One final kick for Vail Nordic | VailDaily.com
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One final kick for Vail Nordic

Ian CroppVail, CO Colorado
SPT Nordic PU 3-6-08
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VAIL, Colorado A state title is a wonderful feather in a Nordic skiers cap.But a national title, or at least a top finish, is what for some Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes are shooting for next week.Weve done a great job regionally and at the state meet, but now its time to step up and race with the big boys, said SSCV Nordic director Dan Weiland.The 2008 United States Ski and Snowboard Associations Cross Country Junior Olympic Championships kick off Sunday in Anchorage, Alaska, and run through March 15.Last year, SSCV brought a hefty roster of nine skiers and boasts an equally impressive group of eight skiers this year.Its always good to be consistent, Weiland said. If we qualified nine last year and two this year, you could say it was a fluke. But what were doing seems to be working, and thats half the battle bringing this many athletes. Aspen Valley (Ski Club) is brining one and Steamboat (Springs Winter Sports Club) is bringing six, and these are clubs that have thousands of kids. We have about 400-odd kids.Athletes qualify for junior nationals through results in regional races. For several of the eight athletes, this year is a repeat appearance at the national event.My first year, I went to Houghton, (Michigan), and that was pretty much my first year skiing competitively, Vail Mountains Karlie Moore said. I had a breakout race and was eighth in classic, and thats when I found out I was a classic skier. Last year, I was seventh in classic. Now, were really pushing for it.Weiland likes the chances of his racers, several of whom won regional club races, high school races or high school titles.I think Karlie, Chris (Woods), Sean (Woods) and Tony (Ryerson) have a good shot at making it into the sprint finals, Weiland said. The way Sean skied at Solder Hollow, (Utah), he could very easily be in the top five at nationals.Sean Woods won a regional sprint race at Solider Hollow. Along with Woods brothers, Ryerson and Moore, Kaitlin Zdechlik, Lauren Zdechlik and Rob Fitz all of whom are Vail Mountain students are heading to junior nationals. Vail Christians Jessica Linder will be returning to junior nationals again this year.

While Vail Valley and Colorado racers often have an edge at high-altitude races, they may not be afforded such a luxury in Alaska.Especially with the sprints, we struggle coming from a higher altitude and going to a lower altitude, Weiland said. You definitely see we have better results toward the end of the week, once we can ski in sea level.The racers will arrive two days before the competition, hoping to acclimate. After Mondays sprints, racers have a day off before the mass start classic race.Karlie has a shot at the top five, and hopefully, her goal is to be in the top three, and thats a doable thing, Weiland said. Jess has a chance at cracking the top 10 in J1 girls.After another day off, the skiers have the individual-start freestyle and finish off with a relay the next day.All of the racers are coming off a successful state meet two weeks ago.We really try to peak around states and basically taper for two weeks, Weiland said. Physically, I think were in a good place to go fast. It depends on who shows up on that day and who digs the deepest.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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