Friendly rivalries fuel Ski and Snowboard Club Vail Nordic team
VAIL ” There are rivalries brewing at the Vail Nordic Center.
It’s not along the lines of Yankees vs. Red Sox, or Broncos against Raiders. These combatants call each other friends.
Eight members of the Ski and Snowboard Club Vail Nordic team will get another chance for bragging rights March 7-15 at the Cross Country Junior Olympics in Truckee, Calif.
“Oh, there’s a rivalry,” Conor Wallace said. “There’s always a rivalry. The people I want to beat most on the weekend are (teammates) Tony (Ryerson) and Sean (Woods).”
That same competitive fire has been a driving force behind SSCV’s success this season. Throughout the winter, the athletes juggled dual roles of teammates on SSCV and foes on their respective high school teams.
The hard work paid off with Ryerson, Woods, Chris Woods, Wallace and Christian Shanley making the trip to California on the boys’ side. Jessica Linder, Kaitlin Zdechlik and Lauren Zdechlik will represent the SSCV girls.
SSCV coach Karl Hochtl credited his athletes for their hard work in the offseason. The team ran, did ski imitation, roller skiing and weight training all before the first snowflake hit the ground.
“You look back to May and June when we started practice on dry land to see who was out there,” Hochtl said. “All the (SSCV qualifiers) came up. A lot people don’t realize, Nordic skiers aren’t made in the winter time. They’re made in the summer and fall.”
Now, SSCV is off to race against some of the country’s best Nordic athletes. The eight SSCV skiers will be apart of the Rocky Mountain Division team with kids from Aspen, Steamboat Springs and other Colorado communities.
“It’s really exciting for me,” said Shanley about his first time at Junior Olympics. “I wasn’t expecting to make it. Now, knowing that I’m going is a great feeling.”
Keys to success
For most of the SSCV kids, the Junior Olympics will be their biggest race to date. Instead of approaching it that way, Wallace said he’s going to toe the starting line thinking it’s just another race.
“Whenever I get to big races, I psych myself out,” Wallace said. “I want to ski to the best of my abilities.”
He will get plenty of opportunities. Starting on March 7, it’s pretty much nonstop skiing until the 15th. At the end of the week, the best regional division will be awarded the Alaska Cup.
Shanley is shooting for at least a top-15 finish in every race, while Wallace is keeping with the rivalry theme.
“When we go to the race course, I want to beat the kids on the Rocky Mountain team more than anybody,” Wallace said. “If I’m going to get beat by anybody, I want to get beat by somebody from the Rocky Mountain team.”
Millar, Monypenny ready for Para-Nordic World Cup
The eight athletes heading to the Junior Olympics won’t be the only SSCV skiers competing in the near future. James Millar and Dominic Monypenny are headed to a Para-Nordic World Cup event in Whistler, British Columbia.
Millar is a veteran on the World Cup circuit. He currently sits in 13th in the standings with best finish of seventh place coming in Sweden. For Monypenny, this is his first major competition at the age of 49.
“I’m enormously excited,” Monypenny said. “I never thought for one moment I would be competitive skiing after all these years.”
Monypenny won’t just be racing for the first time, he is also trying to make history. If Monypenny finishes high enough, he’ll qualify for the Paralympics, making him the first Australian sit skier to make the Paralympics in Nordic.
Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.