Four Junior National qualifiers returning
By Than Acuff
It’s been a remarkable start for the Crested Butte Nordic Team (CBNT) that truly began last summer with a strong season of dryland training as coach Ben Theyerl saw a drive he had not seen before from the CBNT athletes.
“I was able to push the limits more than before,” says Theyerl. “It was cool to see the kids handle it and come off that excited for the winter.”
In fact, their summer training started off on snow in June as he took the team up to Irwin to get one last day on snow and the team asked to continue working on technique as part of the experience.
Theyerl gives some of the credit to a crew of graduated seniors who continued to train with the team over the summer.
“They brought a really good set of experience to the team,” says Theyerl.
After his athletes went on to have successful seasons in their fall sports, they got back to action on skis with eight athletes on the race team. And while it is a small team, Sawyer Ezzell, Finn Veit, Jake Pendy and Sophia Bender are all returning as Junior National qualifiers with Brie Bender, Giles Billick, Flint Hoyt and Spirit Lockard all committed to the full season of training and racing as well.
“They’re all focused and moving in the right direction together,” says Theyerl.
But it’s not just the team of eight that has Theyerl excited for the season. Part of the CBNT program includes a Devo team and while last year only had seven participants, this year Devo numbers have exploded to include 32 young skiers under the expert tutelage of Murray Banks.
“We’re really excited about the crop coming up,” says Theyerl. “I feel really lucky that I have a really experienced Devo coach in Murray Banks.”
The team is set up for success too as early storms this winter had the team on snow before most teams throughout the U.S. Furthermore, seven of the eight skiers headed to West Yellowstone for Thanksgiving to continue workouts on snow with assistant coach Vince Rogers joining them as well.
“It was a really productive camp and we know what we have to work on technique wise,” says Theyerl. “It sets us up well for our first Junior National Qualifier.”
The first Junior National Qualifier race will be Saturday and Sunday, December 16–17 in Winter Park and will give Theyerl and Rogers a true glimpse into what they have for skiers this year.
“Every one of the kids is continuing their journey through the sport,” says Theyerl. “We’re kind of entering unknown territory figuring out how far they can push it. They’re committed to the process. We’re in a good spot.”