Far West Skiers bring home the medals
The young skiers of the Far West Nordic division have just completed their own version of March Madness, and have come away with more medals than ever before at the U.S. Junior Olympics.
And this competition for Far West skiers, along with 350 other nordic racers from divisions across the country, wasn’t held in a temperature-controlled arena with thousands of attending fans.
Instead, Far West team members from California and Nevada loaded up enough skis and wax to stock a ski shop for a full season, and headed for Anchorage, with a slew of high expectations, for their own version of the Great Alaska Shootout.
The hope was that this might be the year that the Far West became more than a tiny blip on the radar of national-caliber youth ski competitions.
In all, the Far West was able to achieve 12 medals in the three races of last week’s competitions, despite the fact that, perhaps, the best junior nordic skier in the program, Jenny Rassuchine, was competing in Rumford, Maine, at the NCAA National Championships.
To put the achievement into perspective, the best-ever Far West medal count was five.
Far West head coach Glenn Jobe said, “We probably won more medals in this one competition than the Far West has won, total, in almost 20 years.”
And it could have been even better; five athletes missed winning a medal by a cumulative total of three seconds.
The first race, a prologue 1K sprint, gave just a hint of good things to come.
Creditable performances were put in by almost every racer, including a 19th place by Chris Waller, J1 (age 16-17) of Truckee and a 14th place by J2 skier Rory Bosio of North Tahoe.
The second (and first official medal) race was the individual freestyle skate event, where Far West served notice that it was planning to put more competitors on the podium.
With the race held in brutally cold two-below-zero conditions, Ian Case of Nevada Union finished in eighth for the J1 boys, and Laura Spohr, North Tahoe, placed 12th in the J2 (age 14-15) girls’ event.
It was in Friday’s classic-style race, however, that the true strength of the Far West contingent came through.
With wax technician Bill Sterling testing glide wax, Jobe and assistant head coach Nancy Fiddler testing grip wax, and assistant coaches Olof Carmel, Lynn Harriman and Debbi Waldear relaying results and split times, the Far West racers were able to break into the top-10 in each division.
In the J2 boys’ race, finishers included Scott Hill (North Tahoe) at seventh, Tony Bozzio (North Tahoe) at eighth, and Nick Sterling (Truckee) placing 11th, less than two seconds from a top-10 medal.
In the J2 girls’ division, Jessica Ford (Lee Vining) finished in 11th, just one second from medaling.
The best result of all was an outright win in the OJ (older juniors, age 18-19) girls’ race by Kari Todd, who grew up in Alaska and now skis for the Far West while attending the University of Nevada, Reno.
The last day of competition featured the Junior Olympic Team Relay event, two legs of classic skiing and one leg of freestyle.
Fresh off their strong finishes from the previous day, the Far West J2 boys’ team of Tony Bozzio, Nick Sterling and Scott Hill finished an unprecedented third.
Keeping up their end of the bargain was the J2 girls’ team of Rory Bosio, Jessica Ford, and Laura Spohr, finishing in fourth place.
The J1 boys’ teams finished with respectable times, with the team of Zach Violett (Nevada Union), Louis Van Blarigan (Truckee) and Ian Case placing 11th, and the team of Dana Mosman (Nevada Union), Tobias Barr (North Tahoe), and Chris Waller placing 17th in a field of 27 teams.
The OJ girls’ race featured a photo-finish for the fifth medal spot, with the team of Kari Todd, Anne Spohr (North Tahoe), and Emily Robins (North Tahoe) just getting edged out at the finish line by one-tenth of a second.
And finally, the OJ boys’ team of Charlie Porter (UNR), Eric Ford (UNR) and Josh Bennett (Truckee) raced to a 13th-place finish in its final event.
“The Far West Nordic division served notice that it is now a force to be reckoned with,” said Jobe. “And with, perhaps, the most professional, diligent, and well-prepared support organization at these Junior Olympics, the foundation is there for great things to occur in future years.”
Jobe is working on implementing a year-round training plan to help junior skiers improve each year. He said the support from the community – especially Royal Gorge Cross Country and Auburn Ski Club – has enabled the Far West to put this program together.
“The next step locally,” said Jobe, “is to increase the youth development programs and participation in Truckee and Tahoe City for the younger skiers, from the third grade on up, so we can continue this pipeline of great skiers to come out of our division.”
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