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Locals compete at Junior Olympics

MARK NADELL, Special to the Sun

Year-round technique instruction, long distance workouts, and high-intensity interval sessions all culminated in a week of high-level competition earlier this month for a group of Far West Nordic Junior cross country skiers at the Junior Olympics in Ishpeming, Mich.

Sixteen area skiers (OJ Boys: Ian Case, Casey Watson, J1 Boys: Tony Bozzio, Scott Hill, Dana Mosman, Nick Sterling, J1 Girls: Jessica Ford, Shannon Lankenau, Laura Spohr, J2 Boys: Joaquin Goodpaster, Nicki Henriques, Andrew Van Blarigan, Phillip Violett, J2 Girls: Lindsay Collin, Natalie Joffe, Kara LaPoint) traveled halfway across the country to compete in this year’s event.

The event included four separate races: A short-course sprint race, a longer-distance freestyle (skating) event, a short distance classic technique race, and a 3-person mixed (one leg classic/two legs freestyle) relay.

Also traveling with the team were six Far West coaches (including Head Coach Glenn Jobe and Assistant Head Coach Nancy Fiddler), and a variety of parents as helpers.

The event started out with the sprint races, a 3 to 4 minute race in a series of heats leading to the finals. On a snowy and wind-blown course, Joffe and Case were the two Far West skiers who were able to make it past the preliminary heats. Joffe finished twelfth overall and Case received the first medal of the week with a seventh place performance.

“In his final round, Case had the lead for much of the race. It was so cool to see him in his Far West uniform, out in front, gaining a bigger lead every turn as the course snaked around the course,” said fellow skier Kara LaPoint.

Three of the J1 boys, Sterling, Bozzio, and Mosman, gave strong performances as well, finishing eleventh, thirteenth, and fifteenth respectively in their individual heats.

After one day off to rest, the skiers were ready for the freestyle events. The J2 girls and J2 boys skied 5 kilometers, OJ and J1 girls skied 10 km, and the J1 and OJ boys skied a 15 km race.

Although Far West didn’t take home any medals that day, some strong performances were made by a few skiers.

Joffe finished fourteenth with All-American (AA) honors, as did Jessica Ford in her J1 female division. Finally, Case continued his strong skiing in an extremely competitive division by finishing seventeenth and also earning All-American honors for his performance.

Two days later the skiers entered the classic technique races, a shorter event of 5 kilometers for girls and J2 (14-15 yr. old) boys, and 10 kilometers for the older male divisions.

Joffe again continued to shine, coming home with an extremely impressive fifth place medal. Case also achieved AA honors with a thirteenth place finish. LaPoint garnered the “oh-so-close” award of the week when she finished eleventh in the J2 girls division, less than two seconds from a medal. Tahoe City’s Bozzio was the other strong Far West racer that day, finishing fifteenth in the J1 male division.

The competitions closed on Saturday with the relay events, which were the most exciting day for spectators throughout the week of events.

Far West demonstrated its depth as two teams narrowly missed medals. The J2 girl team consisted of LaPoint, Joffe, and Lindsay Collins of Truckee. The J1 boys’ team of Bozzio, Scott Hill and Mosman also tagged a sixth place finish, missing that elusive medal by a scant 15 seconds.

Ian Case also finished his week in strong fashion, by leading throughout the first leg of the relay, finishing with the second fastest classic time of the day in OJ/J1 division.

Although individual medals (top 10 finishes in races, top 5 in the relays) were few, a number of near-misses and quite a few All-American honors (based on a percentage of time back from the winner) gave the team high hopes that their training is paying off on a national scale.

When the week was done, skiers returned tired, but satisfied that they gave their best in so many difficult competitions.

“We’ve learned a lot this year about how to succeed on a national level,” said Jobe. “Our technique is as good as anyone’s in the country. Now, we just need to get tougher.”

The team will continue working out on snow as long as possible, and some will even race at the spring competitions coming up in Sun Valley, Idaho.


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