Summit High School Nordic coaches reflect on transformative season
FRISCO — Four months after the Summit High School Nordic ski team was without a coach or direction, it appears the Tigers program is on track for high-level success in the future.
After Breckenridge local Eva Hagen committed to coach the team at the eleventh hour, everything fell into place for the Tigers program. Joining forces with fellow Breckenridge local Kate Zander, Hagen soon had offers to help from accomplished athletes and coaches Jill Sorensen and U.S. Olympian Matt Dayton, who helped coach the team through the season.
Parents of athletes also reached out, expressing their willingness to help if Hagen and Zander ever needed.
“People I’ve known for 20 years said, ‘Can I come to a practice and help out? That’s so great what you’re doing,’” Zander said. “That saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a skier,’ we definitely felt that with the team this year. I hope the kids feel loved on and are also appreciative of the community here because they are very important.”
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Hagen and Zander feel the outpouring of support from the Summit County community has set the foundation for a fruitful future for the Tigers program. After 10 Tigers raced at the Colorado High School Ski League State Championship last week — where the Nordic girls combined with Alpine athletes to help Summit finish third in the overall rankings — Hagen said she has plans to coach the program for at least another four years.
Four months after Summit High School Director of Athletics Travis Avery had to convince Hagen to take the job, the fact that Hagen is committed for years to come is huge for the Tigers program. As important, though, is the increased interest talented skiers, including club athletes, have in joining the Tiger program next season, Hagen and Zander said.
Hagen knows the talented young Nordic skiers in Summit County well because her daughter Ella is a 13-year-old skier for the Summit Nordic Ski Club’s U-14 program. When you combine Hagen’s connections to the top young talent in the county and the high school team’s improved relationship with the Summit Nordic Ski Club and head coach Olof Hedberg, it bodes well for the Tigers program in years to come.
“It was a total rebuilding year, really,” Hagen said. I” didn’t know any of the kids, if they had Nordic skied, what they were expecting — it was total rebuilding, the whole team.”
Hagen’s first season as head coach concluded with the state championship in Beaver Creek that began on a difficult note. Weather conditions made the classic course difficult to race on, leading to many accidents and crashes.
After the Tigers girls took ninth and the boys took eighth in the 5K classic, skate conditions were much better for Friday’s 5K. The girls finished a strong eighth in the skate led by Aubree Confer’s seventh-place finish, an example that a club athlete can commit to the high school team and contend for a state championship. At states, Hagen also was proud of the performance from veteran Katherine Puc, who raced to 36th in the 5K skate, as well as Tigers freshmen Jonah Mocatta, Jacob Shriver, Christian Skowron and Paige Wescott.
Those young skiers should be back next year, combining with an influx of middle school talent that has experience on the club circuit.
“I think that we set the right path for the club kids to be able to join,” Hagen said. “And with all of it, we sort of set an expectation of having them participate at least once a week in high school practices but still giving them the freedom of training with the club team. I think it’s an honor for any kid to compete in a state championship, maybe be a state champion one day.”
As for Zander, though she is unsure whether she will coach again next year, the Summit High grad and Nordic standout is proud of the fun the Tigers had as a team this year while improving the competitive level of their skiing.
“All the athletes improved,” Zander said. “I can’t think of one athlete that plateaued. … There’s a good dynamic there. I hope we can attract more skiers, provide more depth and more encouragement because there’s strength in numbers. I think in order for Summit to get back on top, it’s about the team and atmosphere fostering and growing. I look forward to see where we go with that. We were state champions when I was in high school. It’s a cool feat when you and your 10 teammates — 30 with the guys and Alpine — take home a state championship.”
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