Truckee High Sprint Competitions
Home field advantage. Professional teams fight all year for the sacred ability to defend their home turf. It’s as important in a football game as the quarterback, as critical in basketball as the hot jumpshooter. For Truckee’s Nordic Ski teams last Friday, home court meant even more: the first-ever Sprint Competitions held at Surprise Stadium.
A long-time dream of Nordic coach Larry Leatherman, the sprints have been held at Tahoe Donner Cross Country for the past 2 years. This year, with Mother Nature cooperating with a ton of snow and great weather, the massive undertaking of setting up a course and holding it in the football stadium was realized. While race organizers earlier in the year had worried about needing to shovel inches of snow onto a thin track, it turns out that the huge amount of snow Truckee received made for an enormous amount of preparation work, but it paid off at this incredibly fun and highly successful event. Banked turns, a steep downhill, under the sun and under the lights, with glow-sticks lining the course instead of flags, this was a spectator event not to be missed.
A sprint competition always begins with a set of preliminary races to determine the seedings for the â€œheatsâ€ leading up to the final races. Every skier goes out at a few seconds interval in a â€œtime-trialâ€ that determines whether or not they get to advance to the semi-final rounds. Skiers were then placed in groups of 8 and raced head-to-head, with the top two racers in each heat moving on to the finals.
As expected, the Truckee schools skied off with the top prizes in every division –High School or Middle School, Boys or Girls, the Truckee schools were the winners in each. In the Boys division, 7 out the top 8 skiers in the finals were from Truckee High. Joaquin Goodpaster and Matt Gelso, just returned from the US Nationals Competition in Utah, put on quite a race for the overall title, with Goodpaster managing to pull away from Gelso after an unfortunate stumble by the second place finisher. â€œIt was too bad Matt fell up there,â€ said Goodpaster. â€œI was ready for him to give me a good fight to the finish line.â€ The lone non-Truckee finisher in the finals was Greg Koeck of South Lake Tahoe High School, who fought off the rest to finish third overall, while Tyler Wright of Truckee managed 4th place.
In the Girls High School division, Maisha Goodpaster of Truckee set the fastest time of the preliminary run, and then went on to cruise away from the field for the win over Sara Violett of Nevada Union. Freshman Dayna Stimson of Mammoth High made a strong showing to finish third, with Katy Jones of Truckee High coming in fourth place.
For the Middle Schoolers, both 2004 Sprint winners from Alder Creek Middle School (formerly Sierra Mountain) maintained their titles. Daniel Gelso dusted the field by almost 18 seconds in the preliminary round, and then went on to easily take the crown by finishing first in both of his competition heats. (As a matter of fact, Gelso’s time would have been the 6th fastest Â in the high school division). The race for 2nd place went to Russell Kennedy, also of Alder Creek, while Tom McElravey, freshly transferred to Alder Creek from North Tahoe, managed third. For the girls, Bernie Nelson was again the runaway winner (with a prelim time that would have placed her 3rd in the high school race), easily taking the crown over Alder Creek teammates Annika Taylor and Sophie Aaron.
Auburn Ski Club Sprint Challenge
Sunday, January 16
While much of the attention was going to the first-ever CNISSF Sprints at Truckee High that week, an even more important race to the top junior skiers was about to occur just 2 days later — the Auburn Ski Club Sprint Challenge, the second of the all important Â Junior Olympic Qualifying races on the Far West Nordic schedule. And while this was a junior-dominated event because of its importance to JO’s, it was also open to all-comers, young and old alike.
Similar in format to the Truckee High Sprint competitions, but held on the trails of this year’s upcoming Junior Olympic Competition slated for March, the ASC Sprints featured spirited competition in every event. Showing the juniors how it is done was former Olympic Speed Skater and NCAA Nordic Champion Beth (Heiden) Reid of Palo Alto, also the winner of the previous 2 races at Auburn Ski Club. Reid skied to the fastest women’s preliminary time of the day, and then went on to show that no one could stay with her during 3 more rounds of competition. Second place went to Maisha Goodpaster of Truckee, following up her win from 2 days previous, with third place in the womens’ division going to Friday’s Middle School winner Bernie Nelson of Truckee.
In the men’s race, Matt Gelso of Truckee, recently named to the US Ski Team’s Scandinavian Cup team heading to Norway later this month in recognition of his superior results at last week’s U.S. National Championships, atoned for his fall in the finals of Friday’s race by taking the top spot away from teammate Joaquin Goodpaster, also of Truckee. Third place went to senior division Skier Elyah Gordon. All in all, a record 32 juniors qualified in this particular race for the opportunity to continue on and possibly compete at JO’s in March.