Gelso among national qualifiers | SierraSun.com

Gelso among national qualifiers

Mark Nadell
Special to the Sun
Emma Garrard/Sierra Sun file photoMatt Gelso, a 2006 Truckee High grad who is now competing for the University of Colorado, crosses the finish line at the NCAA Western Regional 15-kilometer classic race at Auburn Ski Club on Saturday. Gelso finished third with a time of 42:31.9.
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A group of world-class Nordic skiers sneaked onto the local race scene with little fanfare this past weekend when the NCAA Western Regional Competitions were held at Auburn Ski Club on Friday and Saturday.

With junior champions from around the Nordic globe skiing in the two races, local racers were able to match stride for stride with some of the best young talent from Germany, Norway, France, Canada and, of course, the United States.

The NCAA Western Regionals are the last-chance opportunity for many skiers to qualify for the NCAA National Championships, to be held this year in Jackson, N.H., in early March.

Some of the local athletes competing included Truckee’s Matthew Gelso, skiing for the University of Colorado, along with his teammates Joaquin Goodpaster, also of Truckee, and Palo Alto’s Garrett Reid.

Tahoe City’s Dominic Henriques of the University of Nevada, Reno, and Truckee’s Kara LaPoint of Denver University were two of the homegrown racers who needed an exceptional finish over the weekend to qualify for Nationals.

Other local racers who were allowed to race as “independents” included Truckee’s Spencer Wood, August Brautigam, Soda Springs’ Jakub Benes and Abbey Grimmer (UNR), and the mother-son team of Beth and Carl Reid of Palo Alto and Truckee.

As a member of the U.S. Ski Team’s Continental Cup squad, Gelso is sometimes taken for granted on the local junior circuit, but his third- and fourth-place finishes against this star-studded field was still impressive.

In Friday’s interval-start Freestyle event, Gelso finished 30 seconds off the pace of winner John Stene of Denver University. Stene, a former top junior from Norway, also managed a second-place in the next day’s Classic event. Gelso, on his way next month to the World Junior Championships in Tarvisio, Italy, ended up as the second U.S. skier in the Freestyle, and the first U.S. skier in Saturday’s Classic, coming in third to eventual winner Rene Reisshauer, a former World Junior Champion from Germany, and Norway’s Stene. Possibly the most notable aspect of Gelso’s results were that this 18-year old gives up between five and eight years to most of the “college-age” athletes ahead of him on the results list.

The most impressive ” and unexpected ” finishes of the competition were brought by Beth Reid (formerly Heiden) and son Carl. Beth, a stalwart on the local racing circuit, is also a former NCAA Nordic Champion ” 24 years ago.

On Friday she managed a fifth-place finish, the third-fastest U.S. citizen on the course, and less than 10 seconds short of third overall, less than 30 seconds off the pace of Sun Valley’s top Junior and National Champion Alexa Turzian. Another surprising performance came from 17-year-old Carl, a freshman at the University of Davis and an “independent” in this competition, who skied to a ninth-place finish in the Freestyle competition, which was good enough for fourth-best in the U.S.

The two finishes that perhaps mattered the most, however, were put in by LaPoint and Henriques, with mixed results. DU’s LaPoint used a solid 16th-place in the Freestyle combined with a great 12th-place finish in the Classic race to catapult herself to the NCAA Championships next week.

Henriques was 14th on Friday, but followed it up with a disappointing 30th overall on Saturday to narrowly miss out ” by one spot ” going to Jackson for NCAA’s. With one more year of eligibility, Henriques claimed he is going all-out for NCAA’s in 2008.

Other notable local performances included Truckee High senior Spencer Wood’s 40th-place on Saturday, better than many of the college-age competitors, and on Friday, August Brautigam’s 37th-place and Jakub Benes’ 44th-place. Goodpaster placed 30th and 23rd, respectively, with Garrett Reid getting two solid finishes at 27th and 19th overall. UNR’s Abbey Grimmer finished 43rd in Friday’s Freestyle.

Check out http://www.farwestnordic.org for complete results and information for all the races.