National junior qualifying Nordic races move to Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

National junior qualifying Nordic races move to Steamboat

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Organizers in Steamboat Springs are busy preparing for an estimated 300 Nordic skiers who are expected to flock to Howelsen Hill this weekend as part of an unplanned Junior National Qualifying race that will use the Nordic trails surrounding the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena.

"I'm a little nervous about it," said Brain Tate, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's cross-county program director. "Luckily, we have the sort of volunteer base and we have people in positions that I'm confident that we will do a great job, but it's just coming upon us so quickly that it's a little nerve-racking."

The Steamboat event is the result of record warm temperatures and snow-making problems at Utah's Soldier Hollow, which was scheduled to host a Super National Junior Qualifier this weekend that had attracted teams from Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Utah and Colorado. 

"We can't replace that because we are just too far for some teams, most teams to travel," Tate said. "We are just providing the opportunity for our athletes to have racing opportunities but also junior national qualifiers."

The Intermountain Division, which included teams from Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah, will head to Sun Valley, Idaho. The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, which will have nearly 60 athletes competing, has stepped up to provide a venue and competition for the athletes from Colorado and possibly a few from Wyoming. 

Those athletes will arrive at Howelsen Hill on Friday morning for a Nordic freestyle sprint race where athletes compete on a 1.5-kilometer course. The athletes take a qualifying run in the morning and then, based on their finishes,  will compete in quarterfinal, semifinal and final heats in the afternoon with the top-two racers in each heat advancing to the next round. Those "knock-out" heats will begin around noon and should be competed just before 3 p.m.

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The athletes will be back on the course Saturday morning for a mass-start classic race. The racers will step to the starting line at 11 a.m., and all the different age divisions should be done around 2 p.m.

Tate said the races are very important for many of the young racers on his team who are still vying for sports to compete at the Junior National Championships that are slated for later this winter.

"We wanted to do the right thing for the skiing community," Tate said. "Cross-country skiing doesn't require a lot of snow, but you do need enough. Certain places in the West have not gotten any natural snow. They have had funky temperatures for making snow, and in Soldier Hollow's case, they have had mechanical issues with pumps and pipes. Right now, they only have about 600 meters of skiing.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.