Steamboat Springs cross-country skier races into top-20 at Junior World Championships | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Springs cross-country skier races into top-20 at Junior World Championships

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club

— Nordic ski coach Brian Tate wasn't surprised Wednesday afternoon when he learned that Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skier Wyatt Gebhardt had raced into the top-20 at the FIS Nordic Junior & U23 World Skiing Championships, which are taking place this week in Park City, Utah.

But Tate continued to be impressed by the 17-year-old skier, who just seems to keep getting better.

"This was by far the best World Junior Championship result we (any Winter Sports Club cross-country skier) have ever had," Tate said of the finish. "I wasn't surprised by the finish because of the way he has been skiing lately, especially after his finish at the U.S. Nationals."

The Steamboat Springs High School junior kept alive his streak of top finishes, which started last spring at the U.S. National Championships and has continued through the 2017 United States Ski & Snowboard Association Cross Country Nationals that were held in Park City last month.

Gebhardt won the U18 class and was the second overall junior in a 15-kilometer race at that event Jan. 7. He was also fifth overall and fifth among juniors in a 10K mass start classic race held Jan. 10.

But he topped all those results this week by placing 19th in the 10K individual freestyle race with a time of 24 minutes, 30 seconds. It was just 22 seconds away from a top-10 finish, and 1:21 behind the winner Vladislav Vechkanov of Russia.

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“It was amazing for my first international start,” Gebhardt said. “It was really great to get out there with all those other skiers and to compete.”

The race was dominated by the Russians, who took the top three places. Vechkanov finished with a time of 23:08 and was followed by teammates Egor Kazarinov in second at 23:16 and Yaroslav Rybochkin in third at 23:21. The top American was Hunter Wonders in 17th place.

Gebhardt will have a few days off before getting back on the race course for a “ski-a-thon” event where athletes compete on a 10K classic race, switch skis in a transition area and then finish with a 10K freestyle race.

"I think that will be a good distance for Wyatt," Tate said. "He only seems to get stronger as the race goes on."

The FIS Nordic Junior & U23 World Skiing Championships are taking place this week in Park City. Yesterday several Steamboat Springs skiers took part in the Nordic combined normal hill event that was won by Finland's Arttu Maekiaho, who finished the race 21 seconds in front of Austria's Mike Vermeulen.

Steamboat’s Koby Vargas was 37th, and Grant Andrews came in 44th. The top American was Park City’s Stephen Schumann in 10th.

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