City set to host Nordic qualifier |

City set to host Nordic qualifier

Race to attract more than 300 athletes

Joel Reichenberger

The Rocky Mountain Nordic Junior Nationals qualifier, set to go off Friday and Saturday at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, will give more than 80 local competitors a chance to shine.

In addition to a full complement of Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes, the event will feature some of the top young racers in the region. It will even attract university-level competitors hoping to pick up points in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association-sanctioned contest.

“We will be getting athletes from University of Colorado, Wyoming and maybe Utah,” SSWSC coach Brian Tate said.

Athletes of that caliber will race with an eye on building up to January’s U.S. Nationals, to be held in Anchorage, Alaska. The legions of younger racers – more than 300 are expected and will range in age from 6 to 22 – will be gunning in the race for positioning to qualify for the junior nationals in March.

Tate said there’s no better place for Steamboat’s youths to get that started than the familiar slopes of Howelsen Hill.

“It’s a chance to race on our home trails, which is advantageous because we know them so well,” Tate said. “We don’t have to travel. We can sleep in our own beds. That all gives us an edge on the competition.”

Steamboat plays host to such a large race only about once every other year. It’s one of eight such events that the Steamboat team will attend this winter, it and has the potential to give local athletes a boost in the race to qualify for nationals.

Leading the way for local athletes will be Max Scrimgeour, a 14-year-old Nordic skier who finished second in both the skate and classic portions of a Breckenridge race two weeks ago.

“He has been skiing since he was very young and has been racing since he was 6 or 7,” Tate said. “He’s naturally gifted.”

Michaela Frias, meanwhile, could be equally successful for the girls side. The 15-year-old skier won her race at Breckenridge and cracked the top 20 of a race at last year’s nationals.

“She has a great deal of determination. She has been one of our most consistent athletes as far as attendance at training,” Tate said. “She isn’t afraid to have to endure the discomfort it takes to succeed in an endurance sport. She isn’t afraid to go into that zone of pain.”

The action starts at 9 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

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