Sprints to skogsloppet
Home field advantage. Professional teams fight all year for the sacred ability to defend their home turf. It’s as important in a football game as the quarterback, as critical in basketball as the hot jumpshooter. For Truckee’s Nordic Ski teams last Friday, home court meant even more: The first-ever Sprint Competitions held at Surprise Stadium.A long-time dream of Nordic coach Larry Leatherman, the sprints have been held at Tahoe Donner Cross Country for the past two years. This year, with Mother Nature cooperating with a ton of snow and great weather, the massive undertaking of setting up a course and holding it in the football stadium was realized. While race organizers earlier in the year had worried about needing to shovel inches of snow onto a thin track, it turns out that the huge amount of snow Truckee received made for an enormous amount of preparation work. But it paid off at this incredibly fun and highly successful event. Banked turns, a steep downhill, under the sun and under the lights, with glow-sticks lining the course instead of flags, this was a spectator event not to be missed.A sprint competition always begins with a set of preliminary races to determine the seedings for the “heats” leading up to the final races. Every skier goes out at a few seconds interval in a “time-trial” that determines whether or not they get to advance to the semi-final rounds. Skiers were then placed in groups of eight and raced head-to-head, with the top two racers in each heat moving on to the finals.As expected, the Truckee schools skied off with the top prizes in every division – High School or Middle School, Boys or Girls, the Truckee schools were the winners in each. In the Boys division, seven out the top eight skiers in the finals were from Truckee High.
Joaquin Goodpaster and Matt Gelso, just returned from the U.S. Nationals competition in Utah, put on quite a race for the overall title, with Goodpaster managing to pull away from Gelso after an unfortunate stumble by the second place finisher. “It was too bad Matt fell up there,” said Goodpaster. “I was ready for him to give me a good fight to the finish line.” The lone non-Truckee finisher in the finals was Greg Koeck of South Lake Tahoe High School, who fought off the rest to finish third overall, while Tyler Wright of Truckee managed fourth place.In the Girls High School division, Maisha Goodpaster of Truckee set the fastest time of the preliminary run, and then went on to cruise away from the field for the win over Sara Violett of Nevada Union. Freshman Dayna Stimson of Mammoth High made a strong showing to finish third, with Katy Jones of Truckee High coming in fourth place.For the Middle Schoolers, both 2004 Sprint winners from Alder Creek Middle School (formerly Sierra Mountain) maintained their titles. Daniel Gelso dusted the field by almost 18 seconds in the preliminary round, and then went on to easily take the crown by finishing first in both of his competition heats. The race for second place went to Russell Kennedy, also of Alder Creek, while Tom McElravey, freshly transferred to Alder Creek from North Tahoe, managed third. For the girls, Bernie Nelson was again the runaway winner, easily taking the crown over Alder Creek teammates Annika Taylor and Sophie Aaron.
Auburn Ski Club Sprint ChallengeWhile much of the attention was going to the first-ever CNISSF Sprints at Truckee High, an even more important race to the top junior skiers occured on Sunday at the Auburn Ski Club Sprint Challenge. The event was the second of the all-important Junior Olympic Qualifying races on the Far West Nordic schedule. And while this was a junior-dominated event because of its importance, it was also open to all-comers young and old alike.Similar in format to the Truckee High Sprint competitions, but held on the trails of this year’s upcoming Junior Olympic Competition slated for March, the ASC Sprints featured spirited competition in every event. Showing the juniors how it is done was overall champion Beth Reid of Palo Alto, winner of the previous two races at Auburn Ski Club. Reid skied to the fastest women’s preliminary time of the day, and then went on to show that no one could stay with her during three more rounds of competition. Second place went to Maisha Goodpaster of Truckee, following up her win from two days previous, with third place in the women’s’ division going to Friday’s Middle School winner Bernie Nelson of Truckee.In the men’s race, Matt Gelso of Truckee, recently named to the U.S. Ski Team’s Scandinavian Cup team heading to Norway later this month in recognition of his superior results at last week’s U.S. National Championships, atoned for his fall in the finals of Friday’s race by taking the top spot away from teammate Joaquin Goodpaster, also of Truckee. Third place went to senior division Skier Elyah Gordon. All in all, a record 32 juniors qualified in this particular race for the opportunity to continue on and possibly compete at the Junior Olympics in March.
Sierra SkogsloppetWith the Junior division racers catching their breath from a tough weekend of racing, the Far West Nordic Citizen Race schedule continued on Monday with the annual 15 kilometer Sierra Skogsloppet at Tahoe Donner Cross Country. And even this event had a distinctive “junior” feel to it, as it is a fundraiser for the Truckee school Nordic teams, with middle school and high school racers helping to organize and run the event. A fast course, cold, powdery snow, and great weather helped to make this a memorable event.And once again, it was a Truckee skier who took top honors in the race, with Tim Hill, winner of the Snowshoe Thompson Classic at Auburn Ski Club earlier this month, breaking away early on and cruising to a comfortable 1 minute victory over his closest competitors with a time of 37 minutes and 55 seconds. It was obvious by the end of the first lap that this race was going to be for second place, and a pack of competitors jockeyed back and forth throughout the second lap to put themselves in position to win the sprint. In the end, it was Todd Hensley of Mammoth Lakes narrowly edging out Far West Nordic Head Coach Jeff Schloss of Truckee for the win in a time of 38:55, with Terry Daley of Portola and Steve Axt of Menlo Park just a fraction of a second behind.In the women’s division, Laura Stern, another Bay Area racer from Menlo Park, cruised to her win with a time of 45 minutes and 16 seconds over Nicole Portley (45:50) and Julie Young of Auburn (46:36). While everyone catches their breath from this heavy weekend of racing (and race organizing), the Nordic schedule continues this week with the second event of the Tahoe Donner Night race series on Wednesday, along with the Sawmill 15 Kilometer race at Northstar Cross Country on Sunday. The Sawmill is also a fundraiser for the Far West Nordic Junior Program.For more information and complete results from all these events and more, click to http://www.farwestnordic.org.