Host Sailors hoping to come together at state ski championships

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— Winning a state high school skiing title requires a perfect blend of Nordic and Alpine talent, the perfect mix of endurance and speed, the perfect balance of two sides that form one team.

For years, Alpine ski coach Chad Bowdre has worked and waited for all those elements to come together in Steamboat Springs. Later this week, Bowdre, along with first-year cross-country coach Chrissy Lynch, is hoping the Sailors prove to be a contender when Steamboat hosts the State High School Skiing Championships.

"Finishing in the top three is our goal," Bowdre said. "With this group of skiers, I think that type of finish is well within our reach."

Twenty-five skiers will represent the Sailors at this year's state championships, Thursday and Friday at the Howelsen Hill and Steamboat ski areas.

"Both our Alpine and Nordic teams have done really well this season," Lynch said. "I think both sides will come together this week, and our teams will do very well."

In high school, just like college, the sport of ski racing is a true team sport. Alpine skiers and Nordic skiers are rewarded with points for top finishes that will help their team. The team collecting the most points in four events - slalom, giant slalom, freestyle and classic - will take home the state title. The Steamboat skiers would love to keep the trophy right here.

The events open Thursday, with Nordic skiers hitting the 5-kilometer Nordic track at the base of Howelsen Hill for the freestyle race at 10 a.m. The start and finish line for all the Nordic events will be in the rodeo grounds. Skiers will race the same course that was used for the NCAA finals just a few years ago.

Bowdre said Steamboat's strength this season has been to work as a team - he wouldn't be surprised to see Alpine skiers lining the course to cheer on their Nordic teammates, or vice versa.

The Alpine skiers will get their first shot to race Thursday afternoon. The slalom race begins at 3 p.m. with the girls' first run on the steep face of Howelsen Hill. The boys will follow at about 4 p.m. The second runs will take place under the lights that night.

On Friday, the Alpine skiers will head to Mount Werner for the giant slalom race, on the See Me run at Steamboat Ski Area. The girls will go first, starting at 9:30 a.m., and the boys will follow. Second runs are expected to begin at noon. The Nordic classic race at Howelsen will be the final event of the championships. That event will start at 3 p.m. Friday, followed by the awards ceremony later that afternoon.

"All of our skiers are excited to be racing at home," Lynch said. "They feel like we have a home advantage, and I think we do."

Skiing strong

Bowdre said the key for the Sailors is having consistent results in all four events. He said several skiers, including Jace Wirth, Wiley Thayer, Kris Allen and Ben Paley, have a shot at winning the individual giant slalom title. Jenny Allen is expected to show strong in the girls giant slalom.

Steamboat only has four boys and three girls qualified in those races, so every finish means points.

"The slalom is going to be key for our team," Bowdre said. "We need all of our skiers to finish with a solid result if we want to place well."

The Nordic team will be anchored by balanced talent on both the boys and girls side. Kyle Steitz, Peter Daley, Jasper Gantick and Thayer form a solid core on the boys side, with Melissa Krause, Mary Rose, Liza Stout and Lexie Ruppel doing the same for the girls. Kris Allen, Thayer and Sarah Dixson all are in the running for the coveted Skimeister titles.

The state championships draw more than 15 schools from across the state and fields of hundreds of skiers for both the Alpine and Nordic events. Last year, Aspen won the boys title by edging out Summit and Middle Park. Steamboat finished fifth overall. Summit won the girls title. The team from Aspen was second, and Middle Park came in third. Steamboat also was fifth in the final standings.

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