Ellefson’s relay team wins gold at Junior Nationals
TRUCKEE, Calif. – As Vail Nordic Club coach Dan Weiland can attest, modest expectations produce pleasant surprises.Earlier this month at Junior Nordic Nationals at the Auburn Ski Club near Truckee, Calif., Weiland got eight surprises – as in eight top-10 finishes from four of the five local junior racers he took to the event. “We skied way above what I thought we could ski,” Weiland said. “Going in, I figured we could get a couple top 10s – maybe three or four – and one or two top fives. We reached all those goals and then some. We had outstanding performances all around.”J1 Sylvan Ellefson had the best individual showing of the group. The Vail Mountain School senior was third in the skate race, seventh in the classic race and took first in the three-person 15-kilometer classic relay. Ellefson also finished 34th in the 1K sprint.Older Junior Josh Smith, who is attending CU after graduating from VMS, finished fifth in the skate race and 10th in the relay.Smith was 29 seconds off the pace of the winner in the skate race.
“It was huge,” Weiland said of the result. “He’s basically racing against college kids that are training year round full-time. Josh does it part time year round.”VMS junior Haleigh Armstrong, coming off two silver medals at the state ski meet, finished 16th in the sprint race, 14th in the skate race, 10th in the classic and fourth in the relay.”She was pretty much consistent all around,” Weiland said. “She very easily could have had a letdown after state and not skied as well, but she was consistently one of our top juniors all week.”Eagle Valley’s Jill Ewing was the other junior to earn a spot on the winner’s podium.Ewing finished fifth in the relay race. Her second-best finish was a 20th in the classic race.”Her goals were just to get there,” Weiland said. “Then, she gets 20th in a very hard class, in what were pretty odd conditions for most of us skiers from Colorado. She did super well. Then, obviously the fifth-place in the relay. She comes home with a medal, which I’m sure she wasn’t even thinking of.”
Taylor Shelden, also of VMS, was the fifth junior participant from the Vail Nordic Club at Junior Nationals. Shelden finished 15th in the skate race and 31st in the classic. Weiland said Shelden would have had a top-10 finish in the skate race, had he not have fallen down.”He probably would have medaled,” Weiland said. “We had him in the top 10 for most of the race. You’ve got to stay on your feet, but that’s a learning lesson. We’ll have to work on that.” Weiland said the strong showing at the Auburn Ski Club concludes what has been the most successful year to date for the junior program at the Vail Nordic Club. Next year, Weiland said, the program will look to build on that success.”Hopefully, kids realize the accomplishments and get interested,” he said. “The thing is, we’re really just pooling from the Vail Mountain School right now. All these kids, except for Jill, are from VMS. So, if we can get more kids – there’s definitely more out there in the valley – it’s just getting them here and giving them our training and our coaching. We had 53 kids in the program this year. Our goal for next year is 75. We had five kids qualify this year (for Junior Nationals), so now it’s like, ‘Let’s get six.’ We’ll see what happens.”
Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at email@example.com.Vail, Colorado