It isn’t every day that young athletes get to work out with an Olympic gold medalist in the aisles of L.L. Bean.
Which may explain why two Power Hour events with five-time Olympic cross-country skier Kikkan Randall sold out before L.L Bean could advertise the gatherings.
“I just idealize her,” said Sadie Southall, 15, a sophomore on Freeport High School’s cross-country ski team.
Randall led two groups of 75 girls each – one for ages 8 to 12, the other for ages 13 to 18 – in half-hour workouts Saturday through the Freeport retailer’s flagship store, then talked about her own athletic endeavors to the crowds of adoring girls.
Randall, 35,who has tested and helped design women’s active wear for L.L. Bean since 2014, is president of Fast and Female USA, a nonprofit organization with the goal of keeping teenage girls in sports. Girls drop out of sports at six times the rate of boys in their early teens, largely because of a lack of social belonging, according to the group.
Randall was the only mother on the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where she and teammate Jesse Diggins won the first-ever Olympic gold medal for the U.S. in cross-country skiing in the team sprint event.
Randall told the crowd that she had been on the road for 4½ months and was looking forward to finally returning home to Alaska after leaving Maine.
But first she involved the group in a giant game of follow-the-leader as 75 13- to 18-year-olds ran through the shoe department and did push-ups amid women’s bathing suits and jumping jacks in children’s outerwear while stunned shoppers looked on.
Randall told the girls that sports give people energy, confidence and the feeling they can tackle anything.
“They form the foundation to let you go out and chase your dreams,” she said.
Southall said Randall’s message resonates with her. She said she didn’t think she had the gumption to continue skiing in high school.
“I didn’t think I had the mental strength to push myself,” she said.
But she said she ultimately pushed past it.
“There was a wall and now it’s gone,” said Southall, who also runs cross-country and plays tennis.
Brynne Robbins, 13, of Vienna said the more than hourlong drive to Freeport was worth it to see Randall.
The eighth-grader at Mt. Blue Middle School skis cross-country with the Farmington Area Ski Team.
“I’ve just looked up to Kikkan Randall for years. She is so persistent. I just want to tell her how inspiring she is,” she said.