Dan Simoneau uses multiple activities to increase the fitness of his Nordic skiers during the summer and fall.

Simoneau, the Nordic director for the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation, said that running uphill is the purest measure of fitness.

One of his athletes, 16-year-old Jeffrey Bert, is taking things to a higher level. Later this summer, Bert, who is a Summit High junior-to-be, will go to Italy to participate in the Youth Skyrunning World Championships.

Skyrunning is defined by the International Skyrunning Federation as mountain running at an elevation higher than 2,000 meters (about 6,562 feet) with an incline of more than 30%. It was founded in 1992 by a collection of mountaineers in the Italian Alps. Currently, according to the ISF it has more than 50,000 racers across 65 countries.

Bert became interested in this type of trail running when he was running during the previous couple of summers. He had been trying to stay in shape for the Nordic ski season.

“Every camp we do, we do an uphill run as a test,” Simoneau said of his Nordic teams. “And Jeffrey’s been helping me to find the hardest climbs. Going uphill is just a pure measure of fitness. What’s your aerobic capacity? Jeffrey and I will sit there with a map, ‘OK, where do we have big hills and where are the trails?’ He knows them all. He’s run them all.”

Bert has been a part of the MBSEF Nordic team for five years, and he has participated in the Junior Olympics in cross-country skiing the past two winters. He began going out on extended training runs that were 13 to 15 miles long during the summertime. He also attended the Max King Trail Running Camp the past two summers. The camps were held near Mount Hood in 2017 and near Lake Tahoe, California, in 2018. They were organized by King, the renowned pro runner from Bend.

“That was an amazing opportunity that I got to be a part of,” Bert said. “I just had an incredible experience. It was a really enjoyable camp to just start my interest in trail running.”

Bert has completed three ultramarathons – Races that are longer than the normal distance of 26.2 miles. Recently, he placed 16th out of 171 finishers in the 13.3-mile Mt. Ashland Hill Climb in Southern Oregon. He was 16th out of 311 finishers in the Smith Rock Ascent 15-mile run on May 19.

Though he was a cross country athlete as a freshman at Summit, Bert said he did not continue as a sophomore because he wanted to focus on longer-distance trail running.

He applied to participate in the Youth Skyrunning World Championships. Competitors must pay their own way. He added to his application the outcomes of his various races in addition to a few essays and a recommendation from King.

The site of the world championships is situated in the Apennine Mountains, L’Aquila, just a 90-minute drive from Rome. Bert would participate in two races at the world event. The first one, on Aug. 2, is a vertical kilometer that contains 1,000 meters of elevation gain that spans less than 5 kilometers. The second race, to be held on Aug. 4, is a 15-kilometer race through comparable terrain. The trails in this event are extremely technical.

Bert said he found out about skyrunning through a friend of a friend on his Nordic team.

“And then just looking it up online, I realized it took my strengths and it was something that I could go with,” he says. “It’ll be some brutal competition, but I’m really excited for it because it’s what I’ve been training for.”

Bert said he has spent a lot of time training at Smith Rock State Park near Terrebonne, where typically he can find lots of elevation gain without any snow. As the summer progresses and the snow melts in the Central Oregon Cascades, he plans for additional training runs up South Sister, Mount Bachelor and Tumalo Mountain.

Bert’s father is a commercial pilot. Jeffrey, his parents, and his sister Heidi, who is 14, have enjoyed hiking and backpacking trips in various places worldwide. While on those trips, Bert has gone on long trail runs in countries such as France, Switzerland, Chile, New Zealand and Tasmania.

“It’s amazing for training, and you see such a variety of trails,” Bert said of traveling.

Bert’s family intends to make the trip to Italy to watch him race and then to travel around Europe after the races.

“We just love traveling and love seeing the world,” Bert said.

Bert’s long-term career goal is to go into sports medicine. He said he hopes to attend college in a mountain town where he can continue to pursue Nordic skiing, and of course, trail running.

“He’s just an aspirational kid when it comes to doing stuff,” Simoneau said. “He just wants to be better at whatever he does. It’s pretty cool. Whatever he chooses to do, he’s going to be really good at.”

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