Summit skiers enter state as favorites
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Last Thursday at Devil’s Thumb Nordic Center, the finish area looked more like a Summit High practice than a state-wide competition featuring some of the strongest teams around.
As one Tiger skier after another crossed the finish line, the rest of Colorado’s best trailed behind. Led by sophomore Jackson Hill, the Tigers swept positions one through five in the Winter Park race – the finale of a regular season that was regularly dominated by those clad in Tiger green.
Tiger Nordic coach Hannah Taylor is modest about the finish. “A fluke,” she said Wednesday, a day before the Colorado state ski meet in Aspen. She said some teams’ top skiers were taking the day off, you know, like SHS junior Tucker McCrerey, arguably the state’s best Nordic skier.
Hill said it’s a sign of things to come.
“Oh, it’s possible, for sure,” he said of repeating the sweep at state. “We’re all peaking at the right time.”
Sure, Hill may be a bit brash in his predictions, but there’s no doubt about it: When today’s action starts, Summit High is clearly the favorite – for both boys and girls – at the 2011 State Ski Championships.
Summit head alpine coach Karl Barth feels as comfortable predicting ski races as he does betting on Colorado’s fickle forecasts.
Still, he knows what the Tigers are capable of accomplishing.
“Coming in, we’re matched up pretty well against anyone in alpine, and we definitely have an edge in boys with Nordic,” he said. “It might be a little of the opposite for girls, but both teams kind of balance each other out.”
Team titles at state are decided over two days with four total competitions. Nordic has both a classic race (today) and skate race (Friday), and alpine has giant slalom (today) and slalom (Friday). A team earns points in each race depending on how its top-three skiers finish. Then, combining alpine with Nordic, one boys’ state champion and one girls’ is crowned Friday night.
“There’s obviously a lot that goes into it,” Barth said. “And you never really know what can happen.”
History certainly favors Summit. Aside from a slew of dominating races this season, the Tigers have entered state in a similar position in the past and they’ve come out on top – 36 times. The school’s state titles are split evenly (18 for boys, 18 for girls), and this year’s goal for both teams has been adding to the trophy case.
The Tigers have arguably the best female Nordic skier in the state in senior Julia Hayes. She’s the defending champ in classic and won three of the five races she competed in this season.
“It’s been really exciting,” Hayes said of the season. “I’m going into state pretty confident, and I’m just going to see how it goes.”
After Hayes, the Nordic team has Katherine Pappas, Cali Greksa, Sophie Ferguson and Mikka Wickman to round out the lineup.
Although, it will likely be the alpine squad to carry the girls to a title. Summit has dominated all year on the slopes. The Tigers have three podium contenders in Ellie Hartman, Miranda Sheely and Anne Parker, as well as a slew of others who could crack the top-10. And that’s with one one of the team’s top skiers, Nicole Anderson, unable to compete due to scheduling conflicts with her club team.
“The girls’ (competition) will be really interesting,” Barth said, noting that Steamboat Springs, Nederlands and Battle Mountain could all challenge for the overall team title. “It might all come down to Nordic.”
The Summit High boys won the state team title last year, when the Tigers played host at Keystone Resort and the Frisco Nordic Center.
The team could finish atop both sides (alpine and Nordic) of the draw this year.
On the slopes, the Tigers have Dael Moulton, Matty Baldwin, Will Cutler and Ian Parker, who all could realistically podium. Parker may also end up as the overall skimeister champion for the season, a year-long contest among skiers who compete in both Nordic and alpine. According the Barth’s calculations, the senior is certainly among the top couple skiers in points.
Then, of course, is Summit’s dominating Nordic team. After McCrerey and Hill – both high finishers at state last year – the Tigers also have Quinton Bobb, Liam McDonnell, Sam Piehl, Duncan Koehn and Troy Meeker, any of whom could crack the top-five on any given day.
“They definitely give us that edge,” Barth said.
Aspen, Steamboat, Evergreen, Battle Mountain – all the regular fixtures at state could challenge Summit for the crown.
Although, as Hill put it, the Tigers know what they expect.
“Wins feel pretty good,” he said.
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