Points parade for Vail Mountain nordic
Vail, CO Colorado
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colorado ” As any Nordic ski racer can attest, the finish area is a place where feeling lightheaded and being unable to speak is the norm.
But after Thursday’s state championships skate race in Steamboat Springs, the Vail Mountain boys stood in the finish corral with an extra buzz.
“It was really overwhelming,” Vail Mountain’s Tony Ryerson said.
“You had to just step back for a second and take it in,” Chris Woods said.
Even though the Gore Rangers had discussed a podium sweep Wednesday night as a goal, Thursday’s near sweep left them at a loss for words.
“I can’t really believe it,” said Ryerson, who won the individual title, completing the five-kilometer Howelsen Hill course in 13 minutes, 19 seconds, leading his team to a resounding win. “I’m speechless.”
Woods took second, while Summit’s Tyler Reinking came in seven seconds ahead of Vail Mountain’s Rob Fitz to take third. Fitz was fourth, one spot ahead of teammate Sean Woods. Battle Mountain’s Conor Wallace was sixth, putting five Eagle County racers in the top six.
“We thought it would be nice to win, but to do so in such a manner is remarkable,” Vail Mountain coach Karl Hochtl said. “They came prepared. … We had a race this past weekend in Durango, and with only a couple days turnaround, we thought there would be a letdown, but there was none. They were dialed from start to finish and skied the course according to plan, which was key.”
For most of the first three kilometers, Howelsen Hill featured long uphill portions, while the final two kilometers was mostly downhill before a flat finish. In the interval-start race, Ryerson was one of the first to head out.
“I didn’t have anyone to pace off of,” Ryerson said. “I just went out hard and kept going.”
Chris Woods had his best high school race of the year, coming in 21 seconds behind Ryerson.
“I’m stoked,” he said. “When I got into the finish area and went to (coach) Dan (Weiland), he said we had four in the top five. It was unbelievable. Everyone was so happy for each other.”
Fitz had one of his best career races.
“It was a great day for everyone ” you really can’t beat that,” he said.
Vail Christian’s Ian Hamina, a first-year skier, was 20th, while Eagle Valley’s Sage Smith took 29th. The Devils took eighth, followed by Vail Christian in ninth and Battle Mountain in 10th.
“The Haminator is going to be a force to be reckoned with next year,” Hochtl said of Hamina, a sophomore.
Other local finishers include Ryan Vlaar (Vail Christian, 34th), James McGoodwin (Eagle Valley, 35th), Nick Brink (Eagle Valley, 38th), Harrison Huntoon (Battle Mountain, 42nd) and Ethan Smith (Eagle Valley, 47th).
Even with their near-flawless performance Thursday, the Gore Rangers have high hopes for Friday’s mass-start classic.
“We’re going to stick with the pack and then see if we can take off,” Ryerson said. “All five of our guys could potentially be in the top five if not top 10.”
Skate isn’t her strong suit, but Vail Mountain’s Karlie Moore still expected to win Thursday’s girls title.
Moore had a great race, taking second, just eight seconds off Summit’s Briana Perkins.
“I knew it was going to between the two of us,” Moore said. “She’s beaten me both years. I’m really looking forward to (Friday’s classic), which is a mass start.”
Vail Christian’s Jessica Linder took third, nearly one minute ahead of the fourth-place finisher.
“I feel pretty good but a little sore,” said Linder, who was eighth last year.
The Gore Rangers’ Kaitlin Zdechlik had a great second half of the race to land in fifth place.
“This was my best high school skate result for sure,” Zdechlik said. “We’ve been working on downhill a lot, and (the second half) was the time to show all the work we’ve been doing.”
“At the 2K split, she was in 11th,” Hochtl said. “That’s the start of a gradual climb, … and she turned it on.”
With only four points separating the top four teams, Aspen emerged as the winner, one point ahead of Summit and two points ahead of Vail Mountain. Host Steamboat was fourth, while the two-person Vail Christian squad took eighth, thanks to a 16th-place finish by Lettie Fickling.
“We are doing the best with the amount of girls we have, which is two,” Linder said. “It’s good to know you’re out there and can put a dent into the points.
Lauren Zdechlik was 23rd for Vail Mountain, with teammate Amelia Ortiz 32nd. Ali Gulick led Eagle Valley in 38th, with teammate Caitlin Yarger in 46th. Battle Mountain’s Jamie Lee Roberts was 45th, with teammate Erin Barker 50th.
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