Push to the finish | SteamboatToday.com

Push to the finish

Junior cross-country skiers make final push toward qualification

Dave Shively

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skier Max Scrimgeour races at Saturday's mass-start skate race at the Aspen Nordic Center. Scrimgeour, who took home a pair of second-place finishes in the J3 Boys division of the Rocky Mountain Nordic races, was one of more than 50 Steamboat skiers to participate in this weekend's Aspen Nordic Festival races.

— While much of the local Nordic skiing community was wrapped up in last weekend’s Winter Carnival, a large contingent of Steamboat Springs skiers headed to the Aspen Nordic Festival to race against the state’s top competition.

In all, 44 junior skiers in the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s cross-country program, plus a handful of Steamboat residents and members of the U.S. Nordic Combined Team, made the trip for a packed weekend that combined a pair of Rocky Mountain Nordic Junior Olympic qualifier races with two USSA Cross-Country SuperTour races.

“The SuperTour brings in a very high level of competition,” Winter Sports Club head cross-country ability coach Brian Tate said. “The top 10 finishers receive prize money, and the leaders at the end of the season are invited to join the U.S. Ski Team for the first period of World Cup races the following season.”

Thursday’s SuperTour race (5K women’s interval-start classic/10K men’s interval-start classic) was combined with one of the juniors’ qualifier races.

A string of Winter Sports Club female finishers cracked the top 25 of the SuperTour field, including Sophie Leonard in 15th, Mary Rose in 17th, Molly Newman in 18th, Melissa Krause in 21st and Michaela Frias in 22nd.

Ian Mallems led Steamboat’s male skiers in 11th, and Carter Miller earned 25th.

Recommended Stories For You

The Thursday night races concluded with 80-meter “Drag Races” in which Molly Newman and Gus Allen survived the head-to-head sprints and advanced to semifinal heats where they finished third and fourth, respectively.

Winter Sports Club coach Travis Jones noted the mutual benefits of having all the Club’s age groups represented and mixing in competition with the elite international field brought with the SuperTour.

“For the older kids, it can help lighten it up to have the younger kids around if maybe they’re taking things too seriously, and the younger kids have the older kids there as role models,” Jones said.

The younger skiers took to the Aspen Valley Ski Club trails for Friday’s classic races, highlighted by podium finishers Lucy Newman (2nd, J3 Girls), Max Scrimgeour (2nd, J3 Boys), Olivia Rose (3rd, J4 Girls), Anna Burkholder (1st, J5 Girls), Paula Cooper (2nd, J5 Girls), Evan Barbier (1st, J5 Boys) and William Kerrigan (3rd, J5 Boys).

Saturday brought an end to the junior events with a mass-start skate qualifier (the sixth of seven total) that featured some steep climbs and a fast descent of the Buttermilk Ski Resort. Mallems posted a second-place finish and Peter Daley earned his first top-10 finish of the year, placing ninth. Leonard again led the oldest junior girls in third, and Tate noted she is “definitely on the upswing after suffering setbacks in December.”

Other notable finishes included Scrimgeour’s second-place photo finish and another set of wins for Burkholder and Barbier as well as a win for J6 Boys skier Tyler Anderson, who was representing the Hahn’s Peak Nordic Team in its first competitive trip to an RMN event.

The adult races rounded out the festival weekend with Saturday’s second SuperTour event, the 25K Owl Creek Chase. U.S. Nordic Combined Team member Johnny Spillane led the Steamboat contingent in ninth, with three fellow local teammates, Alex Glueck in 15th, Alex Miller in 16th and Davis Miller in 20th, all in the top 20.

A couple of other Steamboat residents competed in the Elite division, with Barkley Robinson in 29th and Antonio Marxuach in 36th.