Steamboat Springs cross country skiing coach Barry Smith was thrilled when 19 athletes showed up for the team's first practice session.
He will be even happier when that group, the largest ever in the history of the high school program, travels to the Piney Creek Nordic Center south of Leadville on Saturday for the first classic race of the 2003-04 high school season.
"This is the best Steamboat representation ever in a high school Nordic race," Smith said. "The young skiers on this team are part of an explosion of Nordic skiing in our valley. Their talent ranges from kids who have never skied before to a few who have competed at the national level."
Smith said this year's team members come from four area high schools, where many of them ran with the cross country team in the fall, and many have competed (or are still competing) in the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's system.
Smith expects veteran skiers such as Austin Ross, Marty Smith, Paul Rose and Mike Gleason to lead this year's 10-member boys team.
Paul Berry, a Nordic combined skier for years, joined the team this year, as did David Manthie, a snowboarder and cross country runner.
Justin Krause, Rose and Gleason competed in John Smith's high school running program last fall.
Pickups such as Bridger Root and Sean Batson from the Lowell Whiteman School and Patrick Williams from Soroco also will make the team stronger this winter.
Once again, Sarah MacCarthy and Korie Steitz will anchor the girls team this season.
Runner Jennifer Hooper will return to the team for a second season and Katie Conrath is expected to make an impact with the Alpine and Nordic teams this year.
Leigh Ann Smith, Lisl Pearson, Kaitlin Gibbs and Kelly Berig bring the team's numbers to eight skiers.
The team is very excited about the upcoming season, which will include classic meets at Piney Creek, Middle Park and Colorado Rocky Mountain School. Freestyle events will be held in Aspen and Summit. There also will be a skiathalon at Eldora in January.
The state finals will take place in Steamboat Springs on Feb. 20 and 21.
-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org