Steamboat skiers rack up Nordic combined titles
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach Karl Denney was all smiles after Steamboat skiers won three of the four Nordic combined titles that were up for grabs on the first day of the USA Nordic Junior Championships, held at Howelsen Hill.
“We’re really proud of it,” Denney said of the performance. “Especially with women’s Nordic combined being kind of a new and budding sport.”
In one of the most exciting races of the afternoon, Steamboat’s Alexa Brabec skied past teammate Annika Malacinski to finish the 5-kilometer race with a time of 16 minutes, 26 seconds and win the U18 women’s class.
“There is a lot of strategy that goes into races like this,” Brabec said. “I was trying to get a little bit of a gap on her before we went into the finish, because she is a stronger sprinter than me.”
Malacinski finished eight seconds back, and fellow Steamboat skier Tess Arnone took third to complete the sweep.
Malacinski took the finish in stride and said being in tight races with her teammates is only going to make her and her county stronger as a whole. Both skiers just returned from the World Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany.
“It’s a great opportunity that we get to do this against each other,” Malacinski said. “I like it, because it really gets us ready for what’s out there with other international athletes and what not. I think we push each other a lot, and that’s a good thing.”
Steamboat also collected the top three spots in the U16 class with Eva Minotto topping the field with a time of 20:40. Her teammates Bonnie Sue Larson placed second eight seconds back and Aspen Bennett-Manke placed third 56 seconds back.
“It was amazing,” Minotto said. “I was competing against a bunch of good athletes, and I managed to pull off the win after a bunch of hard work. It was my first Junior Championships, and I’m really proud about how it turned out.”
Steamboat’s Gunnar Gilbertson collected the U20 men’s title by leading the jumping portion in the morning and then holding off Park City skier Zach Selzman in the 5-kilometer race with a time 14:45. Selzman finished 2 seconds back to place second, and Steamboat’s Max Nye was third.
“It was really hard because Zach caught me right out of the stadium, and he was with me the whole race,” Gilbertson said. “I just decided to go pretty much at the top of the course before the downhill, because that was the only place I could go. Then it was just about maintaining and not crashing.”
Caleb Zuckerman, from the East Division, was the only skier that didn’t call Steamboat home to win a title. He led the jumping in the U16 class and then raced to the title in the cross country race with a time of 16:01. Steamboat’s Thomas Miller, who was third after the jumping, was able to ski up a spot to place second. He held off Alaska skier Skyler Amy, who was able to move from fourth after the jumping to third in the final results.
The USA Nordic Junior Championships will move into the second day of competition at Howelsen Hill with athletes competing in the special jumping and Nordic combined team events. The events are being live streamed at sswsc.org/events/sjncjuniorchamps.
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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