Freshman leads charge for Summit Nordic Ski Club at XC Junior Nationals
Last month she became a two-time Nordic skiing state champion as a freshman. Last week 14-year-old Summit Nordic Ski Club athlete Ezra Smith added a junior national title to that list of accolades. The Summit High School student finished first in the under-16 5K individual-start skate competition at the 2015 XC Junior Nationals near Truckee, California, March 8-14.
“She has world-class potential,” Nordic club head coach Olof Hedberg said of Smith, calling her “a diamond in the rough.”
Smith claimed the top spot, running the 5K course in 17 minutes, 18.5 seconds.
“When she skis fast, she skis so fast, and she’s just 14 years old,” Hedberg, a former World Cup Nordic skier for Sweden, said, adding that she has a great foundation for years to come. She also finished fourth in the U16 division in the mass-start classic race.
Smith was one of five Summit Nordic Ski Club athletes who qualified for nationals. She was joined by teammates Henry Trowbridge, Taeler McCrerey, Ruthie Boyd and Derek Hill.
“It was awesome. I could not be happier,” Hedberg said of his team’s overall results. Athletes and coaches said that as a group they performed better than any past team in recent memory.
“It’s so cool to see that what you have done and built over a couple of months comes together,” Hedberg said. “They’ve been so dedicated and focused on it. I’m amazed that they were able to develop so quickly.”
Hedberg joined the team as coach in September and his athletes said it’s already paid off.
“We went into (nationals) well prepared. It was pretty obvious that we were right up there with the best skiers in the country,” Summit High senior Henry Trowbridge said, crediting his new coach. “He’s more knowledgeable than anyone I’ve ever met. I think throughout the season that’s really rubbed off on us.”
Trowbridge finished eighth in the U18 individual skate race, 13th in sprint and 11th in mass-start classic. He also won a CHSAA state title in skate in February.
“I was pretty consistent, which I was stoked about,” he said. “I attribute that to Olof a ton.”
Fellow Summit senior Taeler McCrerey also had a strong outing. The two-time 2014 Colorado state champion finished seventh in the sprint, fourth in skate and sixth in classic.
“I’m very happy with (the results),” she said. “Being top five and top 10 is something to be proud of.”
Hedberg was also quick to praise the young skier.
“She’s still so young. The potential for her is enormous,” he said, adding that she could develop into World Cup Nordic skier.
“I’ve never met such a young girl that is so focused and so dedicated.”
Both Trowbridge and McCrerey plan to pursue Nordic skiing at the collegiate level next winter.
Their teammates Ruthie Boyd and Derek Hill also had strong performances at nationals. Boyd took 14th in the U18 sprint and 17th in classic. Hill finished in the top 50 in U20 for all three events.
Just one year into his tenure, Hedberg said he’s thrilled with the whole club’s potential.
“Seeing this after one season and how willing the kids are to get on board with it, I’m very, very, confident that we can build something comparable to the best clubs in the country.” But for now, “They deserve a freaking break,” he said, laughing.
Summer training will start in June.
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