SSWSC Nordic team shows up on big-time stage in Park City

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— With the Nordic combined Olympic Trials happening at the same venue in Park City, juniors on the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic team were trying to punch tickets of their own to 2014 national and international competitions.

Steamboat’s Todd Lodwick was making history at the complex in the trials, but trips to the FIS Junior Worlds and 2014 Junior Nationals were at stake in Park City for the junior group.

“We took 34 kids over there, and there were competitions for our youngest class all the way up through the Olympic Trials,” SSWSC Nordic Director Todd Wilson said. “Steamboat had athletes in all divisions, I believe.”

In the U20 HS-100 Nordic combined, SSWSC’s Aleck Gantick overcame an 18-second deficit with a top cross-country time among the field to win his class. Gantick was tied for third after the jumping section with teammate Nicholas Madden but cruised to a 24-second win over second-place finisher Erik Lynch.

Steamboat’s Jasper Good was third in the U20 men’s.

The U20 men’s and women’s competition marked the final qualifier for the Junior Worlds. Gantick, Lynch, Madden, Good and Ben Berend have all been nominated for the team.

“They’re nominated, but I can almost guarantee it’s going to be those guys,” Wilson said.

In U17 boys Nordic combined, SSWSC skiers flooded the top of the class, with Koby Vargas winning by 25 seconds. Vargas used his second-ranked ski jump and his fifth-place cross-country time to take the win. Finn O’Connell was third, Noel Keeffe was fourth, and Wyatt Gebhardt took fifth for Steamboat.

Esther DelliQuadri grabbed the win in U17 girls, outpacing Park City’s Sophia Nester by more than two-and-a-half minutes.

Wilson said the U17 HS-68 competition was the first Junior Nationals qualifier of the season. The next two are Jan. 10 and 11 and Jan. 24 and 25, both at Howelsen Hill. In order to qualify, skiers have to be within 70 percent of the base average of the top three athletes from the Rocky Mountain Division, according to Wilson.

The younger Nordic combined divisions were crowded with SSWSC athletes, especially the U14 boys and girls classes. Waverly Gebhardt and Annika Belshaw were the only two competitors on the girls side, and Teague Burger, Colton Sankey and Lucas Rowse grabbed one, two and three, respectively, on the boys side.

Steamboat’s Tess Armone was second in U12 girls Nordic combined, and Canden Wilkinson finished third in U12 boys. SSWSC had the only girl in the U10 class, Tinsley Wilkinson, who finished with 181.4 jump points and finished cross-country in 5 minutes, 20 seconds. Eric Belshaw won the U10 boys as the class’ only competitor.

Friday night was dedicated to the HS-100 and HS-68 Nordic combined jumps, with smaller jumps Saturday morning. By afternoon, along with the Olympic Trials, the cross-country skiing sections began. Sunday was dedicated to the second half of the World Junior and Olympic Trials special jumping tryouts.

On Friday, Gantick was seventh in the U20 men’s class, and Madden wasn’t far behind in ninth for SSWSC. On the U20 women’s side, Logan Sankey was Steamboat’s top finisher in fourth, and Melissa Requist was fifth behind a trio of USA Women’s Ski Jumping team members.

Sunday featured a men’s and women’s senior class special jumping division. Sankey did not jump for the SSWSC women, but Requist placed fourth behind the same Team USA threesome.

Thirteen-year-old Decker Dean paced all Steamboat skiers in the men’s senior class with his seventh-place finish. Dean was the youngest competitor in the 16-man field.

Steamboat’s Davis Petersen came in 11th, Vargas was 13th and O’Connell was 14th.

“We killed it. We did really well,” Wilson said. “Our team and our kids just did amazing. It was a good way to start the year, and it was their first major competition for a lot of the kids.”

FIS Junior Worlds are Feb. 22 to March 3 in Jasna, Slovakia. Junior Nationals 2014 are in Anchorage, Alaska, on Feb. 22 to 25.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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