Nordic teams battle tough course at state championships
In fact, the Nordic course may have been the biggest star, punishing the boys and girls with a steep four-minute climb right out of the start. Racers who had anything left at the finish line promptly lost their lunches. More than one athlete finished in tears, but most agreed the biggest high-school event of the year should be the hardest.
“It’s a beast,” said Vail Mountain School racer Josh Smith, who finished 17th. “It has that really hard hill to climb, and when you’re coming down, you have two turns – a hard left and a hard right.”
Aspen’s Simi Hamilton won the boys competition in 20 minutes, 58.9 seconds, while Steamboat Springs’ Sarah McCarthy took the girls’ race in 25 minutes, 38.8 seconds. VMS’ Haleigh Armstrong was the top local finisher, taking third.
Summit won the boys competition, with Aspen coming in second, followed by local teams VMS (fourth), Eagle Valley (ninth) and Battle Mountain (tenth). Steamboat took the girls’ race, with Eagle Valley finishing fourth, VMS taking seventh and Battle Mountain eighth.
Eagle Valley’s Katie Wick finished 13th for the second-straight year, but could barely force a smile after crossing the finish line – painted red, of course.
“This is the hardest course we’ve skied all year,” Wick said. “The last half mile, there was so much wind. I needed to go fast and finish. Then, the wind.”
The course began with a slight decline towards a gulley, and then sent the racers in the longest climb. A technical descent followed, and then turned into a twisty, flat section and another incline towards the finish line. The competitors, started at random in 15-second intervals, did the 1.8-mile course twice.
“We did get some practice in this week,” said Devils racer Dan Lewis, who finished 22nd. “It’s a tough course, so it helped. The downhill was so icy, people were shoveling snow on it.”
Battle Mountain’s Maddie McCaulley said she couldn’t think too much about the actual course.
“I just go,” said McCaulley, who finished 12th. “I think the practice really helped.”
Eagle Valley coach Glen Ewing liked his team’s finish, led by Wick and Jill Ewing’s skiing into 16th place. Ellie Comerford came in 25th, and Audrey Powell finished 30th. Wes Minet finished 37th in the boys race.
“It was a tough day and a tough course,” Ewing said. “I think Cordillera has definitely earned a rep as a new monster course. I think we all did OK. We’ve got the best of the best here.”
VMS, led by Armstrong, was backed by Courtney Robinson (21st). The guys used a 10th-place finish Sylvan Ellefson to lead Smith (17th), Brad Bingham (18th), Taylor Sheldon (25th) and Duncan Robinson (32nd).
“This is a world-class type, cross-country course,” VMS coach Karl Hochtl said. “I thought the kids really stepped it up and worked hard.”
Battle Mountain’s McCaulley led the Huskies girls, who included Meghan Meehan, who finished 23rd. On the boys side, Grant Stevenson placed 29th, in front of teammate Andy Given, who placed 40th.
Earlier in the day on the hill, Battle Mountain girls alpine won local bragging rights in the giant slalom. The Lady Huskies finished third with 152 points behind Summit (169) and Aspen (167).
Erika Ghent just missed the podium in fourth place, just under a second behind Summit’s Shelley Miller. Lauren Arnold picked up 50 points for the Huskies in 12th place, follwed by Jenna Hughes in 15th.
Heidi Moore (17th), Keegan Garnsey (18th), Kate VanHee (21st) Heidi Lauterbach (26th), Brittany Peterson (36th), Katie Gosiewski (42nd), and Josie Sutner rounded out Battle Mountain’s state contingent.
In the VMS’ in-house Skimeister race, Armstrong took a good step toward repeating as Skimeister finishing 19th ahead of teammate Courtney Robinson in 29th. Lauren Utzig and Alex Delude also participated for the Gore Rangers.
Eagle Valley’s top alpinist was Hanna Nelson in 23rd. Annie Vogel (31st) also put up points for the Devils.
On the boys’ side, VMS’ Duncan Robinson stayed neck-and-neck with teammate Ellefson for the Skimeister. With Ellefson having a strong Nordic performance, Robinson finished eighth. Ellefson took 32nd. Patrick Scanlan took 40th, scoring 33 points. Michael Busenhart also put down two runs.
From Battle Mountain, Taylor Roach led his team in 20th. Dak Steiert (25th) and Kyle Bruntz (31st) scored for the Huskies. Eric Nordstrom and Chad Shoulders also put down solid performances for Battle Mountain.
Eagle Valley got points from Kyle Green (30th), Matt Luczkow (36th) and Matt Herr (38th).
Summit won the boys’ GS with 175 points, followed by Aspen with 170. Battle Mountain, VMS and Eagle Valley finished sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively.
In the overall standings, the Summit boys lead Aspen, 346-332. In the girls’ race, Aspen is ahead of Summit, 332-320
The state meet continues today with a slalom at Beaver Creek on the base of Centennial, starting at 9:30 a.m. The scene shifts to the Vail Nordic Center at 4 p.m. for a freestyle.
The awards banquet and ceremony is at Berry Creek Middle School in Edwards. Food at 6 p.m., followed by the hardware at 7 p.m.
Vail Daily sports editor Chris Freud contributed to this report.
Ryan Slabaugh can be contacted at (970) 949-0555 ext. 608 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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