Vail Mountain Nordic among the state’s best |

Vail Mountain Nordic among the state’s best

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado
SN VMS SM 2-16-07

EAST-VAIL, Colorado ” One of the best coaching jobs in Colorado could belong to Karl Hochtl. He gets the opportunity to coach the Vail Mountain Nordic team.

The Gore Rangers return three of the top skiers in the state on the boys’ side. Three veterans are joined by five newcomers on a strong girls team. Add it up, and VMS should contend for multiple medals at the state championship in February in Leadville.

The Gore Rangers start their 2008-09 season today, with the boys racing at noon and the girls at 12:45 at the Vail Nordic Center.

“We’re really excited,” senior Tony Ryerson said. “It’s the first high school race of the year. We are really excited to race the home course. For us seniors, it’s the last home race.”

VMS boys aim for state title

It might be a good idea for fans to check out today’s race because all four county schools will be in action. In the boys’ race, the winner likely won’t be a surprise ” the Gore Rangers will probably come out on top.

The reason for optimism is because of the return of Ryerson, Sean Woods and Rob Fitz. Ryerson won the state title last year in the skate discipline. Fitz and Woods both finished in the top-five.

All the points from the Nordic side nearly pushed VMS to the overall state championship, along with alpine. The Gore Rangers finished second, but they don’t want a silver medal this year. VMS is aiming for the title.

“It’s definitely one of their top goals,” Hochtl said. “To have three guys who can definitely medal creates nice competition at practice. They kind of duke it out. To have the competition everyday amongst ourselves, it raises the bar.”

That competition in practice could give the Gore Rangers the edge come February. Ryerson said the team is training in a way that should have them peaking by the state championships.

“Everyday, we go out and really push each other,” Ryerson said. “It’s intense competition within the team. It’s good for us. It makes us step up.”

Veterans provide leadership

While the VMS boys are one of the favorites to win the state title, the girls team isn’t too shabby, either. Kaitlin Zdechlik, Betsy Batts and Amelia Ortiz are all back to form a strong nucleus for the Gore Rangers. The three are taking it upon themselves to help lead the new additions to the squad.

“It’s as basic as just providing support,” Hochtl said. “Saying to the younger kids, ‘You may not get it the first week, but hang in there because it will come.’ Nordic skiing takes a while to develop. A lot of kids coming in, they think they are going to step out there and get it. For the older skiers to pull the younger ones along, keep them smiling, that’s what it’s all about.”

Not only are they helping the young athletes, Zdechlik, Batts and Ortiz are all better than last season. Hochtl said Zdechlik is a strong contender to medal at state this year. Batts and Ortiz have both made progress in their training.

VMS is also excited about its younger skiers. Lauren Zdechlik, Bridget Moffat, Maddie Peck, Kelly Lindsay and Sally Ryerson are all working in practice to improve their times.

“We have some new girls that I think in a few years here will be racing at the top the pack,” Hochtl said.

After today’s race, VMS won’t be back in action until Jan. 10.

Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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