Roach, Stevenson go 1-2 in Skimeister race
Battle Mountain’s Taylor Roach is an alpiner.
He made the decision to put on some Nordic skis this winter just to get some team points for the Huskies. He had no dreams of glory when it came to Nordic.
“Last year, when we sent only one or two Nordic kids to state and it didn’t go too well, we wanted to get more people doing Nordic,” Taylor said. “I went into it just wanting to get some more points for the team. So both Clay (McRory) and I just decided to do it.”
Well, one year later, Roach not only helped the team cause by putting up points for the Huskies, but in the process, nailed down the coveted Skimeister award, given to the best high school skier in the state in all four disciplines – giant slalom, slalom and Nordic freestyle and classic.
He finished three points in the standings ahead of teammate Grant Stevenson, giving the Huskies the top two spots on the Skimeister podium.
Oh, by the way, he also brought home the Male Skier of the Year Award, which is voted on by the state’s coaches.
“It’s cool because we were out there everyday practicing,” Roach said. “Standing on the podium with Grant shows a lot about our school and the work we put in.”
Competing for the Skimeister – much less winning it – takes a certain type of person. Or as Stevenson jokingly said, “You have to be a little screwed up in the head is the easiest way to put it.”
The training regimen which Skimeisters undertake is tiring even to think about. For four days a week – Mondays through Thursdays -they go to school from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. They’re on the hill by 2:30 p.m., putting in an average of five tough runs, according to Huskies alpine coach Simon Marsh. Next up it’s off to the Vail Nordic Center, to do anywhere from 3-20 kilometers, depending on the training for the day. Then, you race alpine each Friday and have a Nordic race on Saturday.
Somewhere in there comes finding time to do homework, eat and get some sleep.
“Physically, I seem to be getting more sleep than I usually do,” Roach said. “Mentally, I just try to stay focused on getting team points for the state championship. Unfortunately, we ended up 3 1/2 points short of third.”
“You try not to think about how much it’s going to hurt,” Stevenson said. “Last night, I couldn’t move at all I was so tired.”
Twelve hours of sleep later, young Stevenson is feeling much better, thank you.
“You have to have different sets of muscle groups to do this,” Simon said. “You go from the fast twitch reflex muscles in alpine to the long endurance muscles for Nordic. You have to build up both sets to be able to sustain yourself. It takes a lot.”
For Roach, the challenge was Nordic. Roach came through the ranks of the Buddy Werner League and Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, so alpine was his strength, especially the GS. The only times before this year that he was on Nordic skis were the annual days when the Huskies alpine team went to Nordic practice to see how the “other side” lives.
“Classic was harder,” Roach said. “It’s less like alpine, where you still do some skating, which helped with the freestyle. In classic, it’s just finding your body straighter and you don’t want to bend your hips. It was just a different technique. It was just like learning to ski again.”
But, eventually, Roach got it, averaging Nordic finishes somewhere between 25th and 35th place, while, on the alpine side, he was usually in the top-20. It wasn’t until the last alpine event of the regular season at Golden Peak in Vail that Roach found out he was in the mix for Skimeister.
“I was talking with Grant and he said that we were 1-2 in the Skimeister points,” Roach said. “I was kind of surprised. I thought it was a cool thing. When we were aware of it, it wasn’t really a rivalry between me and Grant. He really helped me on the Nordic end of it.”
And, voila, Roach is your Skimeister and Skier of the Year, the latter being a much bigger surprise.
“I was sitting there when they announced that the Skier of the Year was from Battle Mountain,” Roach said. “I’m thinking, “Well, who won that?’ When they called me up, I was surprised. I didn’t expect it. I found out that the coaches nominated kids and then voted on who wins. It’s a good honor. I’m proud to get that.”
Stevenson is no stranger to the Skimeister chase. His brother, James, podiumed a few times during his career and, now, Grant has equaled his brother’s best finish – second. Stevenson first thought about making a run at Skimeister last year.
“Last year, I just missed too many races to get on the podium,” he said. “I finished sixth and they podium the top-five. I was thinking, “Wow, I can make it on.'”
Stevenson, who’s stronger in Nordic, did make it. Major improvement on the hill, according to Marsh, was key.
“It’s awesome,” Stevenson said. “Last year, (the Vail Mountain School) got three people on the podium. Being able to be up there with another Battle Mountain kid is great. I only wish we got Clay McRory up there, too.”
In the girls’ race, Battle Mountain’s Jane Lettovska finished fourth, a tremendous accomplishment as a freshman. For VMS, Josh Smith finished fourth.