Nordic sprint kicks off season |

Nordic sprint kicks off season

Mark Nadell/Provided to the SunFar West Nordic junior Bernie Nelson, a sophomore at Truckee High School, leads the field during the Auburn Ski Club Sprint Challenge on Sunday. Nelson won each round on her way to taking the sprint competition title.

The inaugural Nordic race event of the season ended up with a decidedly “Nevada” flair to it, with racers from the University of Nevada, Reno dominating many of the top spots at the Auburn Ski Club Sprint Challenge competition on Sunday.

Although it was a competition oriented toward local juniors as the first event of the four-part Junior Olympic qualifier series for Far West athletes, UNR skiers took the top three spots for the men, and two of the top four women’s places.

After a challenging start to the winter season in the Sierra Nevada, with many of the early races either canceled or postponed, just enough snow accumulated the days before the Sprint Challenge to hold the competition on the trails of the Auburn Ski Club (ASC) Training Center on Donner Summit.

ASC Director Bill Clark worked his magic on the trail system ” along with quite a bit of shoveling help from the ASC junior teams ” and skiers arrived Sunday to find cold and spectacular conditions along the challenging 1-kilometer course.

A Sprint competition is always a two-part affair, with the first half of the competition consisting of an individual time trial along the rolling race course. With skiers going off at 15 second intervals, times ranged from just under 2 minutes for the fastest skiers to more than 3 minutes for the slower ones.

The advantage of having a fast time in the preliminary competition is to ensure a quality “seed” in the second half of the race day, a head-to-head series of heats to narrow down the field for the championship race. The top 16 times for both the men and women would go on to the “championship” round, while the rest of the field would enter the “fun” competition heats ” better times in the prelims meant for easier seeding in the heats.

Another reason for many racers to field their best time in the time trial was that this preliminary race counted specifically for their qualifying time in the Junior Olympic selections.

All in all, 24 Far West Juniors posted times that qualified them for the initial round of Junior Olympic selection. The fastest preliminary time of the day was a virtual tie between UNR skier Lutz Preussler and Jonathan Pluvinet, an attendee of UNR who is planning on securing eligibility to the college’s Nordic team in the near future.

Preussler, from Germany, and Pluvinet, from France, gave a decidedly international flair to the day’s competition. Jakub Benes, a former Far West skier and coach who is now attending the University of California, Davis graduate program, took the third spot in the men’s prelims.

In the women’s competition, Far West junior Bernie Nelson, a sophomore at Truckee High, dusted the field by a whopping 6 seconds over Paige Brady of UNR and Gabrielle Joffe of Kentfield, making her the odds-on favorite going into the championship heats.

After the preliminary time trial and a short rest period, the race was back on for the head-to-head event, where four racers at a time jostled for position over the same course. After the dust had settled, it was another UNR skier, Matt DeCarufel, who emerged on top after the final championship round.

DeCarufel, from Ketchum, Idaho, had only the fourth fastest time in the prelims, but racing alone is quite different from racing your peers, and he managed to survive the grueling heats on top, beating Preussler, Pluvinet and Benes in the final round.

Nelson used her sprinting skills to win each round on the way to her sprint competition title, beating Brady, Joffe and Abbey Grimmer in the final sprint.

After a long day of racing, the 60-odd participants had nothing but raves for the conditions and the competition up on Donner Summit. With little new snow on the horizon, it was important to get at least one good round of competition in before the end of the year, with the next big race scheduled for New Year’s Eve ” the annual Snowshoe Thompson Classic at Auburn Ski Club.

For full results and details from the inaugural Nordic race of the season, go to

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