Nelson, Gelso set pace at Truckee Sprints |

Nelson, Gelso set pace at Truckee Sprints

Mark Nadell
Special to the Sun

Clear skies, warm sunshine, hundreds of competitors and great snow conditions made for a perfect day of ski racing at the CNISSF Sprint Competitions at Tahoe Donner Cross Country on Friday.

Volunteers and organizers may not have noticed much of the above, however, because running a sprint competition for the high school league is one large blur of motion upon the day. With course setup and cleanup, preliminary time trials, timing considerations and then almost 40 head-to-head heats of eight racers each, there is truly not a dull moment.

The Sprints ” moved to its original location after being held at Truckee High’s Surprise Stadium the past two years ” are two competitions in one. The first is a preliminary time trial, where skiers are sent off in 15-second increments to race against the clock around a 1-kilometer loop. The second is a series of head-to-head races of eight skiers with the top skiers eventually meeting in a final to determine the fastest of the day.

The time trial is what determines the league points scored for the day in the individual and team categories, while the heat competitions are strictly for bragging rights. The faster the time in the prelims, the better the “seeding” in the Quarterfinals, with only the top 32 boys and girls from each division moving on to the competition round ” although everyone on the day was able to race at least one head-to-head competition.

Fresh off of her near win at last weekend’s “Super JOQ” Competition in Soldier Hollow, Utah, Varsity skier Bernie Nelson of Truckee High was once again virtually untouchable.

With the fastest time of the day in the preliminary race by a whopping 12 seconds, spectators knew it would take a crash or worse for Nelson not to defend her CNISSF Sprint title from 2006. And just like clock-work, Nelson won each of her quarterfinal and semifinal heats to end up in the finals against seven other varsity racers.

In front of a crowd of hundreds, Nelson pulled away midway through the final to easily outdistance Gabrielle Joffe of Marin Catholic High and Dayna Stimson of Mammoth. With the next four racers from Truckee, the locals enjoyed the home field advantage.

Only Dani Griffo of North Tahoe broke up the Truckee-fest, complete with a spectacular fall across the finish line in an effort to reach the seventh spot on the day.

In the varsity boys competition, it was another silver medalist from last weekend’s races in Utah who came through in the Final.

Even though he had only the third fastest preliminary time, Daniel Gelso showed he’s one of the fastest sprinters in the West in Soldier Hollow, hardly missing a step on Friday to notch his first CNISSF Sprint win.

Spencer Wood of Truckee was the fastest time-trialist of the day, and managed to survive a couple of spills throughout the heats to take the second spot. Truckee skiers Russell Kennedy and Alex Ferneyhough made it a local’s four-for-four with the next two spots before freshman Miles Heapes of North Tahoe broke up the Truckee dominance.

The Middle School division again was a slam dunk for Alder Creek’s Annika Taylor and Justin Ondry.

Winners of each of the previous races on the CNISSF circuit this year, Taylor and Ondry smoked the field in the preliminary races, winning by a whopping 16 and eight seconds, respectively. Over a 1-kilometer, relatively flat course, that’s almost an eternity. And in the competition heats, their speed and power were evident again, with each one easily moving up through the rounds to win their final heat.

Taylor led the Alder Creek dominance on the day ” broken up only by Kristin King of Mammoth Middle School ” with the Cougars’ Allene Kennedy narrowly beating North Tahoe’s Haley Forsyth for the bronze position.

Rachell Nadell then led a group of four Alder Creek Cougars to the finish line in the final.

In the boys Final, Mammoth’s Will Stimson was second behind Ondry, with North Tahoe’s Patrick McElravey taking third and Mammoth’s Paolo Humes fourth. Alder Creek’s Austin Meng and Evan Dion finished sixth and eighth and North Tahoe’s Sean Lovely was seventh.

Next week’s Classic-technique competition will be held at Kirkwood Cross Country. For more information and results from all the CNISSF races go to

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