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Stacked with speed

Mark Nadell

Even though they feature a national championship at the top rung of their team, Truckee High School’s 2005-06 nordic squad will focus their depth throughout the lineup to attempt to repeat as state champions. And having both of last year’s individual league winners returning for their senior year will certainly go a long way in making Truckee the odds-on favorite to repeat. Matthew Gelso and Maisha Goodpaster will anchor Truckee’s varsity team, which will be headed again by Jon Halvorsen, with help from long-time coach Larry Leatherman and Bill Sterling, along with newcomer Lindsay Rickard. Also, both the boys and girls teams lost only a few of their top skiers to graduation – gone for the boys is last year’s state champion Joaquin Goodpaster – and both teams feature two freshmen who were undefeated in their last two seasons at the middle school level.Halvorsen is confident his team has what it takes to bring home yet another state and league championship.”Our depth this year is tremendous as our team has grown by over 30 percent,” Halvorsen said. “I attribute that to the success of our athletes and many other kids wanting to be part of it. Last year’s returnees have been working hard in the off-season and are fired up for another great year.”

In the individual division, Matt Gelso is the favorite to win the bulk of the medals for the boys team. Probably the only thing that will keep him from sweeping is his own success – he’s a good bet to win a spot on one of the US Ski Team’s National Junior teams, vying for a trip to either Slovenia for World Juniors or to Finland for the Scandinavian Cup series. Last season, he brought gold to the Far West Nordic Junior team by winning the 2005 Junior Olympics Sprint Competition (along with a Silver and Bronze in the other two individual races), and he has already scored this year with a win at West Yellowstone against the juniors who raced there.”My focus this year at the high school level is really on the state championship, because it will be three years since I won it as a freshman,” Gelso said. “With US Nationals, and trying to make the World Junior Team, I’m really just hoping to end high school with another championship.”Maisha Goodpaster is a two-time state individual champion, winning as a freshman in 2003 and once again last season. Goodpaster also wrapped up the individual league championship in 2005 and was a two-time medalist at the 2005 Junior Olympics. She will get another good dose of competition from the strong Mammoth High School team, however, which features Junior Olympic veterans Sophie Leonard and Dayna Stimson, as well as Nevada Union’s Sara Violett and Marin Catholic’s Gabrielle Joffe.In addition to the quality at the top is the depth of the Truckee team, both at the varsity and junior varsity level. The varsity team – although the actual make-up of the team hasn’t been set yet – will feature a complete set of Junior Olympics veterans.

Alex Taylor, Spencer Wood and Tyler Wright all are returning from last year’s varsity squad, and last year’s JV members, Alex Ferneyhough, Jordan Nadell, Andrew Pado and Colin Shane (all members of the 2005 Far West Junior Olympics team), will vie for the remaining spots on the varsity team. All have been training year-round with Auburn Ski Club’s competition team. Also expected to join the varsity is freshman Daniel Gelso, two-time state middle school champion and a medalist in the classic competition at the 2005 Junior Olympics. They will be matched up against the hard-working Danny Rodrigues of Nevada Union and North Tahoe’s Nick Bozzio in the league competition. The JV boys will be led by a strong group of returning skiers, as well, depending upon who has “stepped up their game” over the summer training months.The girls team will also feature a gaggle of Junior Olympians, with Alexandra O’Neil and Kelsey Dion returning from the varsity team, plus last year’s JV anchors, Lucy Ferneyhough, Angela Raso and Brittney White. The varsity should also be bolstered by newcomer Bernie Nelson, a two-time state middle school champion and three-time medalist at Junior Olympics last March.Last year’s JV girls team produced the only spot on Truckee’s record, taking second place overall in the league. But the addition of a number of newcomers to the team promises depth that coach Halvorsen hopes will rectify that situation for this year.

The Middle School Division was dominated last season by Alder Creek Middle School, which earned the top three spots at state. But the loss of Gelso and Nelson at the top will make repeating a challenge for 2006. With more than 50 athletes again on the team, though, and a strong contingent of returning seventh and eigth graders, Alder Creek Middle School coach Brian Kehoe feels his team is more than up to the task. The girls division promises to again be the strongest, with Annika Taylor and Sophie Aaron considered the frontrunners for the title, with help from Cami Straw, Annika Deurlington and Robyn Bath-Rosenfeld. The boys division will be even more wide-open, with last year’s silver medalist Russell Kennedy the favorite for the championship. Looking to step up to the plate will be Ryan Zusy, Justin Ondry, Carson Lindsay and Alex Hamilton, among others.Time will tell as the season unfolds whether all the promise and potential of the two Truckee schools will repeat their championship form from last year. But with quality returning athletes at both levels, it would be wise to not bet against both Truckee High and Alder Creek from gathering the top medals through the 2005-2006 season. The season begins in a week at Auburn Ski Club, with the Team Relays on Dec. 16. The season picks up again after the schools’ winter vacation and culminates with the state championships Feb. 17 and 18 at ASC. One date to mark on your calendar is Friday, Jan. 20, when the Second Annual Truckee Sprints will be held at the high school’s Surprise Stadium. The event will feature spectator-friendly, rapid-fire competition throughout the afternoon and into the evening.


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