Crushing it in Soldier Hollow and Aspen
by Molly Susla, Head Coach, Crested Butte Nordic Team
The Crested Butte Nordic Team (CBNT) is in the middle of its season. While there are more than 130 athletes participating in the Nordic after-school programs, only about 10 choose to travel and race all over the state in the Junior National Qualifier (JNQs) Races.
The JNQs are the highest level of cross country ski racing for juniors in Colorado. These races qualify athletes for Junior Nationals (JNs), which take place the second week of March every year. The Crested Butte Nordic Team has been sending athletes to JNs every year for many years. This is the first year that all the athletes competing with CBNT are too young to qualify. Nevertheless, they are still racing to gain experience for the coming years when they will be of age.
Over the weekend of January 19, the Crested Butte Nordic Team traveled seven hours to Midway, Utah to race at the 2002 Olympic venue called Soldier Hollow. U14 skier Oliver White and u12 athletes Finn Veit and Caleb Woodward competed in the largest field of athletes they will see all season. This Utah race invites all Colorado teams as well as teams from the Far West and Intermountain Divisions to compete in what we call the Super Qualifier.
The first day of races produced great results for the Crested Butte Nordic Team. In a Freestyle Sprint u14 skiers Oliver placed 19th, Veit placed fourth and Woodward, competing in his first JNQ, placed 34th.
In our second day of racing we saw even more impressive results. In a classic mass start White skied into an eighth-place finish, fifth (his best result ever) out of the Colorado Division. Veit skied into another amazing fourth place and Woodward skied up two places to earn himself a 32nd place. Overall our small team held their own in this giant race with more than 700 competitors in total.
A few weekends later CBNT drove many hours to end 18 miles away from home in a lovely town called Aspen. The team brought six athletes to this Colorado Race, including three girls, u14 skiers Piper O’Neill and Sawyer Ezzell and u10 athlete Ellie Woodward.
Continuing on our trend in Soldier Hollow, CBNT crushed it in Aspen. Saturday brought an individual start classic race. Ezzell and O’Neill skied into 18th and 21st respectively. White and Ellie are what we like to call “place buddies” both finishing seventh for the day in the u14 boys and u10 girls categories, respectively. Veit skied into a triumphant second place while Caleb improved significantly from the past weekend, finishing in 24th.
On Sunday the athletes raced in a mass start skate race in which Veit had an epic win, battling it out for most of the race against one other athlete from Summit County. White finished in seventh place for a second day in a row, solidifying his spot in the top ten u14 boys for the season. Ezzell placed up into 16th in the mass start in her first JNQ weekend ever. Caleb stayed consistent and finished in 24th again, a huge improvement from his last skate race in Utah. And Ellie skied herself into another seventh place, rounding out our weekend with six top ten finishes, two in the top 20 and three finishing in the top 30.
The team heads to Durango on February 15 for the fourth and last JNQ of the season. Then the u14 championships takes place two weekends later in Minturn, Colo.