Loga charts a new course

U-32 senior thriving on sit ski
U-32 senior thriving on sit ski
Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 10:51 PM EST
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EAST MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - If you’ve attended any D2 state championship race over the last half-decade in cross country, Nordic skiing or outdoor track, there’s a very good chance you saw U-32 walking away with a trophy.

“Obviously we’ve had some competitive success,” said head coach Andrew Tripp. “I think Otis [Loga] himself has been part of 10 championship boy teams.”

“It’s just a culture of excellence and I think that’s something I really enjoy,” added senior cross country and track runner Sargent Burns.

When the program is that successful, it tends to attract more and more students to join. For the Raiders that included Otis Loga.

“I did the Nordic team in ninth grade,” Loga said. “Once I was on the ski team, then I was kind of like, ‘Oh, the same people who do skiing do cross and track.’”

In many ways, Otis is just like any other high school senior. But since he was born with cerebral palsy, sports haven’t always been easy.

“In elementary school I did baseball and I found out that I have no eye coordination whatsoever,” Loga said.

Regardless of the challenges involved, Otis longed to be part of the team. For the last four years, he’s been one of the guys.

“To find a sport where like, OK, all you need is shoes,” Loga said. “OK, put on my shoes and go off for a run.”

And it’d be hard to replicate the kind of motivation his work ethic gives to his teammates.

“I would say the defining principle of our program is hard work,” Burns said. “Otis is the paramount example of that. He sets the bar high for all of us.”

“Forty degrees and raining, and he’s wet and he’s muddy and it took him a little bit longer on the run and he comes in and changes and goes to the weight room and starts working out,” Tripp said. “And so you’re so used to that as part of the architecture of our team. So we don’t have to say anything.”

But heading into the winter of his junior year, Otis wasn’t sure he wanted to continue strapping on the skis.

“I have no balance, so being on one foot, moving on snow is really challenging,” Loga said. “I couldn’t make it down any of the hills without falling.”

“He fell a lot,” Tripp added. “It was hard for him. And to the point where he told me last year during cross country running season, ‘Hey coach, I think this winter I’m not gonna ski.’”

It took some fortuitous timing to change his mind.

“We went to Craftsbury for a cross-country running race, and then found my new favorite sport,” Loga said.

“It just so happened that the US Paralympic team was there hosting a demo day,” Tripp said. “And after Otis’s running race, I said, ‘Hey, O. I know you’re planning not to not ski this year, but let’s go check out the Paralympic team. You know, maybe they can hook you up with a sit ski or see what it’s about.’”

Through a grant from the Challenged Athletes Foundation, Otis strapped on his first sit ski last winter and never looked back, even earning an invite to camp with the US Paralympic team.

“And then I started getting the hang of it, and I went away to camp last year in Sun Valley, Idaho,” Loga said. “I could actually ski with people at the same eye level. I was like, ‘Awesome.’”

With a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work, Otis wants to see how far his newfound passion can take him.

“After high school, I’m planning on at least a gap year,” he said. “And then once snow hits, go out west and continue skiing.”

“He took it and ran,” Tripp said. “He says he wants to be in the Olympics, and I would be absolutely unsurprised if he was in the Olympics.”