Nordic combined athletes fare well at nationals | SteamboatToday.com

Nordic combined athletes fare well at nationals

Austin Colbert

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes Decker Dean and Elijah Vargas stand on the podium together after tying for first in the individual Nordic combined event last weekend at the Junior National Championships in Connecticut.

— Ties are almost non-existent in Nordic combined ski races, especially with the advent of finish-line cameras. So, it was a special feat to have two Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes share first place on the podium at last week's Junior National Championships in Salisbury, Connecticut.

"Two of our boys took home two golds out of an individual event," SSWSC U18/U16 Nordic combined coach Karl Denney said. "This one was different, because we had to run it backwards. We had the race first in order to give the hill crew enough time to fix the jump after about 48 hours of rain."

Decker Dean and Elijah Vargas were the two to tie atop the U16 podium. Dean was fourth, and Vargas was second in the cross country race, usually held after the jumps, with Dean winning the jumping competition and Vargas taking third. After a reverse calculation of times, the pair ended up tied for the individual Nordic combined gold.

Brenden Andrews was sixth, and Bennett Gamber was seventh in the same race.

Dean finished the competition as Steamboat's most decorated athlete, earning three golds and one bronze in four events.

"The Junior Nationals week was really challenging," Denney said. "But the results we posted, I was really proud of, because they guys really pushed through that tough week and made it happen."

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Despite a lack of practice rounds due to excessive rain on the East Coast, the Steamboat skiers were able to represent on every podium.

With Dean and Vargas taking first in the U16 individual Nordic combined race, Grant Andrews was second in the U20 male race. Dean and Vargas paired to capture the U16 male Nordic combined team race, winning by one minute, 26 seconds. Gamber and Canden Wilkinson were fifth in the same race, while Grant Andrews and Brenden Andrews paired to win the U20 race.

Dean's bronze medal came after he took third in the U16 special jumping competition. Vargas was fifth, and Niklas Malacinski took eighth. Annika Belshaw, Steamboat's lone girl competing at nationals, took third in the U16 female special jumping competition.

"She did well, being the only girl on the team," Denney said. "She had some trouble on her last competition jump, which brought her down to third place. She would have won the thing if she put two of her good jumps together."

Belshaw and Central Division athlete Anna Hoffman paired to win the team jumping competition on the girls' side. The Steamboat foursome of Peter Rosenthal, Grant Andrews, Dean and Vargas collectively won the boys' team jumping competition.

The Junior Nationals concludes the winter season for the older Nordic combined athletes. The younger kids, some of whom competed in Connecticut, still have a Western Regionals event in Park City this weekend.

"We are going to be training on the big hills. We still have the 120-meter jump and the 90-meter jump up and running here, and they don't have that in Park City right now," Denney said of the older kids continuing to train at Howelsen Hill this month. "It gives us an opportunity to focus down on some aspects of our training we don't really have time to focus on throughout the season and devote bigger chunks to that."

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email acolbert@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert