Nordic state champs crowned | SierraSun.com

Nordic state champs crowned

Matt Brown, Sierra Sun
Courtesy photoDominic Henriques (2) was able to come from behind and beat his good friend Joaquin Goodpaster (1) on Saturday to earn the 2004 boys' varsity Nordic championship.
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Dominic Henriques and Joaquin Goodpaster were neck and neck Friday and Saturday in the Nordic high school state championship races at Auburn Ski Club – and that’s how the two good friends would have preferred it.

Henriques ended his high school Nordic career by overtaking a two-second advantage afforded to Goodpaster in the 5K Classic final race to earn the 2004 boys’ varsity state championship with a combined time of 26:17.2. Goodpaster’s two-second advantage was a result of a new pursuit format that debuted this year at the high school level.

Henriques, a senior at North Tahoe, and Goodpaster, a junior at Truckee, have been buddies since they met three years ago in their first Junior Olympics excursion in 2001. At the time they met, Henriques was a freshman and Goodpaster an eighth-grader. After the conclusion of the race on Saturday, they reflected jovially about their camaraderie and good-hearted rivalry.

“We travel nationally together and hang out almost every weekend,” said Goodpaster, who earned runner-up honors. “We train together a lot and we’re pretty much at the same level right now.”

They represent a league of their own in the Nordic junior discipline and have achieved somewhat of a celebrity status in the Tahoe area.

“Sometimes people know our names, and we don’t know theirs,” Henriques said. “Most people are familiar (with us) because it’s almost the same crowd every weekend.”

Goodpaster pointed out that their local stardom has grown to new heights in recent months.

“Especially after we came back from Estonia; everyone was giving us mad props,” he said. “It’s really fun when everyone knows your accomplishments.”

The two recently competed on the Scandinavian Cup team in Oteppa, Estonia on Jan. 30-Feb.1, one of the largest junior international competitions in the world.

“By being on the team it means we’re in the top six in our age group,” Henriques said.

They will also travel with the 2004 Far West Junior Olympics Team to Lake Placid, N.Y., this weekend (see Mark Nadell’s preview).

“If you get a top 10 in JOs, you get a medal,” Henriques said. “We’re hoping to get a couple medals this year.”

Henriques earned a ninth place in Sprints at the 2003 Junior Olympics at Fairbanks, Alaska, and Goodpaster got fourth in a 2002 competition for their best JO finishes respectively. But it was their first trip to JOs in 2001 that made them aware that they could excel in Nordic skiing.

“Competing against other people not from (this area) for the first time, you start to get a good idea of what’s out there and where you want to go,” Henriques said. “That was extremely motivating on my part. But you have to balance skiing and life.”

As well as competing, Goodpaster enjoys the life experiences that have accompanied his Nordic successes.

“Traveling is one of the funnest things you can do, and you get to do a lot of it if you do well,” he said. “That’s a really big motivation when you’re training; but you can’t burn out.”

Henriques is currently looking at a slew of colleges in the Western United States, and Goodpaster has a promising senior year ahead of him.

Goodpaster’s younger sister, Maisha, was last year’s varsity state champion as a freshman, but, like her older brother, she had to settle for second in 2004.

The gold belonged to Natalie Joffe (29:31.3), a senior at Marin Catholic in Marin County. Like Henriques, Joffe put the finishing touches on an extraordinary high school career. It was her second state championship.

Joffe created a large cushion over Goodpaster with a 52-second victory in Friday’s Freestyle/Skate race. In this respect, Joffe felt little pressure on her way to a lonesome run to the title.

“I got the big lead, which was cool, but it was also difficult to have no one (around) to feed off of,” she said. “I just tried to think about skiing technically well, since there was no one around me.”

Joffe will be competing in her fifth consecutive JOs this month, and she has also competed in Senior Nationals the last three years. Joffe’s best performance at JOs was a fourth place.

“To get a podium this year would be really nice,” she said.

She endorsed the new racing format that was experimented with in this year’s state championships.

“It’s really exciting,” she said. “It’s the first time they’ve done pursuits, so that makes for a really interesting race.”

This year, the state championship competition used a two-day pursuit racing format for the overall championship. On Friday, the skiers raced a 5K Freestyle/Skate technique, in which skiers started in 30-second intervals and raced against the clock. That particular time carried over to Saturday’s action.

On Saturday, racers started in intervals in a Classic-style technique, but the intervals were determined by how many seconds behind the next best racer they finished on Friday. In this way, a true champion was crowned in the end because the person with the fastest time in two different disciplines claimed the championship.

“We’ll have a meeting in the spring to decide (if the format will be standard in the future),” said Truckee head coach Nancy Gordon. “I’m sold. You should have to prove yourself in both disciplines.”

Truckee’s Matt Gelso (27:31.9), the 2003 boys’ varsity state champion, took third this year proceeding teammates Owen Wright and Alex Taylor. Truckee’s Tyler Wright (29:08.8) is the 2004 junior varsity boys’ champion, followed by teammates Ben Kantz and Loren Myers.

Truckee skiers Whitney Prosor, Kara LaPoint and Kati Clark rounded out the varsity girls’ top five. Truckee’s Katy Jones (36:39.3) is the 2004 JV girls’ champion, followed by teammate Jenny VanBlarigan and North Tahoe’s Dani Griffo.

Three out of four of the overall team titles for varsity and JV went to Truckee, with the exception being the North Tahoe JV girls, who edged Truckee by four team points.