With long climbs and steep, tricky descents, the cross-country skiing course at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs proved to be all that some of the nation’s best skiers could handle Friday, with college athletes gasping for breath as they slowly chugged up demanding slopes.
Some even fell, dropping to their knees as rivals slipped past, tired eyes cursing the course, the hill, the day.
The strong survived, however, and once again in that group were a pair of outstanding Steamboat women, J1 skiers Emily Hannah and Mary O’Connell only adding to what in just two weeks already has been a stunning 2012.
Hannah, 17, was first in her division and fourth among all women’s racers. O’Connell was second in her division and 10th overall. Both Steamboat women bested the scores of some of the college stars on hand.
“It just feels like it has to end,” Hannah said, laughing as she considered her streak of success.
Both Hannah and O’Connell were named to the World Junior Championship team after their high finishes at last week’s National Championships event in Maine.
They didn’t lose a beat Friday, with both high school seniors soaring past older, more experienced competition to shine in the first of a two-day event on home snow.
Friday’s interval-start, skate-skiing race will be followed at 9 a.m. today by a mass-start classic skiing event.
“I’m really excited,” Hannah said. “We just came back from Maine and I’ve been tired, so I’m surprised, but I’m really excited. ... We’ve been doing a lot of training, all through the summer, and this is when it all comes together. It’s all for the racing. I’m just loving the ride while I’m on it.”
University of Colorado skier Joanne Reid won Friday’s women’s race, finishing in 14 minutes, 52.5 seconds. Jaime Bronga, of University of Alaska-Anchorage, was second in 15:01.9, and Linn Klaesson, of New Mexico was third in 15:05.4. Hannah was fourth in 15:12.2, and O’Connell was 10th in 15:38.6.
Steamboat 15-year-old Gretchen Burkholder was in the mix as well, finishing 20th in 16:07.8 and first in her class. Mary Rose, skiing with the University of Colorado, was 21st overall and 11th in her division in 16:08.1, while Steamboat residents Katie Brodie, Cara Piske and Haley Piske locked down 27th, 28th and 29th overall and fourth, fifth and sixth in their divisions, respectively.
Lucy Newman was 34th and sixth, Abby Habermehl was 37th and sixth, Madison Keeffe was 41st and ninth, Tabor Scholl was 49th and seventh, Samantha Terranova was 50th and eighth, Dori McNeill was 52nd and 12th, Natalie Bohlmann was 58th and 11th, Gabriel Bohlmann was 62nd and 15th, Martha Anderson was 66th and 12th and Eliza Leeson was 70th and 17th.
Utah took the top two spots for the college men. Didrik Smith won on the 10-kilometer course in 24:40.1, ahead of second-place Miles Havlick at 24:41.4 and third-place Michael Schallinger, of Montana State, in 24:51.9.
Charlie Von Thaden was the top Steamboat finisher, fourth in his class and 23rd overall. Max Scrimgeour was second in his class and 28th overall, Evan Weinman was sixth and 35th, Spencer Knickerbocker was seventh and 39th, Aleck Gantick was 12th and 45th, Ben Berend was 13th and 48th, and Tanner Heil was 19th and 58th.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com