4 Summit Nordic Ski Club racers qualify for Junior Nationals | SummitDaily.com

4 Summit Nordic Ski Club racers qualify for Junior Nationals

Talented U-14 group ready for Rocky Mountain Nordic Championships

The Summit Nordic Ski Club poses for a photo at the Frisco Nordic Center before practice Thursday, Feb. 20.
Liz Copan / ecopan@summitdaily.com

FRISCO — On the heels of last weekend’s final qualifying event for Junior Nationals, Summit Nordic Ski Club head coach Olof Hedberg reflected about the highlights of the season thus far.

At next month’s Cross-Country Skiing Junior Nationals at Donner Summit, California, three Summit Nordic skiers will compete after four qualified through to nationals. Nina Schamberger, 14, Annabelle Pattenden, 15, Henri Nicholas, 15, and Tai-Lee Smith, 16, all performed well enough at their top four races this season to earn their way to Donner Summit. Schamberger, Pattenden and Nicholas will compete while Smith will not attend due to preexisting mountain bike commitments for the talented cyclist.

Hedberg said this season has been a bit of a rebuilding year for Summit Nordic’s older teams. That said, Schamberger has continued to progress her skills as the state’s No. 1 and a top-five skier in her age division nationally. Hedberg said the talented youngster has improved her technique in classic and skate disciplines as well as her maximum speed.

Despite being — and sometimes more than a year — younger than other U-16 participants, Schamberger won the Denver Invitational freestyle pursuit race Jan. 26 in Minturn to power her way to her second appearance at Junior Nationals. Schamberger’s winning time of 34 minutes and 57.4 seconds was more than 33 seconds quicker than the next fastest skier.

“It’s cool to see how she’s been able to take lessons from good and bad races,” Hedberg said. “She’s learned to ski out and ski bigger and increase efficiency in her skiing. She’s short, and normally she skis too small. Now when she skills well, she skis bigger, and now the next step is to be able to do that consistently and to be able to do it at higher speed.”

Nicholas and Pattenden each will be skiing at Junior Nationals for the first time. At the Denver Invitational classic individual start race Jan. 25 in Minturn, Nicholas raced to a third-place time of 17:23.5, a half-minute behind the winning pace of Benjamin Barber of Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. Results like that propelled Nicholas to junior nationals. Hedberg said Nicholas is a talented skier who excels in max speed and sprint situations, evidenced by his win in the 5K at the Frisco Gold Rush weeks ago.

“If he’s with the group within the last 500 meters, he has a very, very good sprint and finish,” Hedberg said. “That has been his strong suit, his go-to as an athlete.”

Pattenden skied to a strong fifth-place finish at the Denver Invitational freestyle pursuit. The time of 37:06.8 helped her cause to get to junior nationals, an accomplishment she narrowly missed last season.

Hedberg lauded Pattenden for her work in the offseason on roller skis to grow her skills in classic, which Hedberg said he now thinks is her stronger technique.

“It’s cool to see when that comes together in the winter,” Hedberg said. “That’s truly the reason why she took that step, and I’m happy to see when it happens.”

Though they didn’t qualify for Junior Nationals, Hedberg highlighted the work and success before the season and during the season for Summit Nordic 16-year-olds Sam Haynes and Aubree Confer. Hedberg said Haynes put in an extraordinary amount of work in the offseason to set club records in terms of measurable endurance and power. That athleticism translated to the Nordic tracks, though a sickness late last month dashed Haynes’ hopes of being healthy enough to ski his best at crucial races.

As for Confer, though she didn’t make it to Junior Nationals, Hedberg said she’s put in the hard work to improve her higher-speed skiing, becoming faster with her sub techniques when skating and when skiing downhill. Hedberg said he feels Confer has the ability to finish top five at the Colorado High School Ski League’s state championship later this winter.

As for Summit Nordic’s younger, U-14 skiers — who are too young to go to Junior Nationals — Hedberg described it as a special group in terms of quality and quantity. The younger skiers have the Rocky Mountain Nordic U-14 Championships to look forward to later this winter at Powderhorn Ski Area outside of Grand Junction.

“They are all really pushing each other, and I think that’s really cool to see as a coach,” Hedberg said. “Because they will start feeding into the older divisions and be those who can go to Junior Nationals.”

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