More than 230 youth racers are set to compete at the Frisco Nordic Center in this weekend's Summit Nordic Ski Club-hosted race.
The teams hail from around the Rocky Mountain Region, who are vying for top finishes as the region seeks its best skiers to make up the national team to compete at Junior National Championships at the end of March in Fairbanks, Alaska.
At Frisco's U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association-sanctioned race - which was moved last-minute from Eldora Mountain on the Front Range - racers will come from Boulder, Steamboat, Aspen, Summit, Durango, Vail, Crested Butte and Gunnison club programs.
Today's classic race will be a mass start, with athletes seeded based on USSA points.
"There's organization behind it, but it's also very exciting," Summit Nordic Ski Club president Dan McCrerey said.
Saturday's skate race will have an interval start, where the start is signaled by a series of beeps and the racer tips the wand to start the clock.
Different age groups race different course lengths, with the older athletes vying for spots on the nationals team.
Last year, Summit sent seven racers to nationals. This year, McCrerey and coach Joe Howdyshell hope for eight or nine.
With the loss of Tucker McCrerey on the boys' team, Howdyshell saw a big questionmark at the start of this season. Since then, that questionmark has turned to an exclamation point, as the up-and-coming boys are rallying for top finishes across the board.
Howdyshell's highlight is the Soldier Hollow race, which was in Utah at the start of the year. Teams from Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico attended the super qualifier. In the 14-15 age group, Henry Trowbridge finished first. Among the 16-19 year old boys, Jackson Hill was fifth and 16-year-old Cameron Bobb was 11th out of more than 130 racers.
"For Jackson, that's a pretty good race, but Cameron is 16 and it's a 16-19 age class," Howdyshell said. "That was an awesome, awesome race for him."
Meanwhile, the girls' team, which has lagged in recent years, may see an uptick with the presence of Tucker's younger sister, Taeler McCrerey.
The sophomore edged out Aspen's Hailey Swirbul in Soldier Hollow to win the 14-15 age group out of 97 finishers. Interestingly, Swirbul beat McCrerey in Grand County at the Colorado State High School State Championships.
"That's one of the closest races I've ever seen. The race isn't over until you say it's over," Howdyshell said of the Soldier Hollow race.
Freshman Ruthie Boyd finished 11th in the same event.
Soldier Hollow was the team's second race of the season, following one in Vail. Frisco's race will be followed by one in Durango in a week - and then the national team will be determined.
Howdyshell said there are a few extra slots on the team - 59 can go - due to ideal finishes in past races.
"Last year, we had an amazing Junior National (Championship)," Howdyshell said. "Out of 150 teams that qualified athletes, the boys' team was ranked second. With the loss of Tucker, I wasn't sure we'd be able to hold that this year, but Jackson, Cameron and Henry may give us a chance to finish in the top three in the country on the boys side."
Registration is closed for this weekend races, but spectators are still welcome. Start lists are available at www.fourcornerstiming.com. Today, the stadium is at the Frisco Nordic Center lodge. On Saturday, it's at the corner of Recreation Way and Crown Point Road.
Parking is limited at the Nordic center. Only team vans will be able to park close to the stadium on Saturday. Primary parking for Saturday will be across the highway in the St. Anthony Summit Medical Center parking lot with attendants stationed to assist.
Spectators wishing to ski must pay for a trail pass at the Frisco Nordic Center.