The Far West Nordic Ski Team Returns from Its Most Successful Junior Olympics
This past week the Junior Olympic Cross Country Ski Championships were hotly contested in Fairbanks, Alaska. A record 29 athletes, along with seven coaches, represented the Far West Nordic region and returned with the most individual medals ever in the history of the Nordic team’s competition at the Junior Olympics.
The Tahoe and Truckee region was well represented with 20 athletes: Tony Bozzio, Nick Bozzio, Kati Clark, Lindsay Collin, Kayla Evans, Derek Ganong, Matt Gelso, Joaquin Goodpaster, Maisha Goodpaster, Jenna Harlow, Dominic Henriques, Scott Hill, Kara LaPoint, Alexandra O’Neil, Whitney Prosor, Nick Sterling, Sam Sterling, Alex Taylor, Andrew Van Blarigan, and Owen Wright.
The balance of the team was made up of athletes from across Northern California, and included Cindy Apodaca from Mammoth Lakes, Phillip Violett and Sara Violett from Brownsville, normally competing for the Sugar Bowl Academy, Dana Mosman from Nevada City, and Garrett Reid, Carl Reid, Martin Benes, Gabrielle Joffe and Natalie Joffe, all from the Bay Area. The strong skiing of each of these athletes helped propel the team to a sixth place overall finish for the coveted “ALASKA CUP,” with the best team points ever.
Athletes represented nine divisions from across the country, all racing for medals for the top 10 in each age group.
After a winter of record highs temperatures and low snowfall, Fairbanks greeted the California kids with a cold snap as temperatures reached minus 20 at night and warmed up around 0 during the day, often just squeaking by the minimum requirement for holding a ski race.
The weeklong series of races started off with a sprint race of 1 kilometer. The Far West athletes were able to put four racers in the medal results (top 10), and narrowly missed a couple of chances at a top three result. Bozzio (7th OJ), Nick Sterling (10th OJ), Henriques (9th J1), and Natalie Joffe (8th J1) all made it to the medal stand for the sprints.
The Freestyle (Skating) race happened March 12, and the Far West Juniors came away with two more on a day where just staying warm was the supreme accomplishment. While many of the athletes were having difficulty with the sub zero temperatures, Gelso (4th J2) and Natalie Joffe (9th J1) were able to skate their way to medal finishes. Garrett Reid (12th J2) and Mosman (14th OJ) were also close to finishing in the top 10.
The final individual race was a Classic technique race, where Gelso and Goodpaster showed that their wins in the State Championship races were just precursors to future results by both of them taking third place Bronze medals in the J2 division. LaPoint skied her best race of the week by medaling with a seventh place in the J1 division. Natalie Joffe narrowly missed a medal “clean sweep” by finishing just out of the money, in 12th place.
The last event of the series was the three-person relay (two classic legs and one freestyle leg), and is often considered by most athletes to be the highlight of the week. Both the OJ Boys (Bozzio, Sterling, and Mosman) and J1 Girls (LaPoint, Goodpaster, and Joffe) showed that their weeklong success could translate into medals, with both teams taking the final medal spot (5th place) for the relays. The J1 girls were able to come from behind in the last leg to just take over the fifth spot, even with Goodpaster “skiing up” a division to the J1’s. The J2 Boys team of Gelso, Wright and Garrett Reid narrowly missed making it to the medal stand, taking 6th place overall.
“This was just a great week for our Division, and it shows putting in a lot of hard work throughout the year really can pay off,” Far West head coach Jeff Schloss said. “All of our athletes skied extremely well in at least one race, including the ones who didn’t make it to the medal stand. I’m really excited by the growth in numbers of athletes who qualified this year and by how well they skied here.”
Next year’s Junior Olympics will be in Lake Placid, New York, and plans are already underway for Truckee/Tahoe to host the 2005 events at the Auburn Ski Club Training Center.