Steamboat Springs A contingent of Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic skiers had their final chance to prove themselves on a national stage during the weekend, and what a showing it was for those competing in the USSA cross-country Junior National Championships in Stowe, Vt.
Lars Hannah, who had to bow out of the previous two Junior Nationals because of illness and injury, finally got his shot to compete and had one of SSWSC’s strongest showings of the week.
Hannah took second place in the U18 10K mass start skate Saturday, beating out 74 of the 76 skiers. He also had the fastest relay time in the 3K skate, carrying the Rocky Mountain team to a fifth-place finish.
In the U16 3K skate relay, Kathleen O’Connell and Jordi Floyd, of Steamboat, teamed up with Aspen’s Hailey Swirbul to grab third. O’Connell followed up that performance in what coach Brian Tate called a “remarkable” finish in the 5K mass start skate, grabbing fourth. Floyd was 15th in the same race.
Steamboat’s Cara Piske was 10th in the 10K U20 mass start skate.
“She led the race from the 5 to 7K mark,” Tate wrote in an email about Piske's 10K.
Piske and SSWSC teammate Abbey Habermehl teamed up for a fourth-place finish in Saturday’s relay. Habermehl had the third-fastest leg time, Tate said.
In the U18 10K mass start skate, Steamboat’s Gretchen Burkholder was 10th and helped her team to fourth in the relay race.
Simon Zink took 12th in the U16 5K mass start skate, racing to “the race of his season, Tate said. Teammate Evan Barbier was 20th in the U15 5K mass start skate.
Steamboat athletes competed for Rocky Mountain Nordic, which was fourth overall out of 10 teams. Team New England was the top team finisher.
Dean leads SSWSC in final Nordic combined and jumping event
The Western Regional Championships and U.S. Cup Finals in Park City, Utah, during the weekend marked the final competition for Winter Sports Club Nordic combined and special jumping skiers, and a few podium sweeps highlighted the athletes’ last outing.
In the J3 boys special jumping class on the K40 hill, Decker Dean (first), Elijah Vargas (second) and Bennett Gamber (third) grabbed the top three spots. In the K64 J3 boys competition, Davis Petersen was the top finisher followed by Finn O’Connell in second and Dean in third.
In Nordic combined, Dean was the J3 boys top finisher again, while teammates Vargas and Brendan Andrews were third and fourth, respectively. Gamber finished fifth.
“Brendan Andrews, he’s a kid who has come on strong as the season has gone,” SSWSC coach Todd Wilson said. “It’s been steady progression the whole way through.”
In J2 girls Nordic combined, Melissa Requist grabbed gold, and in J6 girls, Tinsley Wilkinson also was the top finisher.
Steamboat’s Read Sias and Bridger Carlton were the top two finishers in J6 boys Nordic combined. Koby Vargas took silver in J2 boys Nordic combined, followed by O’Connell in third and Peter Rosenthal in fourth.
In the senior class HS100, Tyler Smith and Jasper Good were second and third, respectively.
In the K64 J2 girls jump, Requist took fourth and also grabbed fourth on the J1 K64 girls hill.
Also coming on strong toward the end of the season, Wilson said, was Annika Belshaw, who was first in the J4 girls K20 jump. In J4 boys, Annika’s brother Eric Belshaw was fourth, followed directly by Canden Wilkinson and Niklas Malacinski.
Wilson said when the team arrived in Park City, conditions weren’t ideal but it improved as competition wore on.
Freestyle skiers looking to nationals
Snow conditions and practice time weren’t exactly perfect, but the Winter Sports Club freestyle skiers weathered elements in their final tune up before nationals ramp up in April.
Skiing in the eighth and final USASA slope-style event of the season, a couple of skiers finished their seasons on high notes and others are now looking forward to nationals.
Kai Doyle was second in the skier boys 10 to 12 age group and will be going to nationals again, coach Andy Michnay said.
Robbie Brown was second in the skier men open class, and like Doyle, will be going to nationals for the first time.
Payton McElhiney grabbed bronze in the skier men 13 to 16 age class.
No other results were available.
“Everybody skied really well,” Michnay said. “We had snow the night before so conditions were a little slow and we had a little less practice time. They all came out and skied really strongly, though.”
Michnay said most of his group still is awaiting to hear about final national point standings, which decide who goes to nationals on April 5 to 10 at Copper. Michnay said in a week or so the standings will be released.
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll