Nordic team athletes flirting with Junior Nationals bids
Written by Than Acuff
Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Forrest Smith, Prawit Durgan and
Kai Sherman lead charge
Crested Butte Junior Nordic team coach Austin Ross took six of his skiers to Utah to compete in a massive event at the 2002 Olympic venue, Soldier Hollow.
The Soldier Hollow races were a Junior Olympic super qualifier drawing teams from all over the west, making for massive fields of the top junior Nordic racers.
In addition, due to the layout of the courses, skiers could push their limits.
“It’s got big uphills and big downhills so you can go hard without blowing up,” says Ross.
Furthermore, the venue and competition allows athletes who may not make it to the Junior Nationals to get a glimpse of the big time.
“It’s a really cool experience for kids who may not make it,” says Ross.
The weekend opened with the freestyle sprint races, which are essentially a series of 1.3-kilometer sprints throughout the day.
“If you make it through all the rounds you ski the course four times,” explains Ross. “It takes a lot out of you.”
First-year J2 skier Kai Sherman had the top result of the Crested Butte team contingent. Sherman posted the eighth fastest time in the qualifier round and made it all the way to the finals to finish 12th overall, fourth among his Rocky Mountain Division peers.
Caleb Mueller finished the day 20th among J2 skiers and Aiden Truettner placed 61st.
“I was really excited for Kai,” says Ross. “To make it to the final rounds was a big accomplishment.”
J1 racers Forrest Smith, Prawit Durgan and Josh Gallen never made it out of the initial qualifying round.
“Those guys aren’t that strong at sprinting, but there’s another one later in the year and I’m excited to see how they improve between now and then,” says Ross.
Ian Boucher of Crested Butte, but now racing out of Summit County, ended up winning the J1/OJ class in a photo finish in the freestyle sprint.
Day two had athletes line up for classic races with J2’s skiing a five-kilometer course and the J1/OJ athletes skiing for 15 kilometers.
Sherman was still feeling the affects of the freestyle sprints but still pushed hard to finish in 29th overall, sixth among the Rocky Mountain Nordic Division skiers.
Mueller posted a 39th-place finish and Truettner placed 52nd out of 91 total skiers.
Smith put together his best effort of the year, placing 18th overall and fifth among Rocky Mountain racers.
“It was a fantastic race for Forrest,” says Ross. “He skied better than I’ve seen him ski all season. The Rocky Mountain Division is the toughest one in the U.S. for J1 skiers.”
Durgan placed 34th, improving upon his effort in a 15-kilometer qualifier earlier this season, and Gallen placed 102nd.
As of right now, both Smith and Sherman are looking good for qualifying for Junior Nationals, while Durgan has one more race to punch his ticket.
The team heads to Summit County February 22 and 23 for their next Junior National qualifier race.