Reloading on talent | SierraSun.com

Reloading on talent

Mark Nadell
Special to the Sun

Mark Nadell/Provided to the SunTruckee High Nordic skier Bernie Nelson, the overall CNISSF points leader as a freshman last season, looks to lead the Wolverines to another title. The team will rely largely on younger skiers to step up in place of those who graduated.

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series previewing the Truckee and North Tahoe high school Nordic ski seasons. Part two on Friday will focus on the top skiers to watch for in 2007.

What do the top college football coaches do when they lose half their championship team to graduation? They reload with talented underclassmen who have been waiting eagerly for their time in the sun.

For Jon Halvorsen, coach of the 2006 state champion Truckee High Nordic team, it’s simply a matter of penciling in two individual state champions at the top of their list, and then filling in the rest of the varsity squads with those up-and-coming racers who have been training for years for the opportunity to lead their team.

For Elyah Gordon, head coach of the North Tahoe High Lakers, it’s time for a few of those junior varsity skiers from 2006 to move up to varsity and challenge for the top spots on the CNISSF racing circuit.

Even though Halvorsen lost his “No. 1 draft pick,” Matthew Gelso, to the U.S. Ski Team and the University of Colorado ” along with three of the top six individual points leaders from last season ” Truckee’s varsity boys squad is well-poised to defend its overall title this season, led by 2006 points leader Spencer Wood.

And in spite of a couple major individual challenges coming from some fast girls from the southern half of California, Halvorsen is confident that his girls team, led by 2006 points leader Bernie Nelson, can also rise up to the challenge of defending its title in 2007.

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“This is a bit of a ‘wait-and-see’ year for us,” says Halvorsen. “It definitely is a rebuilding year for the mens team, and I’m looking forward to seeing who will take over the lead spots on the team. The girls, with Bernie leading the way, should be as strong or stronger than last year.”

At North Tahoe, Gordon is also looking for some of his players to “step it up” this year, with former JV skiers Tom McElravey and Sage Clark and varsity veterans Danielle Griffo and Winston Krauss leading the charge.

Although the size of the Nordic teams in Truckee and North Tahoe dwarf those from the southern half of California, there are still some excellent skiers from both Bishop and Mammoth high schools.

Bishop’s Andrew Armstrong and Bryce Tiernan are both veterans of past Junior Olympics, and Armstrong is a good bet to challenge Truckee’s Spencer Wood and Daniel Gelso at the top of the CNISSF standings this year.

Matthew Picken of Mammoth also has the motor to compete for some of the top spots in the boys division. For the girls, both Sophie Leonard and Dayna Stimson of Mammoth are threats in any given race, and, along with teammate Bernie Nelson of Truckee, were the first two legs of Far West’s bronze medal-winning JO relay team in Houghton, Mich., last March.

Finally, Gabrielle Joffe of Marin Catholic High in the Bay Area is a solid threat at every race. And with four Junior Olympics under her belt, Joffe has the most national competition experience of anyone at the high school level.

All-in-all, the racing should be fierce this year, with some of the closest competition for top spots that spectators have ever seen.

– Auburn Ski Club Relays

– Friday: Middle School races at 10:30 a.m, High School races at noon

– Info: http://www.farwestnordic.org