Vail Mountain’s Woods breaks free to win |

Vail Mountain’s Woods breaks free to win

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado
Vail Mountain School skier Chris Woods competes in the state high school classic cross-country skiing championship race at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, CO on Friday, February 22, 2008.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colorado ” About one kilometer into Friday’s state-championship Nordic race, Vail Mountain’s Chris Woods jumped out to a lead and put aside his thoughts.

“That was the point when my body took over and I just started going,” Wood said.

For the final four kilometers of the five-kilometer classic race at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, Woods and his body stayed ahead of the field. As he closed in on the finish line, he regained control of his body.

“I went for the celebration at the finish line,” said Woods, who gave an emphatic fist pump.

In his final high school race, Woods came in at 14 minutes, 59 seconds to earn his first victory and lead the Gore Rangers to their second win in as many days.

“I was hoping for a good result, but I was more anxious to see how the team was doing,” Woods said. “We’ve all been working really hard together.”

Seven seconds after Woods crossed the line, his younger brother, Sean, came through in third.

“I was hoping I’d get second for a Woods-Woods finish,” Sean said. “I’m really happy for my brother.”

While the strategy of jumping out to an early lead sometimes can prove fateful, Chris didn’t let a seed of doubt enter his mind.

“I felt good about my skis and my fitness and thought it was time to go and attack,” he said.

Tony Ryerson was 11th, giving the Gore Rangers 168 points, three more than Aspen.

The Vail Mountain boys took second in the state tournament (overall results combined both Nordic and alpine races).

“It definitely portrays the amount of work our team has put in this year,” Chris Woods said. “We’re just so excited for everything. It’s a compliment to our coaches, Dan Weiland and Karl Hochtl, and their training. They’ve done so much for us all year, and everything has paid off. Now we can celebrate for a few days and get back to training.”

Vail Mountain, along with other skiers, competes in club races and heads to Alaska for junior nationals in mid-March.

Battle Mountain’s Conor Wallace followed a great race Thursday with another solid outing, placing 13th in Friday’s classic competition. Vail Mountain’s Wes Batts was 14th, followed by teammate Rob Fitz in 16th.

Vail Christian’s Ian Hamina capped off his first year of Nordic with a 21st-place finish Friday.

“I felt really strong,” said Hamina, a sophomore. “I was a little more nervous at state (then other races) because I felt more was riding on it, but I think I may do better when I’m nervous.”

Nick Brink led Eagle Valley in 24th, one spot ahead of teammate Ethan Smith.

“In four years, Nick has never come in first for us,” said Eagle Valley coach Glen Ewing. “He put together a race that for him was fantastic. What a way to go out senior year.”

For the second day in a row, Summit’s Briana Perkins edged Vail Mountain’s Karlie Moore to take first in the girls race.

“It was a sprint to the finish,” Hochtl said. “They were double-poling each other down the home stretch, and Briana just nudged her at the line.”

Vail Christian’s Jessica Linder took fourth but could have easily placed out of the top 10 if not for her frenetic comeback. About half of a kilometer into the race, one of Linder’s poles snapped.

“Interesting is one word you could use,” Linder said of her predicament. “Our coaches were scrambling and kind of snatched one from a pedestrian skier and gave it to me, but it was way too big. … I only went a few strides and threw that off, and they went to get another.”

After what felt like an eternity, one of Linder’s coaches found another pole.

“It was still a little big, but at least I had a pole to ski with,” Linder said.

Finally armed with a pair of poles, Linder got back on track, this time with an extra push.

“I was not the happiest person on the face of the Earth,” Linder said. “I was a bit angry and think that it was an incentive having so many people ahead of me. I knew how many places and how much time I had lost.”

One by one, Linder picked off competitors and came in just six seconds off the third-place finisher.

“I have my broken pole,” Linder said. “My dad is going to hold on to it for now.”

Vail Mountain’s Kaitlin Zdechlik took 11th, while sister Lauren was 20th, putting the Gore Rangers in third for the second straight day.

“It was a great weekend, and it’s fun to see all their hard work pay off,” Hochtl said. “I told the kids earlier, it’s a state meet and anything can happen … and crazy stuff


Jamie Lee Roberts was the top finisher for Battle Mountain, in 37th, while Ali Gulick led Eagle Valley in 40th.

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