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Tigers Nordic: A new era for a successful team

RICHARD CHITTICK
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk Patrick Neel and Brittany Perkins training Wednesday afternoon at the Breckenridge Nordic Center.
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FARMER’S KORNER – While it may seem logical that the dominant sport at Summit High School may be skiing, it’s no cakewalk for the Tigers.Look at the competition: Aspen, Steamboat, Battle Mountain and Vail Mountain School are always contenders, and then Middle Park and Colorado Rocky Mountain School are lurking in the shadows. Few, if any, schools can count on their alpine teams to establish large leads in the points format for winning a title, as alpine races are typically very close. (The state title is determined by combining points earned by both alpine and Nordic teams.) So it often comes down to the Nordic team. In 2002, the girls ski team finished second to Aspen even though the cross country team won. Last year, the boys won their second consecutive title, but only after Summit’s Nordic team broke a virtual tie with Aspen.”On the high school level, it’s not as easy (to win a state title) as every one might think given Summit’s record in the past,” head coach Tom Sain said. “But my expectation is that they can repeat as state champs.”The team is bigger this year, with a strong crew of incoming freshmen. Even before he became head coach, Sain worked extensively with every skier on the team from his days as the middle school coach.

Then there’s the Dayton effect – 1992 Salt Lake City Olympian Matt Dayton will be working with almost every one of Sain’s skiers as the director of Summit Ski Club. And Matt’s father, Gene, is Sain’s assistant coach. To top it all off, the Tigers will have home advantage in the state championships, with the Nordic team competing at Gold Run Nordic Center in Breckenridge and the alpine team competing on the steep Go Devil trail at Keystone. All of this has given the Tigers a confident swagger heading into their season, which begins on Dec. 18 at Steamboat.”I’m excited,” said junior Shannon Sonnett. “I think we’ll have a really strong team. We’ll have a lot more points (at state) because the team is a lot bigger. I think we’ll continue to be state champs.” Added senior Ali Kreamelmeyer, “It seems like everyone that’s out here is positive about being here.” The boys team is just as eager to prove itself, if not more so.”We have a deep team and really good training. We have strong skiers, from freshmen up to seniors,” said senior Isaac Phillips. “The guys high school team will definitely take state.”

A bonus programWhen Brittany Perkins first heard about the formation of the county’s first Rocky Mountain Division (RMD) Nordic ski club, she was a little skeptical about it.”I wasn’t so sure how it was going to help us,” said the defending state high school champion in the 5K freestyle. “I didn’t see a need for it considering we had already won states before.” In fact, the Tigers have won the state title 29 times between the boys and girls ski teams, the most recent coming in February when the teams swept the championships in Steamboat Springs. As the program developed, however, Perkins realized the Summit Ski Club, created by local parents and coaches, would be an indispensable tool to Summit High School cross country skiers. “We went to a camp, and these other kids had year-round training,” Perkins said, noting that she now has it as well. “I think the ski club will help.”That sentiment rang true among the entire 2004-2005 SHS Nordic team during the Tigers’ dryland training session at Summit High School on Monday. Unlike alpine skiing, where skiers typically choose between club or varsity competition, a majority of Nordic skiers do both simultaneously. In some cases, high school competitions double as RMD events.

While strong performances in high school races can lead to a berth at the state championships and a state title, hard work in RMD events can lead to an appearance in Junior Olympics. With the right training, however, a teenage athlete can have the best of both worlds.”I like the idea of the club,” said junior Kevin Soller. “I like how it’s all tied together so I don’t have to choose.” Added Sain, “For Summit, it’s always been pretty typical that we’ve been a high school team while the kids have always been an active part of RMD.” Sain, a former Nordic coach at Summit Middle School, took over the Tigers’ program when Richard Nelson resigned after disagreeing with club organizers over the Summit Ski Club’s relation to the high school program. Sain, however, sees a partnership between the two organizations, and actually serves as an assistant coach for the club.”A big point was to make sure that those programs could co-exist and not be fighting each other,” he said. Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at rchittick@summitdaily.com.


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