Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic program director Todd Wilson awards Steamboat skier Mary O'Connell her first-place medal in Saturday's Nordic combined Junior Olympic qualifier at Howelsen Hill.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic program director Todd Wilson awards Steamboat skier Mary O'Connell her first-place medal in Saturday's Nordic combined Junior Olympic qualifier at Howelsen Hill.

Steamboat Nordic athletes earn high finishes

Nordic combined competitors fill podium at Howelsen Hill

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— It took a week to pull off, but the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club J1 and J2 Nordic combined athletes didn't waste their chance when it finally came.

Competitors from Steamboat dominated Saturday in the postponed portion of the Larry Johnson Memorial Junior Olympic Nordic combined qualifier at Howelsen Hill.

Mary O'Connell took the J2 girls portion of the event. Erik Lynch skied his way to the J2 boys championship, and Michael Ward took the J1 boys title.

"Part of the races last week, it was just pouring rain and the kids were miserable," SSWSC coach Gary Crawford said, admiring the sunny day that helped wrap up the competition. "We were really glad to have great weather this time."

O'Connell used a huge personal best jump to win her division, scoring 166.2 points. She soared 58.5 meters, five more than anyone else. That leap gave her a nearly 2-minute head start in the cross-country ski portion of the competition.

"My jumping felt really good. That's one of my best in competition," O'Connell said. "I qualified for JOs with this, and that was one of my goals."

Steamboat's Emily Hannah actually recorded the best J2 girls skiing time, but it wasn't enough to make up for her last-place jump. She finished third, behind teammate Madison Keeffe.

Lynch, meanwhile, was able to ski fast enough to make up for his jump.

He was second heading into the ski race having fallen just short of teammate Aleck Gantick, who had the best jump with 233.5 points.

Lynch flew across the five-kilometer ski course, however, making up the 1 minute, 4 second difference to win the race with 14:19.

"Erik skied a great race," Crawford said. "He's a really strong skier."

Gantick had the second fastest skiing time and held on to second, and Steamboat's Jake Barker finished third.

"I jumped really well. I haven't been jumping so well, so it was really nice to get that in," Gantick said. "I had a good race too, but I've been battling a cold all week so it wasn't as good as it could have been."

The top three finishers were the only skiers to record more than 200 points in the jump.

No one was able to make up that difference in the race, and they finished with a sizable gap between third and fourth.

"I didn't feel like I had anything in the tank, but no one passed me," Barker said about the ski race. "We had a large gap on fourth."

Michael Ward started the cross-country race with a 7:26 head start and had no trouble hanging on for the victory.

SSHS Nordic team skis strong at race in Eldora

The Steamboat Springs High School Nordic team battled wind gusts as strong 40 miles per hour and sub-zero wind chill readings Thursday at a 5-kilometer classic race in Eldora.

That did little to slow the Sailors, who recorded a strong showing despite the elements.

Ward won the boys race and Lynch was seventh. Jack Burger finished 20th, ahead of Barker in 35th and Zeb Tipton in 46th.

Senior Sarah Dixson finished ninth for the girls squad. Lucy Franklin was 17th, and Eva Lambek finished 19th.

The team returns to the snow Saturday for a race at Devil's Thumb.

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