Vail Mountain sweeps skate race at state meet |

Vail Mountain sweeps skate race at state meet

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyVail Christian's Jessica Linder extends her lead on Friday in the skate race at the state ski meet. Linder won for the second-straight day, this time by more than 40 seconds.

SKI COOPER, Colorado ” At this rate, Vail Mountain may never lose another Nordic meet again. Vail Christian’s Jessica Linder might be feeling the same way.

The victories kept coming for local athletes on Day 2 of the state ski meet in Leadville. The Gore Rangers took home the team titles in both the boys and girls’ skate races with dominating performances. On Thursday, VMS did the same thing in classic.

Jessica Linder captured her second title at the state meet by winning Friday’s skate race. On Thursday, she flew past the field to win the classic by more than 30 seconds.

Fittingly, in the boys’ race, the Gore Rangers finished second, third and fourth. All season long, the trio of Rob Fitz, Tony Ryerson and Sean Woods pushed each other in practice hoping to accomplish their ultimate goal. They did that on Friday by sweeping the team titles.

Woods finished in 13 minutes, 40.6 seconds to edge Ryerson by one tick for second place. Only seven seconds behind Woods was Fitz for fourth place. Battle Mountain’s Conor Wallace did well to finish seventh in a time of 14:18.5 after battling an illness all morning.

The 2-3-4 finish gave VMS 174 points, enough to beat Aspen with 168 points.

“To have all three boys within seven seconds of each other, I’m kind of speechless,” Vail Mountain coach Karl Hochtl said. “To have them finish in that time frame, it speaks volumes of what they’ve done together. It’s not surprising. They’re excited. It’s awesome.”

The wins in both skate and classic gives the Gore Rangers four-straight state title wins dating back to last season.

“It feels great,” Ryerson said. “We picked up right where we left off last year.”

The race also marked the end of Ryerson’s and Fitz’s high school careers for VMS. They couldn’t have picked a better way to go out, especially with Fitz running his two best races of the season at state.

“I’m really happy,” Woods said. “It feels great because we were able to set a goal and obtain it. It was awesome because both our girls and guys were able to do it.”

Speaking of the VMS girls, Day 2 of the state meet is one they should remember for a long time. Kaitlin Zdechlik, Lauren Zdechlik, Sally Ryerson, Amelia Ortiz and Betsy Batts all finished in the top 11 for the Gore Rangers.

The effort pushed VMS to the skate title with 172 points. Aspen took second with 167 points. The Gore Rangers nearly won the overall team title (Nordic and alpine), but finished second behind Middle Park.

“It’s a pretty amazing day when the girls can win the team title,” Hochtl said.

Kaitlin Zdechlik led the charge for the Gore Rangers in second place behind Linder. Sally Ryerson (fifth) and Lauren Zdechlik (fourth) gave VMS enough points for the team Nordic title.

“It’s a real testament to their work ethic and how they support each other as a team,” Hochtl said.

Linder wins again

On Thursday, Linder etched her name into Vail Christian’s record books by becoming the first Saints athlete to win a state title. She added a second one on Friday in the skate race just for good measure.

Linder crushed the field in 15:07.4, more than 40 seconds faster than second place.

“She’s worked hard,” said Hochtl, who coaches Linder on the Ski and Snowboard Club Vail Nordic team. “She’s extremely talented.”

Battle Mountain alpine solid

The Battle Mountain boys alpine team continued its stellar state meet on Friday in the giant slalom. Ike Sheppard paced the Huskies in seventh with a combined time of 2:00.36.

“Ike was awesome,” Battle Mountain coach Simon Marsh said. “He had two solid runs. He’s a great athlete. He has gotten stronger in every race.”

Charlie Berry took 10th for the Huskies in 2:01.21. Nick Braun (21st) and Davey Dechant (25th) both finished in the top 30.

In the girls’ race, Annie Talbot finished 23rd for Battle Mountain. Jana Weiss was right behind in 24th.

Look for more coverage from the state ski meet in Sunday’s Vail Daily.

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

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