VMS Nordic qualifies four for Junior Olympics
Lake Placid, N.Y., is a long, hard-to-get-to, 1,948 miles away from another world famous American skiing resort (hint, it starts with a “V’ and ends with an “ail’), so when four Vail Mountain School Nordic stars chart off to the site of both the 1932 and 1980 Olympic games Friday for the U.S. Junior National Nordic Championships, they plan to make the trip worthwhile.
This year’s contingent of Gore Rangers to make the Rocky Mountain Nordic Division’s roster of 21 boys and 21 girls jetting off to upstate New York includes Haleigh Armstrong, Jenny Thorne, Sylvan Ellefson and Josh Smith. They will be accompanied by coach Dan Weiland, who will be one of eight RMD coaches making the trip.
“This is the most we’ve ever qualified out of this valley,” Weiland said. “Last year, Haleigh had two top-10 finishes in Fairbanks, (Alaska), so I’d hope to think that we could place two of our kids in the top 10. I’d like to see all four finish in the top 25.”
The Nordic Championships officially begin on Monday and run through next Saturday with four races in six days.
Monday’s competition is a one-kilometer sprint race, where competitors will run in heats of six, with the top-two finishers advancing after each race until there are only six competitors remaining for the final.
On Wednesday, the boys will compete in a 15K classic with interval starts while the girls will run a 10K. Friday’s race is a skating 10K for the boys, a 5K for the girls, while on Saturday all four VMS athletes will be paired off with two other skiers from the RMD division to run in an interkilometer relay with each skier doing a leg of five kilometers.
“They’ll be racing with kids from Summit, from Aspen, from Crested Butte, etc.,” said Weiland. “These are the best skiers in the state of Colorado. We are far removed from the level of the (high school) state championships. This is more like the next level before racing collegiately or going on to race for the U.S. Ski Team.”
The Vail unit is a versatile one, complete with two strong sprinters in Armstrong and Ellefson, who both excel in classic also, along with Thorne and Smith, whom Weiland tags as, “both great all-around skiers.”
Lake Placid’s hilly terrain will also be an advantage to Smith as well, since he is known for his prowess for conquering hills and then cruising down.
“Josh is one of those guys that is light and quick, and just gets up and down hills real easily,” said Weiland. “It’s a good place for him to shine.”
Nate Peterson is at 949-0555 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org