Truckee’s Nelson brings home bronze
Special to the Sun
An enthusiastic and energetic team of 32 athletes and nine coaches from California descended upon quiet Soldier Hollow, Utah, last week for the 2007 Chevrolet Cross Country Ski Junior Championships.
Held at the same venue as the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, these difficult courses challenged young skiers throughout the four-race event. Although medals for the local skiers were scarce, there was some excellent racing to be seen by Far West skiers throughout the week, highlighted by Truckee High sophomore Bernie Nelson’s third-place finish in Friday’s 10-kilometer Classic-style event.
It was the middle of winter when the team arrived on Saturday for Opening Ceremonies, but it was full-on late spring by the time they left. A significant warming spell and some rain played havoc on the courses at Soldier Hollow, necessitating a change to the courses by late in the week. What had been cold, crystalline snow upon arrival turned quickly into some of the slushiest and softest track conditions this side of the California Gold Rush race at Royal Gorge.
The competition opened on Monday with the 1.3-kilometer Sprint race, consisting of the traditional time-trial individual competition to determine entry and placement in the subsequent head-to-head single-elimination races.
Although Far West put six athletes into the quarterfinals, none was able to advance on to the semis on this day. The top local results on this day consisted of Nelson’s 17th place, along with the Truckee boys trio of Daniel Gelso placing ninth, Tyler Wright finishing 20th and Spencer Wood grabbing the 22nd spot overall. Truckee J2 skiers Russell Kennedy (24th) and Sophie Aaron (20th) were the only other two skiers to advance to the quarterfinals.
Wednesday’s long-distance Freestyle mass-start competition was a much better day for the local team, highlighted by Palo Alto’s Carl Reid taking fifth place in the J1 Boys competition, and sister Joanne Reid one-upping him by placing fourth in the J2 Girls. Both Reid siblings live part-time and train in Truckee.
Gelso, Wood and Aaron also finished with excellent results, each placing 15th in their respective races, with Kennedy and Nelson grabbing the 16th-place spot. The most exciting moment of the day, however, occurred when Crowley Lake, Calif., skier Dayna Stimson took the lead at the 7-kilometer mark in the J1 Girls competition, threatening to lodge the biggest upset of the entire competition. Stimson managed to hold onto a fourth-place finish, narrowly missing out on a podium spot for the Far West team.
Friday marked the Classic competition, with the J1 and OJ boys skiing 10 kilometers and the rest of the divisions skiing a one-lap course of 5K. Because of the deteriorating snow at Soldier Hollow, race organizers changed the course significantly, making sure that there was enough man-made and natural snow to hold a safe and fair event.
Nelson made sure she wasn’t going to be shut out in the individual races at this competition, flying over the course to nail down the bronze medal in this individual start, time-trial event. Other notable Far West finishes included another 15th place from Gelso, a 12th place for Wood, 14th from Carl Reid and 20th by Stimson.
Saturday’s Relay competition was probably the most exciting event of the week. This year, the relays were Classic-style, so coaches were out early testing grip waxes for the quickly warming and softening snow in the “Hollow.”
The only two medal-winning Far West teams on the day included the J1 Girls team of Stimson, Gabrielle Joffe of Kentfield and Nelson, and the J2 Girls team of Aaron, Annika Taylor and Reid. By far, the highlight of the day was Sophie Aaron’s blazing first leg for the J2 girls, staying with the lead pack throughout the 3-kilometer course and sling-shotting past the leader through the stadium to finish first in her leg and tag off to Taylor for the remainder of the race.
The Far West Nordic Junior Olympic team consisted of skiers from Truckee, Tahoe City/Homewood, Bishop, Mammoth/Crowley Lakes, Applegate, Palo Alto and Kentfield. Members of the team included a girls squad consisting of Sophie Aaron, Robyn Bath-Rosenfeld, Erika Cornell, Veronica Holmes, Joanne Reid, Emily Stewart, Annika Taylor, Kelsey Dion, Lucy Ferneyhough, Dani Griffo, Gabrielle Joffe, Bernie Nelson, Angela Raso, Dayna Stimson and Janelle Webb. The boys included Daniel Gelso, Miles Heapes, Heith Jones, Russell Kennedy, Tom McElravey, Justin Ondry, Matthew Picken, Andrew Armstrong, Stefan Benier, Drew Deurlington, Alex Ferneyhough, Brad Johnston-Cox, Carl Reid, Bryce Tiernan, Colin Shane, Spencer Wood and Tyler Wright.
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