Steamboat skiers join forces, win titles at Junior Championships
Update at 9 p.m.: The bright lights at the Brent Romick Rodeo grounds shined down on Gunnar Gilbertson and Max Nye as the two Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club members raced for the Team Sprint title.
“It just goes to show like hard work pays off,” Gilbertson said after winning the Nordic combined team sprint title. “It’s really helpful for me going into this spring just trying to keep it going into next season.”
Gilbertson and Nye took turns completing 1-kilometer loops around the base of Howelsen Hill en route to winning the U20 class in the team sprint event. The Rocky Mountain Division team overcame a 25-second handicap to finish the race in 23 minutes, 1 second. They were followed by an Intermountain Division team of Root Roepke and Zach Selzman in second, just over a minute back in second-place and the Central Division team of Logan Gundy and Woody Waugh in third.
“We were able to build a strong lead in the beginning and they we held it throughout the race,” said Nye, who finished third in the individual Nordic combined competition that was held Thursday. “The snow was really fast … I had an absolute blast.”
The Steamboat team was one of three celebrating wins under the lights Friday night. Rocky Mountain Division teammates Alexa Brabec and Annika Malacinski raced to first in the U20 women’s class with a time of 25:59.
“We are usually competing against each other, but tonight we had the opportunity to compete with each other,” Malacinski said. “I think it was a really awesome experience.”
Eva Minotto and Aspen Bennett-Manke teamed up to collect the title in the U16 division with a time of 30:12. Bennett-Manke said she was able to work with her younger teammate to earn the title at home.
“I think having good transitions and tag offs and just like powering over the hills, and through the corners is the most important things,” Bennett-Manke said. “It’s just going as hard as you can, but also having fun.”
The USA Junior National Championships concluded Friday evening with the elimination jump at Howelsen Hill. Winter Sports Club Director Todd Wilson said it was important to be able to host the events after having them be canceled at the last minute in March 2020 because of COVID-19.
Original story: STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Alexa Brabec pushed out onto the start bar at the 2021 USA Nordic Junior Championships just like she has done hundreds of times before.
“It’s still pretty much the same,” Brabec said of the team event. “There’s more of like a team spirit, and we are celebrating each other.”
The day before, Brabec was focused on and accomplished her own goal of being crowned the 2021 junior national Nordic combined champion. On Friday, however, she returned to the jump hill to join teammates Annika Belshaw and Annika Malacinski, who placed second in the special jumping event behind Belshaw, and second to Brabec in the Nordic combined race.
“There’s definitely like more of a mind set that my actions affect everybody,” Brabec said. “If you don’t do a good job then it’s going to take the whole team down, but if you do a good job that’s a reason to celebrate.”
On Friday, Brabec, Belshaw and Malacinski had plenty of reason to celebrate. The Rocky Mountain Division team combined for a total of 644.8 points to win the special jumping team event on day two of the championships.
Belshaw, who won the individual special jumping title on Thursday, continued to thrive at Howlesen Hill going 71 meters on her second jump of the day and 70 meters on her first to lead the team. Malacinski had jumps of 60 and 64 meters, and Brabec went 62 and 66.5.
The Central Division’s top team, which included Estella Hassrick, Anna Zigman and Adeline Swanson, placed second with 614 points and the Intermountain Division team of Josie Johnson, Jillian Highfill and Samantha Macuga was third at 562.3 points.
The Rocky Mountain Division team made up of Eva Minotto, Bonnie Sue Larson and Tess Arnone placed fourth, and the final Rocky Mountain Division team, which included Ella Wilson, Emma Russell and Aspen Bennett-Manke that placed sixth.
Steamboat skiers team up to win men’s title
The Rocky Mountain Division added another title in the men’s special jumping team event with Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic skiers Thomas Miller, Jason Colby, Gunnar Gilbertson and Erik Belshaw collecting 905.3 points to win the event.
“It was awesome,” Erik Belshaw said. “We performed really well together and we motivate each other, so it’s really fun.”
Erik Belshaw flew 76 meters, the longest jump of the day, on his second effort and 72 on his first to set the bar in the men’s field. Teammates Gilbertson had jumps of 69.5 and 71.5 meters, Colby flew 58 and 63.5 meters and Miller went 57.5 and 71 meters on his efforts.
The day was special for Miller who has been to the junior nationals before, but has always ended up on a mixed team competing with skiers from other divisions.
“To have this be my first year competing with my teammates and to win feels great,” Miller said. “So this was a pretty special year.”
On most days the jumpers would be competing against one another, but on this day they took the time to enjoy being part of a team, and to cheer for one another.
“It’s more laid back around the jump, but then you get up in the jump and you want to perform well for your teammates and you don’t want to let them down,” Gilbertson said. “So it’s more relaxed, but also more stressful at the same time.”
The Central Division team of Maxim Glyvka, Stewart Gundry, Lee Landon and Shane Kocher placed second in the event with 702.5 points, narrowly beating their teammates on the division’s No. 2 team that included Anders Giese, Nicholas Isak, Logan Gundry and Casey Flett., Carter Lee, who finished at 207.
The Rocky Mountain Division’s No. 2 team, which included Arthur Tirone, Owen Wither, Sawyer Graves amd Max Nye finished in fifth place.
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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