Nordic skiers gear up for Jr. Nationals
VAIL – Different length races, new teammates and national competition. These are some of the elements Vail Nordic Club athletes will be dealing with at the Junior National Cross Country Championships at Houghton, Mich., next week. But the toughest transition for the area’s top skiers may be the harsh element of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. After a week of practicing in T-shirts, VNC’s Karlie Moore thinks she may be wearing a layer two or more when she’s racing against the best skiers in the country.”Our coaches (Dan Weiland and Karl Hochtl) said it’s definitely going to be a lot colder,” Moore said.And when that happens to be one of the main concerns, it says a lot about the caliber of the skiers.Moore had two fourth-place finishes at the state meet for Vail Mountain, but isn’t really worried about results in what will be her first time competing at the Junior Nationals.”Our coaches talked to us the other day and they said I have a chance of winning the 5K classic, but other than that, I’m going to try and have fun,” Moore said.Other first-time competitors include Lani Bruntz and Tony Ryerson of Vail Mountain, as well as Molly McGee of Vail Christian. All three had multiple top-15 finishes during the high school season, which bodes well for nationals, where Rocky Mountain Division participants are excepted to do well.”I think we’ll do really well,” Moore said. “We had a race this year in Soldier Hollow, Utah, and eight of the top-10 finishers were Rocky Mountain skiers.”
ExperienceIn addition to the high school competitors, there will be two former VNC skiers and VMS graduates competing in Houghton. Josh Smith, who skies at CU, and Haleigh Armstrong, who skies at Bates, both went to nationals last year.Smith, who is in his sophomore year, trained hard prior to last year’s race and was pleased with the results.”Last year I finished fifth in the 15K skate,” Smith said. “It got me on the CU team, and I’m doing well there. This has been my first year skiing at CU. Last year I trained on my own and with Dan Weiland and did some RMD races.”While Smith won’t be competing at NCAA nationals, he’s not too disappointed.”There’s not much pressure on us for Junior Nationals,” Smith said. “The main focus is NCAA championships. Each team can only take three people, and we have two 23-year-old Norwegians and a 22-year-old Canadian going.”Still, Smith will be in the company of some of his CU teammates next week.
“There are two juniors who will be racing in the Far West division, and a few other kids,” Smith said.So, will they be making any friendly wagers on the races?”They tell us it’s a NCAA violation, and that no betting of any kind is allowed. But we’ll be competitive,” Smith said.Short and longMonday, all skiers will be competing in a 1.3K classic sprint. After the qualification round, the top 16 will be divided into quarterfinals groups, where two from each group will advance to the semifinals, and then finals.The SSCV skiers haven’t had much experience in sprints, but then again, neither has the competition, so nobody is quite sure what to expect.On Wednesday, the skiers will compete in a mass start classic races of 5, 10 and 15K. Moore and Ryerson will race in the 5K, Bruntz and Armstrong will be in the 10K and Smith will be in the 15K.
Friday, there is a skate distance race that is 10K for guys and 5K for girls.”I’m looking forward to the 10K skate the most,” Smith said. “In college, we ski longer-distance races, like 20K and 15K. I’ve never been much of a sprinter, but I can ski fast over distance. I want to finish in the top five for all the events.”Then on Saturday, the skiers will be paired up with other racers in the relay 3-by-3 and 3-by-5 relays.Ryerson and Moore will be in the 3-by-3 relay and all others will be in the 3-by-5 relay. Moore is the second-seeded skier in the region and will be paired with Hannah Hausman from Summit and Katherine Ingels from Steamboat Springs.”I know my competition. They are now my teammates,” said Moore.And while Smith will be competing at Junior Nationals for his final time, Moore and the rest of high school racers are underclassmen and will likely be back.”It’s going to be great,” Moore said. “It’s not like I have to do really well to show colleges.” Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado