Steamboat Springs For most, the 2013 Cross Country Junior Nationals in Fairbanks, Alaska, immerses them in a whole new level of racing.
For some, its the first time they have traveled to the event, a long trip to compete against the best in the country.
For the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club cross-country team, this week’s event has had quite a learning curve.
The first two competitions Monday and Tuesday provided pristine conditions. Clear skies and temperatures in the mid-20s greeted racers. But in Thursday’s competition, the Alaskan winter roared back, temperatures dropped and the wind whistled.
“It felt like cold on Thursday,” Winter Sports Club coach Brian Tate said. “It was tough racing conditions for those who aren’t always used to that chill in the air.”
Still, through three of four events, the Winter Sports Club raced well.
On Monday in an individual-start skate race, several Steamboat racers notched top results. The J2 boys and girls competed in a 5-kilometer race while the J1 and OJ divisions competed in the a 10-kilometer race.
Charlie Von Thaden paced Steamboat finishers, coming in ninth in the OJ boys race. Evan Weinman was 20th in the J1 boys race. Gretchen Burkholder was 15th in the J1 girls race, and Jordi Floyd was 18th in the J2 girls race.
On Tuesday, in a three-person, 9-kilometer classic relay, the Rocky Mountain Division J1 boys team was crowned the national champion. Weinman teamed up with Aspen’s Keegan Swirbul and Vail’s Cal Deline to take the title.
“It’s always fantastic when that can happen,” Tate said. “The group he was with skied super strong.”
Floyd also was on a team that took bronze in the girls J2 division, and Max Scrimgeour and Von Thaden teamed up to help capture a bronze in the boys OJ race.
In Thursday’s skate race, Madison Keeffe led Steamboat with a ninth-place finish in the girls J1 category. Lucy Newman was 19th in the OJ girls, Floyd was 14th in the J2 girls, and Katie Brodie was 17th in the J2 girls. Weinman continued his strong showing, finishing 14th in the boys J1 division.
Tate said in addition to the travel, the drop in elevation has been an eye-opener for the team. After racing at elevation, he said, the drop to sea level has changed the way he has tried to get the team to attack the course.
“The big thing with the extra oxygen available, you can go much harder than you think you can,” he said. “If you go at the pace you are accustomed to in Steamboat, your results aren’t going to be good. You have to trust your training and trust your fitness. You have to understand that it’s going to work.”
The team wraps up competition Saturday with a mass-start, classic race.
“I’m expecting Evan to do something special,” Tate said. “That is his event this year. He’s won several races. I never want to jinx him, but I’m thinking he’s going to do quite well.”
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com