“The team is getting into the swing of racing”
After several weeks of training, including a trip to the annual preseason Thanksgiving Camp in Montana, the Crested Butte Nordic Team (CBNT) lined up for their first set of races the second and third weekends of December.
They opened the race season in Minturn, Colo. on December 13-14 for a USSA event, getting a glimpse of their future in the upcoming Junior National Qualifier (JNQ) races as the team lined up against several of the same skiers they will see all season.
“It’s a tune-up for the start of the race season,” says coach Austin Ross. “It’s a chance to see everybody else, get a race under our belts and see how we stack up.”
Nine members of the CBNT team made the trip to Minturn and Ross was pleased with what he saw.
The highlights included Aiden Truettner and Woody Martineau. Truettner, racing as a first year U-18, posted a fourth-place finish in his five-kilometer skate race, while Martineau also placed fourth in the U-16 five-kilometer skate race.
“Our team showed a lot of promise,” says Ross. “A couple of new skiers got their feet wet and a couple did better than expected.”
The team returned to their home trails to refocus, recover and reboot for their first JNQ weekend at Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, Colo. on Saturday and Sunday, December 20-21.
“We definitely try to get the kids mentally focused on the task at hand, starting to qualify for Nationals,” says Ross. “We make sure they feel prepared.”
What they can’t prepare for is illness and travel, both of which cut the team down to six racers. In addition, they couldn’t quite prepare for the course they would face at Snow Mountain Ranch.
“It was the sort of course we’re not used to racing,” explains Ross. “It’s a pretty flat course and our kids are more used to really hilly terrain. We tend to be good, quick climbers, tempo over power, and power helps on flatter terrain.”
The weekend opened with skate races on Saturday with the U-16s and U-18s skiing a five-kilometer length and the U-14s a three-kilometer course.
The different course definitely had its effect on the CBNT athletes as their results dropped dramatically from the week before.
Truettner finished in 10th place in his race in Granby and Martineau placed seventh among the U-16s. Benjamin Swift, who is also in his first season in the U-18 class, managed to find some power on his effort, placing 16th.
“That was a good result for him in a bigger field,” says Ross.
Sam Crossett posted a result of note as well, finishing in 22nd place in the U-18 girls race despite this being just her second skate race of her fledgling career. Robbie Oberling carried the CBNT colors to an eighth-place finish in the U-14 class and Ian Eldridge placed 21st in the U-16 class.
“Overall, it wasn’t our best day of racing,” admits Ross.
The team lined up Sunday for the classic races on a similarly flat course that played to power over tempo once again.
Truettner went down early in his race as the same illness that ran rampant through the high school basketball teams hit him like a freight train in his race.
“He threw up about one kilometer into the race and was done, so that was a bummer,” says Ross.
Swift had a tough race as well but gutted his way to a 16th-place finish and Crossett continues to cut her teeth on the racing scene, closing the day in 20th place.
Martineau proved the highlight once again as he placed sixth in the U-16 class to close the weekend with back-to-back top-10 finishes. Oberling matched Martineau’s effort, placing ninth in the U-14 class and also hitting the top 10 twice, while Eldridge finished his day in 25th place.
“The team is getting into the swing of racing,” says Ross. “It was a hard weekend.”
The skiers will take a quick break from training for the holidays and then have a couple of weeks before they return to racing with the next JNQ in Durango January 17-18. Ross will use the time to get the kids back to health and prepared.
After the first two weekends though, things are looking good for a couple of racers as they continue their bid for Junior Nationals.
“Woody is definitely looking at making it to Junior Nationals. They take nine and he already has a sixth- and seventh-place finish,” says Ross. “If Aiden skis his best, he can definitely be up there as a first year. He’s capable of it.”