Summit Nordic Ski Club sends nine skiers to Alaska junior nationals
Nine Summit Nordic Ski Club athletes will represent the Rocky Mountain Nordic region at the 2019 U.S. Cross Country Junior Nationals, which will take place at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska from March 9-17.
This is the largest contingent Summit Nordic has brought to a junior nationals event since head coach Olof Hedberg started up the program five years ago. Hedberg and the team are hopeful they can build off of last year’s performance, when Summit Nordic sent seven skiers to the event, including two who reached the top-10 podium: alumna Ezra Smith and Summit High School sophomore Tai-Lee Smith.
Smith returns this year for her second straight junior nationals fresh off of winning a state championship in the 5-kilometer Nordic classic race at last week’s state championships in Durango. Smith is one of several Summit Nordic skiers Hedberg is confident has the ability to finish in the top-10 across the U-16 and U-18/20 racing divisions.
“That’s the goal,” Hedberg said before the team practiced on the Frisco Nordic Center trails Tuesday afternoon. “Tai-Lee and Peter Haynes were able to get to that podium before, Tai-Lee last year and Peter two years ago. We’re hoping that they, if everything goes well, they have a shot at it. I think we have some others that have podium potential as well. Almost anyone who is going, having a good day, they can get there. They have the potential if everything goes right.”
Along with Smith in the U-16 girls division and Haynes in the U-18/20 men’s division, other Summit Nordic Ski Club athletes who earned the right to compete at junior nationals include Noelle Resignolo and Jaden Phillips in the U-18/20 girls competition, U-14-aged athlete Nina Schamberger racing up in the girls U-16 division and Alex Morano, Sam Haynes, Jack Jones and Gray Wasson in the U-16 boys division. A pair of other Summit Nordic skiers, Zach Smith in U-18 and Hannah Knickrehm in U-20, skied to strong enough seasons to earn first-alternate spots for junior nationals though, at the moment, they won’t be competing.
Each Summit Nordic athlete qualified for the junior nationals event by ranking in either the top-12 spots within the region at the U-16 level or in one of the top-13 spots in the U 18/20 level. To determine qualification, the Rocky Mountain team is selected by assessing each skier’s top-four races through the Rocky Mountain season, including skiers from such rival clubs as Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club.
Hedberg said the Summit Nordic kids got off to a phenomenal start for qualifying at their home meet at the Frisco Nordic Center in mid-December. More recently, the Evergreen-resident Phillips worked hard to earn her berth toward the end of the season. After joining the Summit Nordic team this year, this will be Phillips’ first time at junior nationals. It’ll also be the maiden voyage to the elite annual competition for Morano, Jones, Wasson and Schamberger.
For Schamberger, this meet will be the latest step up for one of the country’s best young Nordic skiers, as she enters the races as the top-ranked girls U-16 skier in Colorado.
Of the Summit Nordic group, Peter Haynes is the only skier to previously race on this sea-level course in Anchorage. Hedberg said Summit Nordic’s coaches have specifically trained in recent weeks for the kind of punchy hills and more steep, explosive skiing that the course will demand.
“It’s something we have studied for some time and prepared these athletes for a little bit,” Hedberg said, “because it’s a little bit different than the more gradual hills we have up here.”
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