Members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's girls cross-country program earned the honor of National High School Champion at a Junior Nationals Championship event in Utah last weekend. Members are, from left, Cara Piske, Gretchen Burkholder, Dori McNeill, Lucy Newman, Mary O'Connell, Abbey Habermehl, Madison Keeffe, Haley Piske, Katie Brodie and Emily Hannah.

Tom Scrimgeour/Courtesy

Members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's girls cross-country program earned the honor of National High School Champion at a Junior Nationals Championship event in Utah last weekend. Members are, from left, Cara Piske, Gretchen Burkholder, Dori McNeill, Lucy Newman, Mary O'Connell, Abbey Habermehl, Madison Keeffe, Haley Piske, Katie Brodie and Emily Hannah.

Steamboat girls claim top high school honor

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— A strong showing from the members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s girls cross-country program helped our town become the first in the state of Colorado to earn the honor of National High School Champion at the Junior Nationals Championship, which were held in Utah last weekend.

Head Ability Coach Josh Smullin said the honor came from a group effort that included all 10 of the girls on the Winter Sports Club team.

“This is a big deal,” Smullin said Monday. “No other team from Colorado has ever done this before.”

Smullin said the last four years the honor has gone to the Stratton Mountain School, a winter sports academy based in Vermont. But this year, the athletes in the Winter Sports Club’s Nordic program who attend Steamboat Springs High School were able to net enough points to bring the title to Colorado. It’s a rare occurrence in a sport that is typically dominated by private academies in the East or from Alaska.

That team included Emily Hannah and Mary O’Connell, who both stepped on the podium last weekend, as well as Haley Piske, Cara Piske, Madison Keeffe, Dori McNeill, Lucy Newman, Gretchen Burkholder, Abbey Habermehl, and Katie Brodie.

“I think it says a lot about the depth of our team and where we are headed,” Smullin said.

Skier Emily Hannah is hoping that the title, and the finishes by the skiers from the Rocky Mountain Division — which finished second as a team last week — is a sign of things to come for Nordic skiing in this part of the country.

“This was a huge showing for our programs, across the board,” Hannah said.

The young skier who led by example with her finishes last week said the success of the program isn’t about one or two skiers of a few finishes at the Junior Nationals.

She pointed to the fact that Steamboat had three of the top six skiers in the sprint events despite the fact that Steamboat traditionally has shown better in the endurance races.

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