As program’s standard rises, Summit Nordic Ski Club tops Ski & Snowboard Club Vail at home meet
For Summit Nordic Ski Club coaches Olof and Whitney Hedberg, the coolest thing about this year’s Nordic team is that the program’s young athletes don’t know they are not supposed to be doing what they are doing.
For years, the Summit Nordic Ski Club played the part of bridesmaid to other elite Rocky Mountain clubs such as Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. But after the program qualified both boys and girls to the U-18 and U-16 junior national competitions for the first time ever last season, the club is picking up right where they left off.
This past weekend on their home trails at the Frisco Peninsula Recreation Area, Summit Nordic topped the points table as a team to win the opening event of the Rocky Mountain Nordic season. The team victory came on the strength of nine wins and 21 podium spots spread across 12 classic sprint races and 12 skate distance races.
“They know, for them, ‘well, we are supposed to be one of the top clubs,’” Olof said of the team’s youngest racers. “And that’s a really cool thing to see 10- and 12-year-olds that don’t see a different reality. They don’t see themselves as an underdog. They don’t see themselves as a smaller club. They only know the reality that we are one of the top competitors.”
In total, 320 racers from as young as 6 years old to college-level athletes competed in classic and skate races. For many skiers, this was the first of eight competitions this season where racers compete for a qualifying position at junior nationals.
By weekend’s end, Summit Nordic had nine athletes in qualifying spots for the event in Anchorage, Alaska, though more than a dozen are in the running.
“But it’s a long season,” Olof said, “and they have to keep performing the entire time.”
“For me,” he continued, “the number one thing was the amount of athletes. We, for the first time ever, were the biggest club in a Rocky Mountain junior qualifying race. Ski & Snowboard Club Vail has always been the club with the highest attendance, and for the first time ever, we had more athletes attend than they did.”
Olof said Summit Nordic’s high attendance of 77 total athletes was partially thanks to the event taking place on home snow for the third year in a row. The home meet also aided the Summit Nordic skiers as races took place on familiar trails. The 1.3-mile sprint loop was the same course as the club’s annual early season “Snolof” event that is intended to get skiers ready for the rigors of the winter season.
Summit Nordic had three different athletes win competitions on both Saturday and Sunday. Nina Schamberger, 13, led the way for the club, winning both the classic sprint and skate distance races while skiing up at the U-16 level. Schamberger’s early season success shouldn’t go unnoticed, as her victories signal she has the highest of ceilings imaginable in cross-country skiing.
“She is 13 and third overall?” Whitney said. “Unbelievable.”
Summit Nordic’s Aisley Grohusky also won on both days in the girls U-14 division while her brother Galen finished on the podium in the boys race. Summit Nordic youngster Maeve Niemkiewicz also won on both days in the U-8 division.
“For a 7-year-old to stand on the podium twice in that weekend,” Whitney said. “It’s amazing to see the ramifications that has. They want to keep doing it. They love it.”
Summit Nordic’s Sam Haynes also skied to a breakout weekend, stepping up onto the podium with a third-place finish in the U-16 sprint. And in the U-10 division’s classic race, Heidi Fry took a victory. The team’s Will Bentley, already skiing in his fifth season despite being just 11 years old, took a first- and a second-place spot for the weekend. Summit Nordic’s Kiera Stabile also snagged a podium spot in the U-12 classic sprint.
Of the older skiers, Summit Nordic’s Noelle Resignolo (U-20), Peter Haynes (U-18) Tai-Lee Smith (U-16), Nina Schamberger and Alex Morano (U-16) are all skiers in prime position to qualify for junior nationals after just two competitions this season.
“Across the board,” Olof said. “I think we saw many athletes pushing their level of performance. That shows that they have taken a step. If that’s top 10, or if that’s, like, maybe someone just finishing or some of them winning on both days, that they have put in the work to be able to take their skiing to the next level is very positive to see.”
Despite the wins, it’s Summit Nordic’s strength in numbers that Olof is most encouraged about. The coach says it is critical to capturing the coveted Colorado Cup, which is Summit Nordic’s overall team results goal this season.
“It has never happened,” the coach said. “Having more skiers than Vail this weekend is a great step toward this goal. Vail has won the cup for at least ten years running, but we’ve been moving closer and almost took it last year. Winning the Cup is the next barrier for us to break, and I think this weekend shows it is possible. It’s now within our reach.”
Up next for Summit Nordic’s top senior athletes is the U.S. Senior Nationals in Vermont, which they will leave for on New Year’s Eve. Competing there will be Resignolo, Peter and Sam Haynes, Tai-Lee Smith and Quinn Weinberger. The club’s top younger athletes will head to the International Children’s Games in Lake Placid, New York, in early January before the full program competes at the next Rocky Mountain Nordic competition at Soldier Hollow in Park City, Utah, in mid-January.
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