Ryerson, Linder claim titles in Vail
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” Jessica Linder knows only one way to compete. The Vail Christian senior pushes her body to the limit until there is nothing left to give.
The exhausting strategy worked to perfection on Saturday afternoon. Linder topped 61 other skiers for her first career win in a high school Nordic race at the Vail Nordic Center. Vail Mountain’s Tony Ryerson relied on strategy to claim the top spot in the boys’ race.
“It’s not necessarily about winning,” Linder said “You go out there and it feels good at the end of the race to know you have nothing left.”
One of the reasons Linder is able to execute her all-out game plan is because of her superb physical condition. During the fall, Linder is an accomplished cross country runner. Some of those same skills helped her win on Saturday.
At the start of the race, Linder wasted no time in jumping out in front. She then fended off a pair of challengers on the homestretch to win in a time of 23 minutes, 6.2 seconds.
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“The back stretch is kind of intimidating when you first see it,” Linder said. “I was coming down, and actually, I was pretty sure we were going to turn in around the pavilion. When they sent us back out, I was like, ‘Oh no.’ Then you get on there, and you have to mentally prepare yourself.
“Suddenly you realize you only have 100 meters left and you better start pushing it. Every other girl behind you is thinking the same thing.”
Vail Mountain’s Kaitlin Zdechlik also ran a strong race, finishing third in 23:19.1. Zdechlik led a strong contingent of Gore Rangers. Lauren Zdechlik took eight, Sally Ryerson 15th and Amelia Ortiz 17th.
Battle Mountain was paced by Anouk Guilmineau’s seventh-place finish in 24:44.1. Eagle Valley’s Raina Gulick and Ann Carlin finished back-to-back in 38th and 39th place, respectively.
“I’m pleased with how our girls skied today,” Vail Mountain coach Karl Hochtl said. “The girls across the board, from our newbies, all the way (down). It was a great day.”
Aspen won the team title with 166 points.
Cerebral Ryerson wins
As if Tony Ryerson didn’t already own enough of an advantage over other skiers because of his size and strength, his brain is yet another tool at his disposal. On Saturday, the Vail Mountain senior wisely conserved energy until the back stretch where he blew past the competition, winning in 19:01.9.
“It’s sweet to get the victory,” Ryerson said. “I have never won here in Vail before. It’s just awesome. In the last home race to get the win. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Ryerson took the lead in the beginning of the race, but decided to pull back just enough to save his legs. Steamboat Springs’ Erik Lynch and Michael Ward overtook Ryerson on the downhill portion of the course, then Ryerson made his move.
“I let them lead through the flat section,” Ryerson said. “I skied nice and easy. Then on the final turn, there is a little hill. I decided to turn on the jets there. I knew I could out-sprint them.”
The winning strategy didn’t surprise his coach. After all, Ryerson was accepted into Harvard two weeks ago where he plans to continue his Nordic skiing career.
“Tony’s a monster,” Hochtl said. “He never ceases to amaze me. Even with the tough work load we put on him, he still seems to be able to pull it out. He’s an animal. He can handle a lot.”
Besides Ryerson’s impressive race, the Gore Rangers got strong performances from Sean Woods (fifth) and Rob Fitz (sixth). Vail Mountain racked up 171 points to win the team title.
Battle Mountain’s Connor Wallace was the next top area finisher in ninth place. Christian Shanley (21th), Aleksei Horn (28th) and Christian Kloser (36th) all did well for the Huskies.
Vail Chrisitian’s Ian Hamina finished close behind Wallace in 11th place in a time of 20:41.5. Eric Gallgher took 37th for the Saints.
Eagle Valley was paced by Casey Kerrigan’s time of 23:10.4 ” good enough for 25th. Christian Garberg (53th) and James Jagger (60th) were the next two skiers for the Devils.
Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.