Steamboat’s Nordic ski team headed to state championships Thursday | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat’s Nordic ski team headed to state championships Thursday

Wyatt Mortenson makes his way around the race course in Minturn last week. Mortenson is one of several promising young skiers on Steamboat Springs High School's Nordic ski team.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — This week's Colorado High School Skiing Championships will be a little bittersweet for Steamboat Springs senior Tanner Richard.

"I'm excited to have done it for so long and to have stuck with it," Richard said of his skiing career. "It's going to be a little sad to leave this team at the end of the season, but it will also be exciting to see where it goes into the future."

Richard qualified to ski in both the classic and freestyle Nordic events at the state championships all four years as a Sailor. This year, he will be one of two seniors on the team, along with Matai Curzon, looking to close out the high school experience with a top result.

"I really want a top-15 result, overall, in both events, or maybe a top 10 in either the skate or the classic," Richard said. "It would definitely be awesome to do that, but if it doesn't happen, I'm not going to let ruin my week. We just want to go there and do our best and have a really great time. We are not just doing it for titles, but we want to do it as a team, coming together and making the most out of the experience."

Richard and Curzon will be joined on the snow by junior Quinn Wellman and sophomores Chase Weynand, Gabe Rabenal and Mitch Meissner. Steamboat will also be represented by freshmen Jameson Tracy and Wyatt Mortenson. 

Senior James Bradley also qualified to ski at the event but will miss this weekend's competition with the flu. Coach Jesse Wilkins said the senior was running a fever Tuesday, and he would not be able to compete this week.

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The fastest Sailor on the snow this season has been Mortenson, who will be contending for a spot on the podium, according to his coach. Last week, the Steamboat Springs skier placed eighth in the individual results of a 5-kilometer classic race at Maloit Park in Minturn, helping the Sailors race to a third-place finish with 152 points in the team results. 

In addition to Mortenson, the Sailors had three skiers in the top-15 including Weynand in 12th and Richards in 13th. Andrew Henderson was 19th, Meissneer was 22nd and Rabenal was 30th.

"The boys had a lot of skiers qualify, which is really good because we have a pretty young team,” Wilkins said. 

The coach also has high hopes for the girls at the state championships even though he lost two of the team’s top skiers who will not be in Leadville because of previous commitments.

The Sailors will be represented by Winter Boese, who placed sixth last weekend at Maloit and seems primed to make a run for the podium in both the girls freestyle and classic events at this week's championships. She will be joined by sophomore Maggi Congdon, who is also slated to ski in both events, and freshman Claire Bohmer, who qualified to ski in the classic race.

The team will be without junior Annika Malacinski, who won a race in Middle Park earlier this season, and freshman Zoe Bennett-Manke, who has been a regular in the top-10 this season. 

"Both girls were upset about it," Wilkins said. "The good news is that all three (including Boese) will be back next winter, and we can do a little better job of planning ahead. I think these girls are a legitimate threat to podium, or even win a state title.”

The state championships will open Thursday with the classic Nordic race at the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center. The boy's 5K classic race will begin at 9 a.m. and will be followed by the girls race at 9:45 a.m.

The Nordic racers will start the race based on their finishes in the classic race with the fastest skiers going out first. The times for the event will be used to determine the places in the 5K freestyle event, and the skiers’ overall finishes in that event will determine their places in a separate pursuit race, which is a combination of both events.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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