Vail Valley skiers headed to state |

Vail Valley skiers headed to state

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado
Dianne batts | special to the dailyBattle Mountain's Kaitlin Zdechlik competes in a Nordic race earlier this season. Zdechlik is one of the favorites in both the classic and skate races at the state meet.

VAIL, Colorado ” Skiers from across the state probably all shared one thing in common Wednesday night. They all spent time waxing their trusted skis.

The state ski meet kicks off today with the alpine at Ski Cooper and the Nordic in Leadville.

Area athletes couldn’t be more excited to go fast.

“We’re all pumped up,” said Vail Mountain’s Tony Ryerson, who will compete in Nordic. “It’ll be great to finally go out there and race for state.”

Ryerson and his teammates should be anxious. The Gore Rangers are favored to take home the team crown in both the skate and classic disciplines. VMS may not have much depth, but the three skiers on the boys’ team make up for that with sheer talent.

“It’s clearly written that they want to take the team title both days,” VMS coach Karl Hochtl. “It’s certainly doable.”

Along with Ryerson, Sean Woods and Rob Fitz help form a formidable trio. Not only do they race against the other teams, but they have a friendly competition with each other that helps bring down their times.

“There’s little rivalries there,” Ryerson said. “We’ll be going after each other (today). It’ll be fun. It’s been a pretty good competition. It’s always a battle with those guys.”

So, is VMS going into the meet with high expectations? You bet, and Ryerson has no problem saying it.

“That’s the goal (to win state),” Ryerson said. “Anything short of that will be a disappointment for us. We have such a strong team.”

The Gore Rangers better watch out for Battle Mountain’s Conor Wallace. In recent weeks, his times have continued to drop.

“A lot of it is him getting more comfortable on the skis, and him figuring out the mental aspects of the sport,” said Hochtl, who coaches Wallace on the Ski and Snowboard Club Vail Nordic team.

Wallace is joined by teammates Forrest Henzler, Aleksei Horn, Christian Kloser and Christian Shanley.

Vail Christian and Eagle Valley will also be represented in the boys’ race. Eric Gallagher, Ian Hamina and Ryan Vlaar will all compete for the Saints. Casey Kerrigan will click into his skis for the Devils.

Local girls among the favorites

In the girls’ Nordic meet, another rivalry is brewing. Vail Christian’s Jessica Linder and VMS’ Kaitlin Zdechlik have their eyes on the title in skate and classic. The battle won’t be bitter, though, as they are teammates on the SSCV Nordic team.

Linder will be joined at the meet by teammate Lettie Fickling.

“Jess Linder is obviously a favorite both days,” said Hochtl, who also coaches Linder on the SSCV Nordic team. “She’s worked very hard this year.”

While Zdechlik and Linder may be battling for individual titles, the VMS girls possess depth to make a run at the team title in the skate and classic races. Lauren Zdechlik, Sally Ryerson, Amelia Ortiz, Betsy Batts and Bridget Moffet all qualified for the Gore Rangers.

“As a whole, the entire group has progressed quite a bit over the course of the season,” Hochtl said.

Battle Mountain’s Anouk Guilmineau may be the only girl racing for the Huskies, but don’t be surprised by a strong finish.

Alpine skiers ready for state

The story is a little different at the alpine state meet at Ski Cooper. Instead of a grueling Nordic course, the slalom and giant slalom races will test local athletes’ ability to be disciplined and hit all the gates.

Oh, don’t worry, the skiers will still be going plenty fast.

“I don’t think tomorrow is a day to be that careful,” VMS coach Ross Sappenfield said. “I expect the kids to really go for it.”

In the girls’ race, the Gore Rangers are in position to have a strong weekend. Kim Newton, Eva Spaeh, Kathleen Moore and Katharine Irwin will toe the starting gate for VMS.

“We have a girls team that has a lot of experience,” Sappenfield said.

The same could be said for Battle Mountain. A large field of Huskies is ready for today’s slalom. Celine Guilmineau, Rebecca Hughes, Liz Strong, Annie Talbot, Anna Schmitt, Jana Weiss, Trisha Bruen, Isabelle Courtois, Carrie Wild, Brianna Johnson, Rachel LaRue and Alexandra Feeney will all race for Battle Mountain.

Many of the same girls will go in the GS for the Huskies with Piper McMillin and Brianna Barry thrown in.

“We’re really hoping to do well,” Battle Mountain coach Simon Marsh said. “So many girls have really stepped it up. We have a few that are really showing great strides.”

The Eagle Valley alpine team had a stellar season on both the boys and girls’ side. Thirteen of the 25 team members qualified for state.

The goal is pretty simple for the Devils ” simply ski their best. Terrin Kinser, Shanna Zoch, Logan Kinser, Rachel Landin, Ashley Atkinson, Rachel Nagel and Cassidy Kuhn will try to do just that in the girls’ race.

“At practice all season, they’ve skied their best,” Eagle Valley coach Francois Nanin said. “They have been pushing and getting better each week.”

Vail Christian didn’t qualify any skiers on the girls’ side, but Allison Vossler and Kira Geddes will both compete.

Boys work hard to qualify

The field in the boys’ races proves hard work does pay off, especially for the Eagle Valley alpine team. Griffin Turnipseed, Matt Cohen, Cody Coulter, Zach Bailey, Andrew Darrough and Adam Horst all qualified for state by getting after it in practice.

“The boys worked very, very hard,” Nanin said. “It showed with having six guys qualifying.”

While Sappenfield has an idea of what to expect from the VMS girls, on the boys’ side, it’s anyone’s guess. Charlie Grant leads the Gore Rangers in both disciplines. Hunter Kreel, Shawn Byrne and John McKenna are the wild cards.

“Charlie Grant has had a great year for us,” Sappenfield said. “I expect him to be a leader (today). Anything can happen with the other three guys, I’ll be honest. They are all really good skiers.”

Battle Mountain is taking a large contingent to Ski Cooper. The Huskies’ depth should be a real asset in both the slalom and GS. Cannon O’Brien, Zach Ziolkowski, Christoph Neiderhauser, Andreas Calabrese, Charlie Berry, Nick Braun, Ike Sheppard, Kyle Poisson, Mike Harland, Colby Childers, Jake Bishop, David Shearon and Patrick Perry will all ski for the Huskies.

“All the guys have potential to do very well,” Marsh said.

Vail Christian hopes to make the most of its opportunities at state with five skiers taking the hill. Corey Seemann, Matthew Myers, Eric Gallagher, Ian Hamina and Dan Schramm are slotted for the starting gate for the Saints.

“We want them all the finish and we want them to all have a smile on their face,” Vail Christian coach Chris Gamble said. “We to finish the season a good note.”

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

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