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CB Nordic Team steps into race season

Young team taking names

by Than Acuff

With the loss of Woody Martineau and Robby Oberling from the team, the Crested Butte Nordic Team (CBNT) is young but already making a name for itself on the race circuit, which bodes well for the future success of the team.

Thanks to Mother Nature and the work of the Crested Butte Nordic grooming crews, the team was able to get on snow for their first workout of the season on November 1 and haven’t missed an on-snow workout since.

“It’s been awesome,” says six-year CBNT coach Molly Susla. “We didn’t have to do a single day of dry land training. We’ve been on snow since the first day. It gets everyone stoked.”

Former Western Colorado University athletes Duncan Koehn and Kevin Geisen, along with “token Swede” Toni Westerholm, also drop in at times to help coach the eight kids on the CBNT through pre-season workouts. While in past years the team would head to West Yellowstone for an intensive Thanksgiving Nordic camp, Susla kept the kids at home this time.

“We stayed in Crested Butte this time because the team is so young, but in the next few years we will start going again,” says Susla.

The skiers took advantage of the massive amount of local trails opening almost daily through November and December and jumped into the race fray in a couple of the local Alley Loop Series Nordic races as they prepared for the upcoming race season.

While eight skiers are currently training with Susla and company, three athletes, Piper O’Neill, Oliver White and Finn Veit, made the first road trip to race when they headed to Frisco for the Summit Nordic Junior National Qualifier weekend Saturday and Sunday, December 15-16.

The weekend opened Saturday under beautiful skies and prime racing conditions with a day of classic sprint racing. It’s an intense day with the kids toeing the line for an individual one-kilometer qualifier heat and then keep on racing throughout the day in heats until the top spots are determined.

The CBNT typically struggles with the sprint-racing format, as training at altitude can hinder the efficiency of fast-twitch muscles. But the three CBNT skiers were in the mix for most of the day.

U14 racer White set a furious pace in the qualifier time trial, finishing the first round in seventh overall to get his seeding for the series of following heats.

White punched his way through the quarterfinal to reach the semis only to fall short of reaching the “A” final and thus lining up for the “B” final. White made the most of it though, dropping the other five kids in his race to win the “B” final.

“He just left them all in the dust,” says Susla.

O’Neill had never raced before on the youth circuit and was tossed into the mix as part of the U14 girls race. She qualified out of the first round but was knocked out of the quarterfinal.

“The fact that she made it to the quarterfinal in her first race is pretty impressive,” says Susla.

Veit had the top result on the day among the three CBNT racers as he finished in second place overall in the U12 age class.

Sunday was filled with skate races as White, O’Neill and Veit all competed in the three-kilometer freestyle format. White proved that he has gained some speed over the past year as he finished the race in eighth place overall, with his sights set on higher results as the season progresses.

“Last year he finished in the teens and now he’s already in the top 10,” says Susla. “We hope to get him into the top five eventually.”

O’Neill posted another top 20 result in her first weekend of racing by placing 19th, and Veit closed the day for the CBNT with an impressive effort in his race.

After sending the first of two laps a couple of seconds behind the leader, Veit punched it in the second lap to pass and build a five-second gap on his closest competitor to take the win.

“He has such drive,” says Susla. “Overall we had a really good weekend.”

The team will take a break from the Rocky Mountain Nordic Race circuit during the holidays and stay at home to line up for another Alley Loop Race Series event on January 5 and then ski in the annual Magic Meadows 7 event on Sunday, January 13.

They will return to the junior race circuit January 18 when they head to Soldier Hollow, Utah.

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