“I totally got goose bumps”
by Than Acuff
It couldn’t have been a better weekend for Nordic racing as Crested Butte Nordic and the Crested Butte Nordic Team (CBNT) hosted a Junior National Qualifier Sunday and Monday, January 14-15.
Recent snow and sunny weather on race day treated nearly 300 junior racers to conditions they hadn’t really seen all season long.
“Every team was really excited because it was a full, natural snow course. Most of them have been skiing on icy, man-made snow with grass poking out,” says CBNT head coach Molly Susla.
The CBNT had four athletes toe the line on Sunday for the sprint classic races. The sprint format pits racers against each other in a series of heats with the faster skiers advancing through each heat. The older kids ski a 1.2-kilometer course each round while the younger kids’ course comes in at just under a kilometer. Either way, it’s all about going out hard, hanging on and then recovering and the course puts the wood to the racers with a climb early on and a low-angle downhill before a sprint to the finish.
“Our guys all recover well because we’re used to the altitude but, absolutely, it’s all about going your hardest,” says Susla.
U20 CBNT racer Woody Martineau put together his strongest effort of his CBNT career in the sprint classic race as he spent the day advancing through each round, drawing closer to the finals heat. Martineau ultimately reached the finals and after getting tripped up early, rebounded to finish strong, outsprinting a close opponent to cross in fourth place overall.
“That was the best he’s ever done in this event,” says Susla. “It was really cool to watch Woody go through all of the heats and end up in the final.”
Robby Oberling finished his sprint classic race top 30 among the u18s, Oliver White placed 16th overall in the u14 age class and Finn Veit charged through to a fifth-place finish among the u12 racers.
Crested Butte Nordic groomers went to work that evening and night to prepare the course for the mass start skate races, and skiers were treated to another stellar day and stellar course on Monday, January 15.
Five CBNT athletes joined the mayhem for the skate races with the u20 and u18 skiers going for a full five kilometers and the younger skiers racing for three kilometers.
Martineau proved his strength on the climbs once again. After settling into seventh place for the first half of the race, Martineau made his move on the toughest climb of the course to pass a few skiers and then buried himself on the final dash to the line to place fourth overall.
Oberling and Elior Bilow did much the same thing as they waited patiently until the big climb before making their move with Oberling finishing in 36th place and Bilow in 41st.
“They did exactly what Woody did,” says Susla. “I totally got goose bumps. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Elior race that hard before. It was really cool.”
White finished in 14th place among the u14 racers and Veit posted another top-five finish coming in fourth in his race.
“He had a really awesome kick at the end and almost caught third place,” says Susla.
Overall, Susla was excited with how well her athletes competed over the course of the two days and with how well the event was pulled off.
“We did great,” says Susla. “Just being on our home course is pretty awesome. It was a lot of work to do this and all of our volunteers put in hours of work to make it happen.”
The team will now partake in the Magic Meadows 7 fundraiser this Sunday, January 21 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. by the Magic Meadows yurt. They continue training the following week as they prepare for a junior Nordic super qualifier in Utah, competing against racers from Nordic divisions throughout the country.