Gebhardt breaks through in World Juniors |

Gebhardt breaks through in World Juniors

— Wyatt Gebhardt didn't head into the World Junior Nordic Championships last week in Park City, Utah, with any outsized plans. His performance delivered outsized results, however, and after his final race Sunday, he was simply thrilled with what he'd been able to accomplish in his three races.

"It was pretty cool to be able to hang with the older dudes and bigger dudes," he said on Sunday.

Gebhardt, 17 years old and competing in his first World Juniors event, started his week with a 19th-place finish in a 10-kilometer freestyle Nordic skiing race, an eye-opening result that turned out to be only be the beginning.

He backed that up Friday by placing 12th in the 20-kilometer skiathlon, then wrapped up his week Sunday racing a 5-kilometer leg as a part of the four-man U.S. relay team. The U.S. ended up ninth.

"I was happy with my performance, and the whole team did pretty well," Gebhardt said.

That skiathlon result was the most shocking.
 Skiathlon is a race that combines skate skiing and Classic skiing, and while Gebhardt has proven plenty effective at both, he'd never raced them together, switching gear mid-race as one style flips to the other.

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An even bigger hurdle was the fact that he had to start near the back of the race. Contestants start the race at the same time, but in five lines eight skiers deep. Gebhardt had the No. 52 bib, meaning he was near the back of the pack in a very large race.

"My advice to him was to be really sneaky and maneuver well," Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach Josh Smullin said. "Maybe it was that he was a small guy, and the other guys didn't see him as a threat, or maybe, because he's small, he was able to fit through tighter spaces."

Whatever the reason, Gebhardt fought his way through that traffic. He said he tried to stick to the outside of the pack and keep working his way up.

He laid down the fastest time of the entire field on the second lap, and by the time the group really started to stretch out, he realized he was near the front.

"I was very happy with my race and my strategy," he said. "It wouldn't have gone any better. I just got to the outside and passed people and tried to make up time wherever I could."

Those results, mostly against competition a year or two older, could mean big things for Gebhardt. He has two more years in which he'll be able to compete at World Juniors.

"Coming in, I said, 'We'll call a top 30 finish a fantastic result,'" Smullin said. "He far surpassed that. He's made his breakthrough, and I can tell you, I can count on one hand the number of U.S. skiers, historically, who have had better results at World Juniors that he has had."

Nordic combined wraps up

Ben Loomis led the way for the U.S. Nordic combined skiers in the final Nordic combined event of the World Junior Nordic Championships in Park City, Utah, on Saturday.

Loomis was ninth, moving up one spot in the 5-kilometer race after jumping to 10th place. Stephen Schumann was 15th. Steamboat Springs skier Grant Andrews was 33rd, and Tucker Hoefler was 46th.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

Steamboat at World Juniors

Nordic combined

37thKoby Vargas, HS100, 10K, Tuesday

44th — Grant Andrews, HS100, 10K, Tuesday

7th — Andrews, Elijah Vargas, Ben Loomis, Stephen Schumann, HS100, 20K relay, Thursday

33rd — Andrews, HS100, 5K, Sunday

Ski Jumping

38th — Logan Sankey, HS100, Wednesday

8thSankey, Cara Larson, Samantha Macuga, Gabriella Armstrong, HS100 Team competition, Friday

Cross-country skiing

19th — Wyatt Gebhardt, 10K freestyle, Wednesday

12th — Gebhardt, 20K skiathlon, Friday

9th — Wyatt Gebhardt Classic skiing 4x5K race, Sunday