State ski races show off rare team bond |

State ski races show off rare team bond

Devon O'Neil

With few exceptions, ski racing is more individual than Budweiser Leon.It just so happens, however, that one of those exceptions takes place this weekend.The Colorado high school state ski championships are in town. Alpine events are going on at Keystone, and Nordic races will be held at Gold Run in Breckenridge. Both disciplines begin today.This is the pinnacle of high school skiing in these parts. Some might argue that doesn’t mean much, because the competition isn’t as strong across the board as it is in, say, Rocky Mountain Division races. They’re right about the club-high school talent disparity, but wrong about it not meaning much.

Watch the races. Follow the points as the two days of action unfolds. You’ll soon see that, to the kids and coaches involved, it means everything.This is rare. Because of the way ski racing operates, individual success is almost always priority No. 1. Every kid’s dream is to make the national team. Then, to win Olympic gold. Your teammates need not do well for you to achieve either.On the high school and college stages, goals change. Priorities shift from “me” to “we.” Fourth place – the first non-podium finisher – suddenly isn’t so bad, if it means your team gets just enough points to go home a winner.Even if it’s just for an hour, I hope you consider visiting the sites and soaking up the aura this weekend. The racers themselves are worth watching, for the most part, but the out-of-the-ordinary atmosphere is an even better show.The kids are cheering for their teammates to go faster like they’re running from a lion. It’s true team pride.

The best part is the way the lower-tier racers unite with the top dogs in the name of the group. Like all 15 or so teams that are competing this weekend, the defending state champion Summit High squads have clear-cut stars, as well as lesser-talented kids.But when the Tigers swept last year’s titles – the 29th and 30th in the school’s storied history – everyone shared in the winning feeling. Point scorers or not, SHS alpine coach Tory Hauser said, “They were all beaming up there on the podium.”Individual glory is great, it might etch your name in the history books forever, but the team beam is where it’s at.The way Colorado high school ski champs are decided, Nordic and alpine scores are combined to get an overall team score. Boys are lumped together, and so are girls. As ludicrous as this might be (it’s the only time all year scoring is done that way; many think titles should be awarded separately to Nordic and alpine teams, instead of to the two genders), it furthers an already positive school bond.

This weekend, alpine races will be held in the morning (both today’s GS and Saturday’s slalom start at 9:30 a.m.), and Nordic events take place in the afternoon (today’s freestyle and Saturday’s classic both begin at 3:30 p.m.). It makes for a long day, but it allows the racers to cheer on their different discipline teammates – basically the only time all year they get that chance, because of the conflicting race schedules.It’s too bad so many kids in Summit and beyond choose only to ski for clubs. Not because it dilutes the talent pool on the high school level, but because the kids themselves miss out on this team aspect.After all, as this weekend’s competitors know, sharing is cool.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at

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