Nordic skiers take to Olympic course

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Soldier Hollow is hallowed ground for Nordic skiers in the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

The Utah site hosted cross country races, among other Nordic events, during the 2002 Winter Olympics, and many racers from Steamboat made their way to Soldier Hollow to watch the world's best compete on international sport's grandest stage.

Last weekend, Soldier Hollow welcomed the first ever Super Junior Olympic qualifier for Rocky Mountain Division and Intermountain Division cross country skiers, and Steamboat athletes fared well on the difficult course.

"The conditions were ideal -- clear and cold with the best snow since the Olympics in 2002," Winter Sports Club coach Brian Tate said. "The courses were set on the same trails Olympians skied on two years ago. These trails are quite hilly and demanding."

As a division, the Rocky Mountain Division, which is comprised of skiers from Colorado, outpaced the Intermountain Division, representing states west of Colorado, in the final results. That is atypical, Tate said. Typically, the divisions hold separate Junior Olympic qualifiers, but in the interest of creating the most competitive environment possible, they decided to combine to test the young Nordic skiers.

And the Winter Sports Club's members answered the call. Marty Smith led the Steamboat charge with a first-place finish in the J1 boys 10-kilometer classic race Sunday. Smith placed third in the Saturday skate race.

Also placing at the J1 level for the boys was Austin Ross in fifth place in skate and 12th in classic and Mike Gleason in ninth in skate and 20th in classic.

The J1 girls skated to great finishes, as well. Korie Steitz placed second in both the 5K skate and classic races, and Sarah MacCarthy came in third in the classic race and ninth in the skate race.

Paul Rose finished third in the 5K classic and fifth in the 5K skate races at the J2 level.

Kyle Steitz was fourth in both 3K races at the J3 level. Teammates Jasper Gantick placed 17th in the J3 boys skate race.

Mary Rose was second in the Saturday 3K skate race and fifth in the Sunday 3K classic race, while Melissa Krause was fourth in the skate race and seventh in the classic race.

Tate said the results of the younger skiers indicated the strength and depth in the Winter Sports Club.

Steamboat's Hennie Kashiwa, now a member of the University of Denver ski team, was seventh in the classic race and 15th in the skate race in the older junior division made up of 18- and 19-year-olds.

"The event had over twice as many competitors as a typical divisional race, so the caliber of racing was higher," Tate said. "Our division did really well in the first JO qualifier we've done in conjunction with IMD."

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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