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Final Wax: Eagle Co. team prep for state

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado
SPT Girls HS Slalom 1 DT 1-11-08
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colorado ” While there have been some problems with state ski results in the past, those gazing over this year’s names and numbers may want to prime their eyes for a dose of the abnormal.

So just what can one expect when the 2008 state championships kick off in Steamboat Springs today? Possible podium sweeps by multiple Eagle County schools, a team with two racers finishing in the top five, a team that’s never been to the show before slipping into the top five and insanely quick 5-kilometer Nordic finishes.

On the alpine side, the Battle Mountain girls look to continue their near perfect season with a pair of wins while Vail Mountain Nordic has its eyes set on winning all

four races.

“I think if everyone skis well, there’s potential to do well in both of them and win,” Battle Mountain alpine coach Simon Marsh said.

Much like Marsh, Vail Mountain Nordic coach Karl Hochtl is cautiously optimistic about his team’s shot at landing on top.

“We can look on paper at all the success we’ve had this year, but it comes down to what happens on course,” he said.

Vail Christian’s budding boys alpine team could finish tops among local squads, while its girls Nordic tandem could easily beat half the field. And Eagle Valley girls alpine has the potential to be a top-five team.

Competition starts this morning with an interval-start skate race and moves into a night slalom. Friday features the mass-start classic and the giant slalom.

“Whoever is in the best condition will win the (Nordic) races,” Eagle Valley coach Glen Ewing said. “It’s 3K up and 2K screaming down and a wax race to the bottom. It will make for a great (classic) finish because everyone will be recovered when they get down to the finish, and if they’re close, they’ll race their brains out.”

Much like in regular season races, the top three scores for each team count. The overall state champion is decided for the boys and girls by adding up the scores from both alpine and Nordic events.

With four wins in five races ” a close second is only blemish ” the Battle Mountain girls are automatic favorites in both disciplines. The scary part for the other teams is that the Huskies have a handful of girls capable of making the top five.

“When other girls are doing well, you say, ‘OK, now I don’t need to worry, and what happens, happens,'” Battle Mountain’s Jamie Lee Roberts said.

Jenny Banner, Kelly VanHee and Marisa Ammaturo all have won races this year, and Marsh sees no reason why it can’t be done again.

“The individual titles are up for grabs for at least three of our skiers, which would be awesome,” Marsh said.

On the boys side of alpine, the Huskies have a slew of racers capable of cracking the top 20.

“Hopefully we can get into the top five (as a team),” Marsh said. “Every race we’ve had a crash or something has happened. They’ve all qualified, so now is the time they can have quality results. The potential is the top three for them.”

Along with some young club racers like Christoph Niederhauser and Zachary Ziolkowski, the Huskies have experienced upperclassman like Davey DeChant and Blaze Heuga.

After solid results all season, Conor Wallace will lead the boys Nordic team, with potential top-five finishes in both races.

“He’ll be mixing it up with his club teammates, trying to break the (Vail Mountain) group up,” said Hochtl, one of Wallace’s club coaches.

Roberts, a Skimeister competitor, is the top racer on the girls side.

Although the Gore Rangers have a high school enrollment of just more than 100, they have a storied skiing history ” one they hope to continue at this year’s state meet.

“We have a lot of big goals teamwise and individually,” senior Nordic skier Chris Woods said. “I think how we did throughout the year clubwise and high school-wise, we have the opportunity to accomplish anything we set our minds to.”

The boys have a shot at taking the top three spots in both races.

“They want to do a podium shutout, but it’s a state meet, and anything can happen,” Hochtl said.

Look for Woods along with brother Sean, Tony Ryerson and Rob Fitz to cram the top of the results sheet, with Wes Batts close behind.

A semihealthy Karlie Moore has the ability to win both races for Vail Mountain and is the favorite for classic, while Kaitlin and Lauren Zdechlik consistently have been in the top 10, giving the girls a solid shot at winning.

“Karlie’s ready to go and feeling good,” Hochtl said.

Vail Mountain alpine ” both boys and girls ” has shown potential all season but hasn’t yet strung it all together for one race.

“I don’t think all our top racers have finished yet, and we’ve still had some pretty good overall results,” alpine coach Ross Sappenfield said.

A senior-heavy girls team has two top-10 threats in Lucy Sackbauer and Joely Denkinger, while the boys have five racers who may crash the top 20.

“The girls have finished third before, so there’s a realistic expectation they can break into the top two, but three would be fantastic,” Sappenfield said. “I think for our boys, a third-place finish would be our best.”

It’s a little late now, but Jessica Linder and Lettie Fickling would have loved it if one more girl threw on a Vail Christian Nordic bib and joined the two-girl squad. Even without a third member, the Saints are still holding themselves to high standards.

“They want to be top 10 individually and top five as a team,” said Hochtl, also one of the Vail Christian Nordic coaches.

Linder, a junior, could challenge Moore for a classic title.

The first-year boys Nordic team had two of its three racers qualify ” Ian Hamina and Ryan Vlaar.

On the alpine side, the boys have made giant strides all year, leaving coach Chris Gamble upping the ante for expectations on a weekly basis.

“We’re hoping to be the best in the valley,” Gamble said. “It’s exciting and incredible. Especially only in the second year of the program. Last year, we had four racers, now we have three at state.”

Corey Seemann, who qualified last year, has a top-10 finish in his pocket heading into state, with Hamina and Brennan Steege making their first appearances.

Ewing, the perennial straight shooter, posed a question when asked how his team looks heading into today’s race.

“Ask me how many kids on my team are healthy,” Ewing said. “Only one.”

Still, the Devils boast a boys lineup capable of cracking the top half of the draw, with Sage and Ethan Smith leading the way and James McGoodwin and Nick Brink close behind.

On the girls side, Ali Gulick will compete in both races, and Caitlin Yarger and Molly Walker each are slated for one race.

“This will be the first time this group of kids has seen Howelsen (Nordic Area),” Ewing said.

As it showed at the Beaver Creek slalom, when its top racers shine, the Eagle Valley girls alpine team can creep high up in the standings. Shanna Zoch and Nicole Luczkow easily can be in the top 20 in both races, while the boys will look to Zach Bailey, Cody Coulter and Griffin Turnipseed.

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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