Wednesday, January 14, 2004
At times, last weekend's mass start cross country race in Aspen resembled rush hour in a big city.
The field of skiers started the boys race in the middle of the Aspen High School soccer field before being led through a series of hills and narrow stretches that limited the skiers' ability to pass each other.
But it was apparent from the final results that Steamboat Springs High School racer Marty Smith found the fast lane. Smith skied past the field of 88 of the state's top Nordic skiers to win the 5-kilometer race.
"This was a tough race course," Sailors coach Barry Smith said. "There were several falls on the first hill and pile-ups in the narrowing tracks."
Marty Smith pulled ahead of the pack about a kilometer into the race. But he still trailed about six front-runners with 4 kilometers left to go.
He was able to systematically pick off skiers in front of him and took the lead about 3 kilometers into the race. He crossed the finish line in 10 minutes, 8 seconds.
Kevin Soller was second, and Patrick Neel was third.
Other top Steamboat finishers included Paul Rose in 14th, Mike Gleason in 20th and Justin Krause in 21st.
"Most of the Steamboat boys were detained in one of the tangles near the start," coach Smith said. "But they were able to work their way through the maze of fallen skiers."
The coach said he was pleased with Rose, who picked up nearly 20 spots on his way to his 14th place finish. He said Gleason and Krause also made strong recoveries.
The Steamboat girls fared well on the skate course, which began in the Aspen High School soccer field before narrowing to 30 feet for a short steep hill and then 15 feet for a second climb.
"We told the kids that whoever makes it to the top of the first long hill would probably win the race," Barry Smith said.
Lisl Pearson and Laura Phillip made it to the top of the hill in good shape.
Pearson raced to an 11th place finish, followed by Phillip in 14th and Jennifer Hooper in 17th.
Sailor Katie Conrath was 27th, Caitlin Gibbs was 35th and Leigh Ann Smith was 55th in the field of more than 70 girls.
After the race, coach Smith said things were going well and that he felt the Steamboat teams are in a good position to make a run for a state title in February.
"Our goal right now is to have as many kids as possible qualify for the state championships, so we have a chance to contend at the end of the season," he said.
The next step to qualifying for state will come Saturday during a classic race at the Snow Mountain Ranch in Middle Park.