Nordic athletes lead way

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— Members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's Nordic combined program are off and running after dominating the Rocky Mountain Division's Winter Start.

"It was a good week for my guys," said Martin Bayer, Winter Sports Club Nordic coach. "We are getting ready for the Junior World qualifiers, so now I know where my guys stand and what we need to work on to get better."

The Winter Start competition included events on the HS100 - or "hill size, 100 meters" - and HS75 ski jumps. It took place at Howelsen Hill on Dec. 15, and was the first meet of the season in Steamboat.

Hometown skier Taylor Fletcher led the Nordic combined field by posting the second-best performance, and best among Nordic combined skiers on the HS100 with 230.5 points. He then cruised to victory on the 7.5-kilometer cross-country course.

He was second overall on the big hill, finishing just behind special jumper Andrew Bliss of the New York Ski Education Foundation, who soared 93 and 95 meters to lead all jumpers with 234 total points. But Bliss is not a Nordic combined skier and did not start the cross-country race.

Central Division skier Mike Glasder was third in the jumping, Utah's Andrew Jerome was fourth and Minnesota's Nick Johnson was fifth.

Other top Steamboat finishers included Charlie Stoddard in seventh, Brett Denney in 10th, Cliff Field in 12th and Sam Chovan in 15th.

Fletcher posted the fastest cross-country time on the 7.5-kilometer course to hold onto the lead in the Nordic combined race. Utah skier Nick Hendrickson moved from his third-place position after the jumping to finish second, just 1 minute and 59 seconds back. Denney was third at 2:53 back. Stoddard finished fourth, just more than 4 minutes behind the winner.

Cliff Field led the field on the HS75 hill with jumps of 71.5 and 73 meters, for a total of 241 points. Peter Frenette of NYSEF was second at 225.2 points, and Erik Lynch was third at 210.5 points. Other top Steamboat finishers included Aleck Gantick in sixth, Jake Barker in eighth and Ben Berend in ninth.

Field posted the fourth fastest time on the 5-kilometer cross-country course to win the event, Lynch was second at 1:33 back and Tyler Smith of the National Sports Foundation placed third at 1:40 back.

"We had a good field with skiers from all over the country," Bayer said. "It was a good start to our season."

Bayer said several of his skiers are now training for the Junior World Championship qualifiers, which will take place later this month in Lake Placid and Canada. The next event in Steamboat, a Junior Olympic qualifier, takes place at Howelsen Hill on Jan 11 and 12.

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