Ava Thurston (17) of Waterbury is no stranger to success. She’s a three-time cross-country running state champion, two-time Nordic skiing state champion, 2019-2020 Gatorade Vermont Player of the Year for girls’ cross-country, 2021 Times Argus Skier of the Year, and 2021 USA Today High School Sports Award honoree. She has also competed internationally in Nordic skiing, placing 14th at the Nordic Junior World Championships in Finland last year.



When asked what it feels like to have so many accolades before finishing high school, she said, “I think it’s really cool and I’m honored to receive [the awards].” She notes that the Gatorade Player of the Year award also factored in academics and working hard in school, in addition to athletic success.

Thurston will be a senior at Harwood Union High School in the fall and said, “I’m super excited for cross-country this year. Our team is really strong and we have a really good team vibe. I’m excited for COVID to be less of a thing and to be able to practice together and having a sense of team again.” She said it was “a little sad” to train and compete during COVID when she and her teammates couldn’t all be together and do team bonding events. In her final high school cross-country season, she said, “It would be great to have a team state championship.” She also said she hopes to make the Junior World Championships in Nordic skiing again and do even better this year.


This summer, she’s been working hard training and doing ski camps. This week, she’s off to Park City, Utah, for a national training camp. She said she definitely wants to compete in Nordic skiing in college and maybe cross-country, too. While she hasn’t yet decided where to go or what to study, she plans on staying in New England for college.

“This has been a really great place to grow up,” she said. “The recreation here is really amazing and the community is very supportive.” She also said she loves that there are so many places to ski. “Vermont is the best state in the nation for Nordic skiing,” she said, adding, “I don’t think I’d have gotten [awards] without going to Harwood and having a really strong cross-country program.”

When not training or racing, Thurston can be found at the Waterbury pool, where she’s working this summer teaching swimming. She also enjoys reading and going on family trips.

She said, “Watch out for Harwood girls cross-country this year!”