With respected coaches leading the way, Summit High Nordic team is confident in capabilities
With a stellar supporting cast of coaches surrounding her, Summit High School Nordic ski team head coach Eva Hagen expects an improved and more dedicated group of Tiger skiers to be competitive with the state’s best teams this year.
That goes for both a boys side that is deep in numbers and a girls side that is scant in numbers but full of talent.
Hagen said she expects six of the Tigers boys skiers to challenge for top spots at the 10 competitions they’ll race in this year. Those races begin with both classic and vertical “virtual races” where from Jan. 25 through Feb. 13 Tiger coaches will time the athletes. The team’s first traditional race of the season will be on Friday, Jan. 29, at the Lake County Golf Course.
Hagen said the team has been motivated to come to voluntary practices in recent weeks before official practice began Monday. She said the squad — which had 16 boys and five girls as of Thursday, though students are still encouraged to join — will build on last year, which was her first season as head coach with assistant Kate Zander.
Hagen pointed to Liam Goettelman — a senior at South Park High School in Fairplay, who each day travels up to Summit to compete with Tiger sport teams — as the team’s motivational and spiritual leader.
“He’ll take any encouragement, any criticism, and take it and work at it,” Hagen said. “He’s been fantastic, and great with the younger kids too. They look up to him.”
Hagen said with Goettelman’s leadership, the Tigers have seen a healthy competition between him, the rest of the senior group and a talented crew of sophomore boys. Hagen said the motivation of Jonah Mocatta has helped push that sophomore group along while senior Evan Callahan has been a preseason standout thanks to his efforts to improve his fitness.
“They are looking really strong,” Hagen said. “We’ve definitely stepped up our training because this year we don’t have to work on basic techniques as much as last year. We have done a lot more harder interval training.”
Hagen said this year’s group has embraced that more difficult interval training, with the athletes being eager for it at times. That training has included working on explosive skiing and endurance.
Helping Hagen and Zander lead the instruction are a collection of paid and volunteer assistant coaches that are considered to be some of the best Nordic minds in the area. The team has brought on former Summit Nordic Ski Club coach Scott Yule and Jill Sorensen as paid coaches while Matt Dayton has returned as a volunteer assistant coach, joined this year by Ksusha Shamberger.
“It’s one of the best coaching teams there is up here for Nordic because all of them bring something different to the table,” Hagen said.
Hagen said Yule is fantastic at coaching classic skiing while Dayton really helps the team with freestyle. Hagen said Shamberger, a former Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy coach, has a wealth of knowledge about coaching youth athletes how to improve their Nordic technique.
Goettelman said with Hagen’s structure, Dayton’s training tips, Sorensen’s energy, Shamberger’s veteran knowledge, Zander’s race knowledge and Yule’s winning spirit, the Tigers have no choice but to benefit this year. Goettelman particularly credited Hagen’s building of the program in enticing the talented Smith to join the team in her final high school year.
Jan. 25-Feb. 13: Classic virtual race
Jan. 25-Feb. 13: Skate virtual race
Jan. 29: Individual skate at Lake County Golf Course, 3 p.m.
Feb. 5: 5K classic at Gold Run Nordic Center, 2 p.m.
Feb. 12: TBD at Bakerville
Feb. 15-Mar. 6: Classic virtual race
Feb. 15-Mar. 6: Skate virtual race
Feb. 20: 5K individual classic at CMC-Leadville
Feb. 27: Spring Gulch Skate in Aspen
March 6: CHSAA State Championships at Gold Run Nordic Center
The group the coaches will work with on the girls side includes Katherine Puc, who returns to the Tigers after serving as captain last year. Puc will be joined at races by Maclean Donovan, Aubree Confer and Tai-Lee Smith. The senior Smith joined the team this season and figures to join Confer as the Tigers’ top two threats at each race.
Hagen said the team could definitely use more girls. She said recruitment has been challenging this year without any official, in-person preseason meetings at the high school due to health regulations amid the pandemic.
“It’s been hard to get the word out to ninth-graders who are brand new,” Hagen said.
If the girls side doesn’t increase in size, the pressure will be on Smith, Confer, Donovan and Puc to do well each time out, especially at states, as races count a team’s top-four finishers.
As for the better-attended boys team, Summit Nordic club skiers Roan Varble and Kai Oppito are adding depth to the team this year. Adding in a talented club skier like Jacob Shriver and Goettelman believes the boys have a shot to podium at states in his final season.
And he has one more message: it’s still not too late to join the team.
“With school being online and without people being able to meet inside or in person, the Nordic team is a good way to social distance,” Goettelman said.
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