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Cross country ski racing aplenty over weekend

Mark Nadell
Special to the Sun
Photo by Mark NadellTruckee High's Matt Gelso leads the pack during a pursuit race last Friday.
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Even with scheduling difficulties from finals week and a brief but vigorous snowstorm that forced athletes to miss their start, the Truckee High Nordic Team held on to the top spots at the league’s first-ever continuous pursuit at North Tahoe High School on Jan. 28.

Truckee took first and second place in every race except the varsity girls, in spite of missing at least six of its varsity’s top skiers.

A continuous pursuit is a new wrinkle on the World Cup racing circuit, demonstrating the overall strength of an individual in both the classic (diagonal stride) and freestyle (skating) techniques.

In this event, the varsity skiers all began with their classic leg, a 3.5-kilometer race around the inner loop at Tahoe Cross Country’s ski trail system. Upon returning to the stadium finish area, athletes are then required to “switch gears” by quickly taking off their classic skis and poles and replacing them with skate equipment before completing the next 5-kilometer loop. The two races are considered as one, and the first to cross the finish line is the winner.

The boys’ race was a switch from the sprints at Truckee High, with Truckee’s Matt Gelso getting the better of his teammate, Joaquin Goodpaster. Gelso narrowly held the lead during the classic leg before managing to crush his opposition in the skate portion, winning with a time of 27:33, almost a minute ahead of Goodpaster’s time of 28:32.

Third place went to Nevada Union’s Danny Rodrigues, who finished with a time of 30 minutes. Rodrigues was able to parlay his strong classic style into a comfortable lead throughout the skate event.

As was the case in her only other individual race of the CNISSF season, Truckee High’s Maisha Goodpaster won the girls’ competition with a time of 33:13. Sophie Leonard, of Mammoth High, finished second with a time of 33:13.6. Goodpaster used the classic portion of the race to build her lead to several seconds, then held on at the finish line, despite a late surge from Leonard. Third place went to another Mammoth competitor, Dayna Stimson.

The top five girls each had freshly returned from racing at the 2002 Olympics venue at Soldier Hollow, Utah last weekend.

Because of the difficult logistics of the pursuit format, the varsity teams were the only ones participating in both classic and skate. The junior varsity raced a more traditional event, and used only the skate course for its race.

For the boys, Jordan Nadell, of Truckee High, stayed back in the crowd for the first half of the race, then used the second half to pull away from his closest competitors. Nadell won with a time of 15:9, and his teammate, Alex Ferneyhough, finished second with a time of 15:22. Third Place went to Scott Smelser, of Nevada Union, who finished in 15:58.

Brittney White, of Truckee, made her strongest showing of the season by taking the girls’ JV event with a time of 17:32. White pulled away from teammate Angela Raso, who finished in 17:48, and North Tahoe’s Erin Altick, whose time was 18:26.

The middle school races, once again, went according to form. Alder Creek Middle School’s girls dominated their event, placing six of the top 10 racers in the field. Bernie Nelson, of Truckee, was able to win comfortably with a time of 14:13. Teammate Annika Taylor finished second, with a time of 14:40, and Sophie Aaron placed third in 15:35.

In the Boys’ division, Daniel Gelso and Russell Kennedy, of ACMS, placed first and second in the field, with respective times of 13:30 and 14:09. The third spot went to up-and-coming Miles Heaps, of North Tahoe Middle School, who finished in 14:51.

The next race on the CNISSF schedule is Feb. 5 at Northstar Cross Country, a classic event to prepare for the State Championships Feb. 12 and 13 at Auburn Ski Club Training Center.

In spite of the nearly perfect conditions for classic skiing only 74 competitors “braved” the sunshine, nice, hard-wax snow, a challenging course and a very hospitable venue at Tahoe Cross Country in Tahoe City.

For the third time this season, Truckee’s Tim Hill showed that the strength of the field doesn’t matter when looking over his shoulder at the rest of the crowd. In spite of celebrating his 40th birthday the night before, and showing up to the event without his ski boots (he ended up having to use clunky rentals from the ski area), Hill strided away on the first major climb and was never threatened. Hill finished with a time of 45:51, which, coincidentally, is within a second of his winning time in the 2004 event held at the same location. Junior racer Garrett Reid, of Palo Alto ” who was able to temporarily dethrone Hill at last weekend’s Sawmill Race at Northstar ” took the silver medal spot with a time of 47:44, and Truckee’s Jeff Schloss finished in third place with a time of 48:28.

In the women’s field, Judy Rabinowitz proved that her strong showing in the Snowshoe Thompson Classic earlier this month was no fluke. Rabinowitz finished with a time of 51:5. The next closest racer was Laura Stern, of Menlo Park, who finished with a time of 58:34. Molly Zurn, of Reno, took third by finishing in 59:36.

The local Far West Nordic schedule will take a week or two off, with the exception of a couple shorter evening races coming up ” one at Tahoe Donner Feb. 2, the other at Squaw Creek Feb. 8. There are tentative plans in the works for holding the Alpenglow Freestyle Event at Tahoe XC on Feb. 13, after the event was originally scheduled for Jan. 9. Up-to-the-minute details and results on all things Nordic can be found by clicking to http://www.farwestnordic.org.


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