Club athletes excel at Soldier Hollow | VailDaily.com

Club athletes excel at Soldier Hollow

Daily staff report
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VAIL — The Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Nordic Team has much to celebrate as a result of performances over the past several weeks. After a successful event at Steamboat Springs, a large contingent of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail cross-country skiers traveled to Utah to compete in the Soldier Hollow Super Qualifier on Jan. 29 and 30. Hosting over 710 competitors, the Soldier Hollow Super Qualifier is the second largest junior race in the country and is widely considered to host the most competitive field of junior Nordic athletes in the United States outside of the U.S. Cross Country Championships and the Junior National Championships.

The Soldier Hollow event hosted athletes from throughout the Western Region ranging from 8 to 20 years of age. Cross-country skiers representing the Rocky Mountain, Inter-Mountain, Pacific Northwest, and Far West divisions competed against one another in a classic sprint on Friday and a freestyle mass start on Saturday.

The Soldier Hollow cross-country ski venue is located in the Wasatch Mountains 50 miles southeast of Salt Lake City and hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. Feeding on the venue's history and grandeur, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Nordic athletes were dominant at the event. Despite challenging weather conditions — rain followed by heavy snow — and the extremely competitive field of athletes, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail skiers accumulated a total of 12 podium finishes.

Maddie Donovan won the 18- to 20-year-old girls 10-kilometer mass start race with an impressive and gutsy performance. Despite suffering appendicitis over Thanksgiving and missing several weeks of practice, Donovan achieved an outstanding result.

"After the whole appendicitis episode at Thanksgiving I was relieved and excited to see that I hadn't lost my summer training and I was back on track to have a great season," Donovan said. "There is always a high level of competition at Soldier Hollow, and I was very happy to have a good day."

Gracie Shanley and Bridget Donovan were dominant throughout the day on the classic sprint. After very successful qualifiers, they dominated their quarter and semi-final races with smart tactics and excellent skiing. They finished first (Shanley) and second (Bridget Donovan) in the final for the 14- and 15-year-old girls.

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Other notable performances by Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes at Soldier Hollow included the following:

• Molly Blakslee (third): 12-and 13-year-old girls in the 3-kilometer mass start.

• Molly Blakslee (third): 12- and 13-year-old girls in the classic sprint.

• Elsa Perkins (second): 10- and 11-year-old girls in the classic sprint.

• Elsa Perkins (second): 10- and 11-year-old girls in the 2-kilometer mass start.

• Cora Wilson (third): 8- and 9-year-old girls in the classic sprint.

• Cora Wilson (first): 8- and 9-year-old girls in the 1.3-kilometer mass start.

• Nolan Herzog (third): 16- and 17-year-old boys in the 15-kilometer mass start.

• Conner Wilson (second) and Connor Larson (third): 10- and 11-year-old boys in the 2-kilometer mass start

"Overall a great performance in Soldier Hollow," said head Nordic coach Eric Pepper. "The venue is one of the absolute best in the country and getting to race mid-season against the top programs throughout the West is always a special experience."

For a complete list of results, go to http://www.summittiming.com/races/race_results.php.