CNISSF Nordic racing | Exciting action in soggy Sugar Bowl Freestyle
Special to the Bonanza
The always-popular Truckee Sprints were rescheduled in this year of snow dearth to Auburn Ski Club this Friday, Jan. 23. With its exciting, track meet-style format, the Sprints are always a crowd favorite.
In weather that would be better suited for an Oregon Ducks football game than a cross-country race at 7,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada, the CNISSF High School and Middle School Nordic Ski League held their second event of the season, the Sugar Bowl Freestyle Race, this past Friday.
Even with the low snow conditions, extensive trail work and snow moving by the Royal Gorge Cross Country groomers and the Sugar Bowl Academy crew made sure that excellent, safe conditions were available for every competitor.
The high school girls division started off the event, skiing a 6.5-kilometer, mostly flat loop from the Sugar Bowl Village and down to the Van Norden trails at Royal Gorge. An extra loop through the meadow and hills down there brought the racers back to the “Power Line Uphill” and back to the finish up by Village Hall.
As expected, Sugar Bowl Academy’s Hannah Halvorsen (13 minutes, 30 seconds), fresh from her superb showing at U.S Cross Country Ski National Championships in Houghton, Mich., took the early lead and did not relinquish it throughout the course of the race.
She steadily extended her margin to finish 25 seconds in front of her nearest competitor, Amanda Kirkeby of Mammoth High. Rounding out the podium was Quinn Lehmkuhl of North Tahoe, less than two seconds back.
The high school boys gave the crowd their biggest thrill of the day, with the race dominated by Sugar Bowl Academy’s trio of Sam Zabell, Ryland Belisle and Skyler Mullings.
Mullings had a narrow lead around the final turn to the finish, but the final uphill proved to be his undoing, as Belisle and then Zabell passed him going into the finish, with Zabell taking the top honors with a time of 11:52. Belisle cruised in less than three seconds later, and Mullings was able to hold onto third place another five seconds behind.
In the middle school division, neither race for victory had nearly the drama as the high schoolers.
For the girls, Sofia Sanchez of North Tahoe Middle School crushed the field from the beginning and was never challenged throughout her race to finish in a time of 13:08 on a somewhat shorter course.
Coming in second place was her teammate Ella Kuzyk, a full 28 seconds behind. Breaking up the North Tahoe party was Alder Creek’s Kianna Mullings, 34 seconds behind.
The boys race was won in a similar fashion, with North Tahoe’s Nate Cutler racing away from his teammates Cooper Anderson and Max Roske to win with a time of 12 minutes and 28 seconds, an impressive 30 seconds ahead.
Find a photo gallery from the race here.
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The 2021-22 U.S Alpine Ski Team nominations were released Monday, and several of the area’s top racers are among those chosen to potentially represent the program.