that it was going to happen, but I didn't want to get my hopes up too high until I actually got that phone call."
When Bolger finally received the phone call from U.S. National ski coach Matt Wickham notifying him he was selected to the team, it was a culmination of years of hard work.
After some celebrating, Bolger knew this was just the beginning of his career on the sport's biggest stage.
"It lasted for about that full day, calling my mom and my dad, brothers and sisters," Bolger said. "But at the end of the day, it's time to back it up. It's that one goal that I've accomplished. I have more goals that I want to track down."
Some of those goals include earning a spot on the podium on a consistent basis in the World Cup, while also moving up the U.S. team as well.
There is no rest for the weary, as Bolger has already participated in a training camp with the team in Bend, Ore.
"Luckily I know the guys on the national team pretty well so having that relationship with those guys helps with the transition," Bolger said. "But I haven't really trained with them that much so that was definitely a new experience for me. I think it's going to be great. It's good group of guys and I'm really looking forward to training with them, buckling down and accomplishing some goals."
The World Cup season begins in November, which means Bolger has some time to prepare for his first full season on the circuit.
He intends to remain in Sun Valley, Idaho, where he has competed with the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation before spending some time training in Europe.
"Nothing too drastic. I plan to increase my yearly hours (of training), but for the most part I'm in the big leagues now," Bolger said. "I just have to step it up and train hard and smart. I'll be living out here in Sun Valley for most of June and hopefully get over to Norway to train with some of the national guys as well since I've been doing that in the past."
Lakeland and the Northwoods have churned out some top-notch skiers, including Mack FitzPatrick, Will Bodewes, and most recently, Kieran Mullen, but Bolger is the top of the crop.
Representing Minocqua is something that is frequently on his mind and is important to him.
"It crosses my mind all the time. When I tell people I'm from a small town in Wisconsin, I think they're in a way taken aback," Bolger said. "In the community, there is a lot of Nordic support, which is awesome."
Nick Sabato may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter@NickSabatoLT.