Boucher skis onto podium, twice
The Crested Butte junior Nordic Team (CBNT) returned to the track for two days of racing in Minturn outside of Vail, Colorado.
It was a new event on the Nordic circuit and the CBNT rose to the challenge of the unique course for the classic race.
“It was hilly with steep climbs and technical descents and these kids are awesome on steep climbs and technical courses,” says coach Duncan Callahan.
The Minturn event was the first in a series of Junior Nationals qualifier events and J2 skier Ian Boucher took the opportunity to start the qualifying season off with two trips to the podium.
The weekend of racing opened with a five-kilometer classic race for the skiers and Boucher kicked his way to a second place finish among his age class. In addition, his time of 19 minutes and 30 seconds would have placed him top 10 among the older J1/OJ race class as well.
“Ian skied incredibly well,” says Callahan. “That was a huge boost in the arm for him.”
J2 teammate Pharwit Durgan had an exceptional classic race breaking into the top ten with an ninth place finish setting him up for a run at Junior Nationals later this season.
“With a result like that he’s knocking on the Junior Nationals door,” says Callahan.
Forrest Smith had a solid outing as well coming in 11th place.
CBNT racer Kai Sherman posted a top-10 finish in his J3 class battling to the finish line among a mass of skiers.
“It was really tight and he was in there and skiing strong,” says Callahan.
And J4 athlete Robbie Hildebrandt posted a time of 19 minutes, 55 seconds to take 10th place in his three-kilometer race.
Callahan and J1 CBNT athlete Hannah Smith approached the Minturn classic race as a chance to gauge how her comeback from injury is progressing with a trip to the U.S. Nationals coming this week.
In the end, her fitness appears to be progressing as she finished in seventh place and is on pace for a solid showing at the Nationals event.
“We used that race as a barometer to see where her fitness is and she stepped up and skied great,” says Callahan. “It was a good test for her.”
Sara Sherman closed out the CBNT effort on the day taking 18th place in her J2 age class.
The team returned to action the following day lining up for sprint skate races. The sprint skate event has athletes start the day with a one-kilometer time trial, before getting ranked for a series of elimination heats leading up to the finals.
“It’s an all out deal,” explains Callahan. “You ski four times if you make it to the finals.”
Boucher won the qualifying time trail in the morning and advanced through the finals to finish in third place overall for his second trip to the podium in as many days.
Smith and Durgan reached the quarterfinals before being knocked out and Kai earned some redemption from his race the day before with a fourth place finish among his J3 peers.
“He skied really well and that was huge step for him because he was down from the day before,” says Callahan.
Sara reached the quarterfinals in her J2 class before getting knocked out and Hildebrandt proved he’s a strong skate skier skiing head-to-head with his J4 peers.
The team has its next Junior National qualifier event in Winter Park in January. Callahan and Smith are joining the Rocky Mountain Nordic team for their trip to the U.S. Nationals in Maine next week. Callahan’s hope is to see Smith take another step toward her comeback.
“We’re using these races as a springboard to get her into an elite racing mode,” says Callahan. “We’ll be on the same course as Olympic skiers and it’s a real eye-opening experience.”