Gelso on pace for success
A year after his nomination to the United States Cross Country Ski Team, Matt Gelso is living up to his reputation as a rising phenom on the Nordic scene.
“I expect him to be a contender for years to come. By the time he’s a senior he should be one of the top skiers in the country,” said Bruce Cranmer, head Nordic coach at University of Colorado at Boulder, the school for which Gelso races in addition to the U.S. Continental Cup Team (also called the “B Team”). “He was already threatening as a freshman.”
And what a freshman year it was for the 2006 Truckee High grad.
Aside from academics ” he thinks he pulled between a 3.7 and 3.85 GPA ” Gelso, 18, was named the Buffaloes’ Male Freshman Athlete of the Year after becoming the first CU freshman to win a Nordic race since 1991. He also became the first American freshman to win a race in the West since the sport went coed in 1983, according to CU’s Web site.
Gelso tallied 10 top-five finishes in 12 races, was a National All-Academic Ski Team member and earned first-team All-America honors in the classic and second-team accolades in the freestyle at the NCAA National Championship this past March.
“There’s not many people who can come in and compete at that level as a freshman,” Cranmer said. “Most of these guys have a lot of years on him and a lot more experience. But he had a great year, and I think he’ll just continue to improve. It’s a thrill to have him on our team.”
Matt Whitcomb, head development coach for the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team, kept close tabs on Gelso’s progress at the collegiate level. While he was impressed with Gelso’s consistency in posting quality finishes, the coach was not surprised by what the youngest U.S. Nordic team member was able to accomplish.
“Matt’s a phenomenal athlete,” said Whitcomb, adding that Gelso’s active outdoor lifestyle growing up in the Tahoe area has contributed his success at such an early age. “The kid is unbelievably fit by nature.”
And he fits right in with his older colleagues.
“He’s a great teammate,” Whitcomb said. “He’s the kind of kid who jokes around almost 24-7, but when it comes to getting a point across and teaching, he tunes right in. He’s there to learn. He’s a fantastic teammate.”
Being that Gelso was the new kid on the U.S. team ” he was only 17 when he joined last summer ” he expected to receive the rookie treatment from the other skiers during the three training camps he attended.
“I was pleasantly surprised I didn’t get hazed as much as on other teams,” Gelso said. “The guys are great and the coaches are great. It’s a good group of people.”
Gelso also likes his situation at CU, where he skis with former Truckee High teammates Joaquin and Maisha Goodpaster.
“Boulder is a super fun place,” he said, describing the area as similar to Tahoe, with ample opportunity to kayak, rock climb and cycle ” all longtime hobbies. “I’m a big fan of that place.”
When it comes down to it, though, Gelso said he is a bigger fan of his homeland.
“Tahoe is where it’s at,” Gelso said. “Boulder is awesome, and Sun Valley (Idaho) and Park City (Utah), but I don’t think any of them have all the qualities Tahoe has as far as things I like to do. Tahoe is a great place.”
– Four-time Junior Olympic gold medal winner
– 2005-’06, 2006-’07 Junior Worlds racer
– 2006-’07 CU Male Freshman Athlete of the Year
– 2006-’07 National All-Academic Ski Team member
– 2006-’07 First-team All-American (Classic)
– 2006-’07 Second-team All-American (Freestyle)
– 10 top-five collegiate finishes in 12 races in 2006-’07
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Students frustrated at the cancellation of sports waved signs and delivered speeches at a Truckee High School protest in an attempt to return to the field this year.