Seven members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's cross-country program got back on snow with hopes of improving their national ranking at the Gold Run Nordic Center in Breckenridge.
The Gold Run National Ranking List races were the first for the Winter Sports Club's Nordic program this season, and coach Brian Tate was thrilled with how things have started for his team.
"Normally, this race is a warmup for the season, but there was a high caliber of skiers at this one -- a lot higher than a normal Junior Olympic qualifier," Tate said.
On Saturday, the field of top junior, college and national level racers competed in an individual start freestyle race. The older men raced on an 8-kilometer course, while the older women and the younger men competed on a shorter 5-kilometer track.
Mike Gleason led the Steamboat boys with a seventh-place finish. Marty Smith followed him in ninth, and Paul Rose placed 10th in his first effort of the season.
Steamboat's Kyle Steitz placed fourth in the J-2 boys race. Sarah MacCarthy led the Steamboat girls with a fourth-place finish, Melissa Krause placed fourth, and Mary Rose was fifth in the J-2 division.
On Sunday, the Steamboat skiers took part in a classic sprint, in which the skiers went all out on a 1,000-meter course.
"It's like running a 200- or 400-meter dash in track," Tate said. "There's some strategy, but it's pretty much 100 percent from start to finish."
In the preliminaries, Smith finished in a tie for first place among J-1 skiers. He advanced to the quarterfinals, in which he finished third in his heat. Only the top two skiers advanced to the semifinals. Tate said it was an impressive finish because the final heats were not split into age classes. Teammate Mike Gleason was 11th in the preliminaries for J-1 skiers.
MacCarthy also skied well, taking second in the J-2 girls class. She advanced to the quarterfinals, where she placed third in her heat, which was a mix of college, older juniors and junior racers. She also failed to advance to the semifinals in her class.
Tate said the Breckenridge races were important because they help Steamboat's young skiers establish points for ranking purposes. Tate said seven racers took part in Saturday's events, which featured a field of 180 racers. Five Steamboat racers hung around for Sunday's sprints.
This weekend, Gleason, Smith, Paul Rose and MacCarthy will head to Soldier Hollow near Park City, Utah to take part in a Super Tour event. The races offer a cash prize, so Tate is expecting a full field of top racers once again.
The following week Steamboat will host Rocky Mountain Division and high school races at Howelsen Hill. Those events will begin Dec. 17. The only high school race of the season will take place Dec. 18.
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