The 2014 Winter Carnival royalty includes queen Cara Piske, center; junior attendant Serina Kidd, left; and sophomore attendant Melissa Requist.

Photo by John F. Russell

The 2014 Winter Carnival royalty includes queen Cara Piske, center; junior attendant Serina Kidd, left; and sophomore attendant Melissa Requist.

Winter Carnival: Cara Piske to reign as queen

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— Steamboat Springs native Cara Piske has been Nordic skiing since she was 4 years old, the age when she joined the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s Little Vikings program. Throughout the past 14 years, Howelsen Hill has become Piske’s second home, and she said she can’t imagine her life without the sport she now loves or the club and coaches who helped develop her skills as a cross-country skier.

“I had four homes growing up — the soccer field, the pool, Howelsen and my home, and of course, Howelsen always won out,” Piske said.

As a result of her dedication to the club and her achievements on and off the snow, the Steamboat Springs High School senior has been chosen to represent the Winter Sports Club as the 2014 Winter Carnival queen — an honor Piske accepts with humility.

“Right now, our team is so amazing,” Piske said. “I’m so honored to be able to represent them. It is such a great group of strong, independent and really confident girls. And that’s so important, especially for the younger girls coming up.

“I’m so proud of what things have become.”

This year’s carnival royalty also includes junior attendant Serina Kidd and sophomore attendant Melissa Requist. The three young ladies will be crowned on the night of Wednesday, Feb. 5, during opening ceremonies for the Winter Carnival, which the Winter Sports Club sponsors. The carnival royalty, which also includes princesses who have not yet been named, then will preside over many of the carnival’s weekend activities.

When asked about highlights of her time with the Winter Sports Club, Piske does not provide a list of races won or best performances. Instead, she talks about the process of becoming a better cross-country skier throughout time thanks to coaches, her teammates and a strict training regimen.

“I was never one of those people growing up who won every race,” Piske said. “Every year, you see progress, and that progress is a highlight for me.”

Because her birthday falls in November and the age cut-off is in January, Piske always had to ski with an older age group.

“When I was a sophomore, I was racing against my sister, who was a senior at the time,” Piske said. “I was competing against the best junior cross-country skiers in the country, and that turned out to be awesome. It really pushed me.”

At age 18, Piske, the daughter of Brad Piske and Leslie Ahlmeyer, is looking to qualify for her fourth Junior Nationals this season before heading to Hanover, N.H., to become a member of the Dartmouth College Nordic squad in the fall. She’ll join her older sister, Haley, who has been a member of the collegiate squad for the past two years.

This year, Piske said, she expects to log between 525 and 550 hours of training time, which includes roller skiing, hiking and running in the summer and then cross-country skiing as much as possible once the snow began to fall. And even with a schedule like that, Piske still finds time to bake, serve as a volunteer tutor at Integrated Community and hang out with friends and teammates.

To qualify as Winter Carnival queen, high school girls must meet several criteria. The requirements include five years of participation in a full-time competitive program at the Winter Sports Club; enrollment as a high school senior in a public or private school in Routt County; representing the club “in a positive manner reflecting the attributes of hard work, commitment to school and sport, superior sportsmanship and reputable moral conduct”; a GPA of at least 3.5; and a recommendation from a program director or coach.

“From a young age, I’ve been so comfortable at the Winter Sports Club,” Piske said. “It is my second home. It has impacted me in every way possible.”

As Winter Carnival queen, “I’m representing my awesome team, and they all deserve to be queen.”

To reach Lisa Schlichtman, call 970-871-4221, email lschlichtman@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @LSchlichtman

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