Steamboat Nordic ski team full of eager new faces

Ben Ingersoll
Steamboat Springs High School junior Maddie Labor — a standout all-league volleyball player for the Sailors — is trying her hand in Nordic skiing this winter. She's among the seven skiers who are new to the sport and the team this winter.
Ben Ingersoll

More SSHS Nordic skiers qualify for state

It was a bit of a mad chaos at the beginning of the Minturn mass start races, Steamboat Springs High School Nordic coach Harry Niedl said, but three more Sailors skiers are state bound.

On the boys side, Tanner Richard and Tait Dixson qualified in the classic discipline for state at Keystone on Feb. 19 and 20. Girls Skimeister McKenzie Millard qualified in classic and skate ski.

Dixson finished 28th and Richard narrowly made the cut after finishing 41st. Millard was 34th in the classic race and 36th in the skate.

Natalie Bohlmann finished in ninth place in both races as the girls' top placer. Katie Brodie was 11th in skate and 13th in classic. Eliza Leeson was 14th in classic and 16th in skate. Lindsey Adler was next up, placing 19th in classic and 23rd in skate. Mariah Hoots was 27th in skate and 30th in classic.

On the boys side, Micah Gibbons was Steamboat's top finisher in the skate race, placing 32nd. Peter Myller was 34th and Ben Lingle was 48th. In the classic race, Dixson led the way followed by Gibbons in 32nd, Richard in 41st and Myller in 42nd.

Steamboat Springs High School junior Maddie Labor — a standout all-league volleyball player for the Sailors — is trying her hand in Nordic skiing this winter. She’s among the seven skiers who are new to the sport and the team this winter.
Ben Ingersoll

— Lots of stumbling, slipping and plenty of bruises is how Steamboat Springs High School juniors Maddie Labor and Brittney Starks decided to start winter, likely one of the last winters they’ll get to enjoy in town before they head off for college.

Their reasoning for jumping into a pair of Nordic skis for the first time in their lives was simple, though.

“We live in Steamboat, so if you leave here without being on a type of ski team you’re kind of a black sheep,” said Labor, a captain on the Sailors’ volleyball team and an aspiring college-level player.

So the two volleyball players joined new Steamboat Springs High School Nordic coach Harry Niedl’s squad in an effort to at least try the sport and stay in shape at the same time.

They are far from alone. Of the 21 skiers on this year’s Sailors Nordic squad, exactly one-third are brand new to the sport, having never buckled into a pair of thin cross-country skies until about two months ago.

Some, like Labor, Starks and Soroco High School student Micah Gibbons, were aiming for a way to keep their cardio in peak condition in anticipation for the sports they actually have committed the better part of their lives to. Gibbons also is a standout track runner for the Rams.

Others, like River Ludwick, were talked into it by their friends as a chance to be part of a team, an opportunity to learn something new in a social atmosphere during the two-month-long season.

“This isn’t like the hardcore Winter Sports Club or anything,” Ludwick said. “Half of this team I knew already before even showing up. It’s a win-win because I get in that athleticism, too.”

Whatever their reasons for taking up the sport, all seven athletes are quickly finding out that hitting the cross-country trails on the thinner brand of skis isn’t quite as easy as it looks.

Niedl knows the feeling, because a little more than a decade ago as a college student in Durango, he was one of them.

He took a required ski class and fell in love with the sport right away, though he wouldn’t have a deep appreciation for things like technique and form until years later.

So Niedl can empathize with his newcomer athletes. As a first-year coach, he doesn’t hold the student-athletes to an uber-strict regimen. If someone has to skip practice or a meet, he understands, so long as they give full effort and respect the sport when they are able to attend.

“Harry has given us this type of culture where if you come in and work hard and can’t make the next practice, that’s OK,” Labor said. “Just as long as you give 140 percent the practice before and the practice after.”

Gibbons made a pretty smooth transition to the Nordic discipline. He already has qualified for both state championships in late February. The same goes for McKenzie Millard, Steamboat’s Alpine girls captain and a state-bound skier in both, despite being new to Nordic.

The likes of Labor, Starks, Ludwick and fellow rookies Tangmo Techarukpong and Charlie Fisher likely won’t make it to state this year, but they haven’t been chased off by the lofty goals either.

“It’s my first year so I don’t have incredible expectations for myself,” Ludwick said. “It’s great though. It’s such a good feeling to know when you finished a race.”

Niedl’s goals are for the beginners to buy into what he calls a lifelong sport. And while they get their inaugural tastes of high school-level competition, he already sees the all-out effort.

It’s what he lives for as their first-ever — and maybe only-ever — Nordic coach.

“Every single one of them, it doesn’t matter if they are in the top 10 or 91st, they give it everything they got,” Niedl said.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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