Vail Valley skiers rack up accolades |

Vail Valley skiers rack up accolades

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyVail Mountain's Sally Ryerson helped the Gore Rangers win the team title in the skate race on Friday with a fourth-place finish.

LEADVILLE ” Vail Valley athletes probably had trouble finding space to fit their equipment on the way home from the state ski meet.

That’s because they won a boat-load of awards after stellar performances in Nordic and alpine.

Vail Mountain led the way by sweeping the team titles in the classic and skate Nordic disciplines in both the boys’ and girls’ races. Vail Christian’s Jessica Linder will also remember her historic run at state after winning the classic and skate races to become the first Saints athlete to win a state title.

Don’t forget about the Battle Mountain boys alpine team. The Huskies tied for first in the slalom. Individual athletes were also honored for their hard work this season with all-state selections.

Not surprisingly, Vail Valley ahletes dominated the all-state teams. In both the classic and skate, VMS’ Tony Ryerson and Sean Woods were honored. Battle Mountain’s Conor Wallace was also named to the all-state team for his efforts in the two disciplines.

On the girls’ side, Linder followed her strong weekend by being named all-state in classic and skate. The Gore Rangers’ Kaitlin Zdechlik joined her on both teams. Lauren Zdechlik was named all-state in skate.

In alpine, Battle Mountain’s Christoph Neiderhaus and Zach Ziolkowski earned all-state recognition in the slalom. Liz Strong did the same in the girls’ slalom.

Coach wins award

Vail Mountain Nordic coach Karl Hochtl finished an exhausting two days at the state meet with more than four team titles. Hochtl’s coaching peers voted him the Coach of the Year.

Like any good leader, Hochtl deflected the praise on others.

“To be quite honest, I’m lucky to be surrounded by top-level coaches,” Hochtl said. “To coach with a guy like Dan Weiland, I’ve learned a lot from him. We’ve got a great support staff. We couldn’t do what we do without them. It makes my job easier.”

Hochtl’s athletes were better about giving kudos to the VMS coach. Ryerson, a senior, said Hochtl taught him important technique and preparation lessons that he is going to take with him when he skis at the collegiate level next year.

“Karl’s been an amazing coach,” Ryerson said. “I can’t say enough good things about him. He has everything dialed. He knows pretty much everything you need to know about the sport.”

Ryerson’s favorite piece of advice from Hochtl is getting plenty of sleep. Don’t blame Ryerson if he doesn’t make that 7:30 a.m. class at Harvard every morning, he’s only following coach’s orders.

Superstitious? Maybe

Pushing your body to its limit is excruciating. Doing it two days in a row is nearly impossible.

Somehow, Linder managed to do it to win the classic and skate races. She became the first Vail Christian athlete to win a state title.

“You have to stop thinking,” Linder said. “If you think too much, you realize you’re in pain. You pretty much turn your brain off and go with your heart says.”

Linder’s pre-meet meal might be one reason she’s experienced so much success this season. The lucky dish? Spaghetti with meat sauce.

Giant slalom

Local teams mastered the giant-slalom course at Ski Cooper to finish with some strong results. The Vail Mountain girls took fourth in the race. Katharine Irwin led the Gore Rangers in 14th place. Eva Spaeh (20th) and Kim Newton (30th) also ran fast for VMS.

Battle Mountain was paced in the girls’ race by Annie Talbot in 23rd and Piper McMillin in 45th. Terrin Kinser (38th) and Rachel Landin (43rd) were the top finishers for Eagle Valley.

“Those girls had an incredible second run,” Eagle Valley coach Francois Nanin said. “They worked on tactics, and they really bloomed. They ran a really aggressive second run with the tough conditions.”

On the boys’ side, the Huskies led area teams in fifth place. Ike Sheppard (seventh), Charlie Barry (10th), Nicholas Braun (21st) and Davey DeChant (25th) all finished in the top 30.

Charlie Grant took 27th for VMS. Corey Seemann led Vail Christian in 39th, and Griffen Turnipseed was first for Eagle Valley in 41st.

“All the guys worked really hard,” Nanin said.

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

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