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On top of his game

Jim Stimson PhotographyTruckee's Matt Gelso crosses the finish line in first place in the Classic event at the 2006 Junior Olympics in Houghton, Mich., in March.
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It was only a matter of time, but it sure came sooner than later.

At 17 years of age, Truckee High senior Matt Gelso has been nominated to the 2006-2007 United States Cross Country Ski Team, an honor that places him one step away from officially being named to the team. The formal announcement of that team will be made at an undisclosed date this summer.

“I’m pretty excited about it. It’s a big opportunity and a huge honor,” said Gelso, who dominated the field during the Nordic Junior Olympics in Houghton, Mich., this year and had solid performances at the U.S. Nationals and World Junior Championships. “When I was nominated for the team I was like ‘wow.’ I wasn’t expecting it, so it definitely took me by surprise.”



Those in the Truckee Nordic ski community have little doubt that Gelso can hack it.

“I don’t see anything in Matt’s makeup that makes me think he won’t make that step (onto the U.S. Ski Team),” said Mark Nadell, Far West Nordic administrator and longtime acquaintance of Gelso. “He’s got an incredible shot given his physical ability and mental toughness.”



Nadell thought Gelso would eventually wind up representing his country, “but not this quickly,” he said. “I didn’t think this year he’d be nominated. I knew he had the potential, but I thought it would be in his early 20s.”

The senior also has received a full-ride scholarship to Nordic ski for the University of Colorado next year, where he will join 2005 Truckee High graduate Joaquin Goodpaster and his sister Maisha, who graduates with Gelso next month.

Skiing for a college at the same time as the U.S. Ski team is not common, Nadell said. But Gelso has already discussed his situation with coaches on both sides and received the OK.

“They’re both really excited,” Gelso said. “I don’t think it will be a conflict.”

It should make for a busy schedule, though.

Gelso leaves today for a U.S. Ski Team camp in Park City, Utah. He then heads to Sun Valley, Idaho, for training in June, then to Maine in August before starting class on Aug. 28. By that time, if everything goes according to plan, he will have signed an agreement with USSA and been officially named to the team.

“It’s real exciting for me to see Matt do as well as he has at such a young age,” said Glenn Jobe, a former Nordic Olympic skier and Far West Nordic coach who has worked with Gelso for years. “I’d like to think I was as good as Matt at his age. He’s got a huge future ahead of him.”

Far West Nordic head coach Jeff Schloss perhaps has taught Gelso the most about cross-country skiing.

“I definitely have to credit my coach Jeff Schloss,” Gelso said. “He has been there since I first started skiing. He brought me into skiing and provided solid training for me that has allowed me to get to this level. I wouldn’t be at this level without him.”

Not to sell himself short, Gelso said he’ll work his hardest to continue to elevate that level. At some point, he said, he’d like to be mentioned with the best Nordic skiers in the world.

“There’s always the Olympics and World Championships,” he said, “but for my all-time goal I would really like to be able to be in the top 10 on the World Cup. I’d like to be in the top three, too.

“I just hope I can ski fast and stay in that top tier of skiers.”

For now, though, like any high school graduate, Gelso has on his mind the fact that life as he’s known it will never again be the same.

“To be honest with you, it’s a little scary,” he said about leaving for college and joining the U.S. Ski Team. “I’m excited about it, but deep down I’m a little bit scared.”

The United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) changed the way it selects the U.S. Ski Team for the upcoming year, opting for a nomination process instead of placing an athlete directly on the national team.

“We’re adding a valuable new process between the traditional May nominations of athletes and the formal team naming this summer,” said USSA Vice President of Athletics Alan Ashley in a release. “… When we formally name our teams this summer we want to be sure that each athlete is committed to the standards of the U.S. Ski Team including both athletic training and competition programs and values the team represents.”

According to USSA, that means coaches will work with nominated athletes to educate them on the responsibilities and discuss the personal commitment that goes along with being on the team. Each athlete then will sign an agreement that specifically details the responsibilities.

World Junior Championships ” Kranj, Slovenia

10K Classic

16th place (second J1 skier in world.)

15K Pursuit

44th overall (second J1 skier)

U.S. Nationals ”

Soldier Hollow, Utah

Mens Sprints

Preliminaries: Sixth junior racer, first J1

skier (16-17-year-olds), 42nd overall.

Mens 15K Classic

First junior skier, 27th overall, 22nd in

the US.

Mens 10K Freestyle

Third junior skier, 38th overall

Junior Olympics ”

Houghton, Mich.

Sprints

First J1 skier.

10K Classic

First J1 skier (fastest overall time)

15K Freestyle

First J1 skier (fastest overall time)

3x Relay

Seventh with team (fastest overall individual time of day)

CNISSF State Championships ” Auburn Ski Club

First high school varsity men

NCAA Regionals (West) ”

Auburn Ski Club

10K Classic

Fourth overall. First U.S. skier overall.


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