Editor's Note: This article was written for the TUNA (The Utah Nordic Alliance) News. To see pictures of from these races, see our earlier articles:
The Utah Nordic Alliance (TUNA) and Soldier Hollow greeted nearly 500 skiers, their coaches, and many parents at the Junior Olympic Super Qualifier Races on January 22nd and 23rd, making these [one of] the largest junior cross-country ski races in the United States! The start lists alone were 12 pages long! Sounds like a logistical nightmare, right? It certainly could have been but the incredible facilities, volunteer crew (mostly TUNA stalwarts) and Summit Systems Timers made these events flow with seamless professionalism.
Few competitions compare to these in terms of magic. The energy of youth is, well special. Young athletes, aged six through 19 years, from four ski divisions traveled for the competition, atmosphere, camaraderie and, for some, the opportunity to qualify for the Junior Olympics to be held in March by the Auburn Ski Club in California. The divisions represented were: Intermountain (Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming), Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington), Rocky Mountain (Colorado) and Far West (California, Nevada, and Arizona).
Saturday dawned cold and clear, making glide waxing for the skate technique sprints relatively simple. However, with so many churning skis (and skiers) tracks deteriorated as the day warmed. Soon the challenge for the racers was to pick a fast line around the corners, especially on the â€œhorseshoe hillâ€ climb. This was complicated by the fact that the shortest, inside line was â€œboot-top-deepâ€ slush while the firmer, outside line was not the shortest distance to the finish. Despite this, the race pace was truly remarkable and not just in the oldest age groups! Overall winners included: Dillon Mogk (MT, Boys 16-19), Jamie Woelk (CO, Girls 16-19) Miles Havlick (CO, Boys 14-15), Ase Carlson (MT, Girls 14-15), Carter Miller (CO, Boys 12-13), Elizabeth Guiney (UT, Girls 12-13), Sten Stray-Gundersen (UT, Boys 10-11), Alicia-rose Pastore (CO, Girls 10-11), Nathan Hausman (CO, Boys 8-9), Anika Miller (ID, Girls 8-9), Noah Putt (UT, Boys 1-7), Hannah Bruns (UT, Girls 1-7), John Allhusan (WY, Novice Boys), Jodie Alley (WY, Novice Girls).
Within the Intermountain Division, Utah skiers with top-three Division finishes included: Rosie Brennan (2nd Girls 16-19), Elizabeth Guiney and Annie Pokorny (1st and 3rd Girls 12-13), Duncan Ellinwood (1st Boys 12-13), Andrea Dunkle and Lisa Palomaki (2nd and 3rd Girls 10-11), Sten Stray-Gundersen (1st Boys 10-11), Katie Susong and Mia Anderson (2nd and 3rd Girls 8-9), Garrett Bullough, Karsten Hokanson and Ian Lowell (1st, 2nd and 3rd Boys 8-9), Hannah Bruns (1st Girls 1-7), and Noah Putt, Nathan Gibbs and Graydon Anderson (1st, 2nd and 3rd Boys 1-7).
For Sunday’s classic technique races a clear, cold morning and transformed snow would seem to make for simple kick waxing. Many skiers, nevertheless, had slippery skis on the difficult Soldier Hollow hills, making for a very long day for some racers! The overall winners of the day were: Simi Hamilton (CO, Boys 16-19), Jamie Woelk (CO, Girls 16-19), John Gerstenberger (CO, Boys 14-15), Mali Noyes (ID, Girls 14-15), Rogan Brown (CO, Boys 12-13), Hannah Hausman (CO, Girls 12-13), Sten Stray-Gundersen (UT, Boys 10-11), Alicia-rose Pastore (CO, Girls 10-11), Garrett Bullough (UT, Boys 8-9), Anika Miller (ID, Girls 8-9), Noah Putt (UT, Boys 1-7), Dorothy Navarro (UT, Girls 1-7), Charlie Brennan (WY, Novice Boys), Lindsey Krause (WY, Novice Girls).
Within the Intermountain Division, Utah skiers with top-three Division finishes included: Rosie Brennan (2nd Girls 16-19), Elizabeth Guiney (1st Girls 12-13), Tanner Putt (3rd Boys 12-13), Lisa and Kya Palomaki (2nd and 3rd Girls 10-11), Sten Stray-Gundersen and Christopher Putt (1st and 3rd Boys 10-11), Katie Susong and Mia Anderson (2nd and 3rd Girls 8-9), Garrett Bullough, Isaac Rogers and Kyle Beling (1st, 2nd and 3rd Boys 8-9), Dorothy Navarro (1st Girls 1-7), and Noah Putt and Graydon Anderson (1stand 2nd Boys 1-7).
Regardless of individual placing, these were great athletes of all ages out to test themselves against some of the best racers, and some of the most challenging courses, in the nation. These were also were darned nice kids: As the HUGE groups of classic skiers hit horseshoe hill on Sunday, more than once I saw skiers helping each other, yielding a lane to a faster skier, encouraging teammates and competitors from other teams. I saw Tanner Putt, who had just finished his own race, run to hand a non-TUNA skier a replacement pole in a critical section of course. After completing the race, the aided skier made a point of returning to the scene to say thanks. Simi Hamilton of Colorado, the overall Boys 16-19 winner on Sunday (and 2004 Junior National Champion), made a point of seeking out race volunteers to say thanks for what he called â€œthe best and most professional race.â€
The great news is that it looks like these races will be coming to Soldier Hollow for a long time and TUNA will, for the foreseeable future, be the event organizer. In a note to Mickey Palomaki, Mike Elliott of the Durango Nordic Ski Club sums up why this is great news by writing: â€œWe enjoyed a fabulous weekend of ski racing at Soldier Hollow. Soldier Hollow is such an impressive venue and far exceeds anything we see all year. We all enjoyed the sunshine and the professionally conducted races we look forward to a return trip next year. Thank you to everyone for their hard work and efforts, because it was appreciated.â€ TUNA and Soldier Hollow look forward to welcoming Mike and all of the other skiers, coaches, parents, and volunteers next year for what we hope will be an even better weekend of racing and fun!