Forrest Smith finishes high school career an all-American
The Crested Butte Nordic Team (CBNT) wrapped up their season of competition at the Junior Nationals in Stowe, Vt. last week and came home with a decorated all-American.
Three members of the CBNT qualified for Junior Nationals out of the Rocky Mountain Division with Forrest Smith and Kai Sherman making their second trip to the big show and Aiden Truettner getting his first glimpse of Junior Nationals.
Heading into the Nordic showcase showdown, coach Austin Ross felt his athletes were as prepared as possible.
“Everybody was skiing really well heading into the week and I don’t think we could have done a whole lot more to get ready,” says Ross.
The team hit Stowe on Saturday for some course inspection and to work out the kinks from the trip.
“We wanted a couple of days to preview the course, to get used to the snow and to get our legs back,” explains Ross. “The course was in really good shape with some really big climbs, big downhills and sections that felt like a GS course.”
Smith suffered a health setback Saturday night with a crushing stomach bug but was on the road to recovery as the athletes lined up Monday for the opening classic races.
Smith was still rebounding from his illness to grit his way to a 48th-place finish in the U18 10-kilometer race and Sherman had the top finish among the CBNT team in the U16 five-kilometer race placing 22nd. Truettner had a rough go in the U16 race coming in 55th place.
“It was a tough way to start his first Junior Nationals,” says Ross. “I just tried to remind Aiden that his week was not over.”
The skiers returned to action Wednesday for the classic sprint races. The classic sprints open with a qualifying heat and then proceed all day long with a series of knockout rounds.
Truettner finished the day in 59th place, Sherman qualified for the knockout stages in 17th place but was eliminated in the quarterfinals to finish 21st.
“For Kai it was a bit of a let-down—he just didn’t have it that day,” says Ross.
Smith, on the other hand, had one of the best days of his Nordic career. He opened the day qualifying in 21st place and then picked up steam as the day progressed.
The course for the classic sprint finishes with a climb into the stadium and that’s where Smith made his move in the quarterfinals. After skiing toward the back in his quarterfinal heat, he charged up the final hill passing three people in the process to punch his ticket to the semifinals.
He tried the same tactic in the semis but couldn’t quite reel in the leaders but still qualified for the B finals.
In his final sprint, Smith did it again, sitting in fifth place heading into the final push only to drop the hammer and crush everyone to win the B final.
“When they came out of the top of the final hill he was 15 meters ahead of everyone,” says Ross. “It was one of the most exciting moments I’ve had as a coach.”
Smith finished the day in seventh place overall, first among Rocky Mountain skiers, and earned all-American status.
“He was at his best that day,” says Ross. “Being top 10 at Junior Nationals is a really big deal and he deserves a lot of credit for skiing so well.”
After another day off, the week concluded with freestyle (skate) mass start on Friday and the relays on Saturday. The freestyle mass start was a mess and organizers decided to run the race similar to a NASCAR format with a pace setter for the first 150 yards. The plan ended up blowing up in their faces.
“It didn’t work out that well,” says Ross. “There were a lot of really big pile ups.”
Sherman fell victim to the pile-ups, crashing early in the race and finishing in 42nd place. Smith was still riding his all-American high and skied to a 38th-place finish while Truettner found his legs to place 29th.
“Kai just had bad luck, it was out of his control,” says Ross. “It was really good to see Aiden bounce back and to finish top 30 was a strong result for him.”
The CBNT skiers then joined their regional counterparts to battle in the 3x 3-kilometer relays on Saturday closing out the week of Junior Nationals.
“I’m really proud of all of them and we have an all-American on our team which is awesome,” says Ross.
While the competition season is over, Ross will continue to hit the track with his athletes for the next month or so.
“There’s no reason not to,” says Ross. “Just because the season’s over doesn’t mean I stop skiing with them. We’ve still got a lot of snow and the skiing is really good.”