After a long week of racing, head coaches Christi Boggs and Rachel Watson were able to see both their men’s and women’s teams stand at the top of the podium, claiming their first ever double national championship. This was Boggs’ and Watsons’ tenth year coaching the Wyoming Club team and they have been completely volunteer for all ten years. The Wyoming team’s number one priority is to have fun and create a life long love for the sport. Throughout the year, the Wyoming athletes will be seen fund raising in their community of Laramie, WY, all while maintaining their GPA and individual training plans. These athletes work hard year round for the sport that they love and at the end of the week, were awarded for their work and dedication.
The first day of USCSA Nationals was kicked off with the 1.4k Freestyle sprints at the base of the alpine resort in Winter Park, Co. The course was a 0.7k loop that the athletes would complete twice. The qualifying round started at 6:15pm under the lights of the alpine area. The entire course was visible to all spectators. The Wyoming men and women were able to qualify four skiers into the top ten. In the USCSA’s, there are two semi final heats with five skiers. The top two finishers advance to final A, the third and fourth advance to the B final, and the fifth finisher does not advance and will be placed either ninth or tenth according to their qualifying time. On the men’s side, Wyoming had advanced all their skiers but one, John Kirlin, who after qualifying third, got tangled up in a fall, and was bumped out of the final. John was able to regain the ground he lost but was just beaten to the line for the last spot in the final rounds. John ended up placing ninth over all. The A final consisted of Wyoming skiers Dan Lewis, Eliah Pederson, Evginey Panzhinsky, and Whitman skier Tyler Abery. Dan quickly took the lead and after two extremely fast laps, was able to beat Evginey in by a comfortable margin. Eliah and Tyler duked it out in the last 100 meters with Tyler just edging Eliah in for third. The Wyoming scores were able to finish first, second, and fourth. The best finish they have ever had as a team since the clubs beginnings in 1998.
The second race was an individual start 8.5k classic race. The course consisted of a 4.25k loop with large steep climbs, rolling double pole sections and fast, steep downhills with completely un-skiable corners. The course had been groomed the day before and had frozen solid over night. The only way to make it around the sharp corners was to slide into the snow bank to a complete stop, pray that you stay on your feet, and then resume up the next hill. At the end of the race, the skiers who managed to stay on their feet were victorious. The Wyoming men managed to place six of their athletes in the top eleven and swept the podium. Dan Lewis, Evginey Panzhinsky, and Eliah Pederson placed first, second, and third with John Kirlin placing seventh after having a run in with a tree, and Jacob Peterson and Matt Hall finishing tenth and eleventh. This gave the Wyoming men a sizable lead over the rest of the field.
The third race for the week was a 15k mass start skate race. The Wyoming men had been looking forward to this race for months and went into the race with a plan of working together to sweep the podium. After the first 0.5k Wyoming had grouped four of their men behind the two skiers leading the pack . After a little over a kilometer, Whitman skier Warren McDermott made a move saying to Kirlin; “Hey John, I need to break this up”. Lewis quickly responded “I’m right behind you” and Kirlin said “count me in” Warren took the lead with the four Wyoming men right behind him. After a long steep climb, they made their way to two 90 degree corners where Warren took a fall forcing the Wyoming guys to take the lead. Lewis lead the men up another climb where he put on a quick burst of power, dropping Eliah from the lead pack. After taking the lead for 2.5k, Dan needed a rest and allowed for Kirlin to take the lead. Kirlin is a tempo and motor skier. He pulled his fellow Cowboys with a quick V2 section, separating them from the rest of the pack. For the remaining 10k, the three Cowboys worked together and skied away to sweep the podium. Lewis had managed to ski away with his third national title for the week, followed closely be Panzhinsky, and Kirlin coming in third. McDermott was able to regain his ground and place fifth, in-front of Western State College skiers Tom Sunderland and Scott Krankkala. Pederson managed to hang on for a seventh place finish. This race gave the Cowboys an unsurpassable lead, with one race to go. On the women’s side, the Cowgirls had managed to place four in the top ten as well, taking third through sixth place. The women now had a safe cushion in front of the Whitman women and had the victory in sight.
The last race of the week, a 3x5k relay, is always proving grounds for strength. After racing all week, this 5k becomes nothing more the a hurt-fest and full on sprint. The first two legs of the relay were classic and the anchor leg was skate. The Cowboys had enough men for three teams, but only one team could score. Pederson, Kirlin, and Hall were the scramblers for the three Cowboy teams. Kirlin, not on the scoring team had one plan to go all out and pull his teammates around the course, hoping to slingshot Eliah, who was the scorer, into the front. Kirlin two years prior had been the scrambler for his relay team and was able to ski away with a 2:30 minute lead. However, halfway through the course, he hit a wall and allowed for Pederson to take the lead in hopes that his legs were able to pull away on the long climb. Halfway through the kilometer long climb, St. Olaf skier Jim Vaillancourt took the lead and began to ski away from Pederson. Kirlin then shouted up to Pederson “this is the last climb! Make it hurt!” but Pederson’s legs were toast and it was all he could do to ski over the top of the hill and get into his tuck for the long downhill. Kirlin was able to recover, while drafting, enough to pull ahead of Pederson where he then shouted “Come with me!” Kirlin then double poled with all the energy he could muster in hopes of closing the gap that Vaillancourt had created and pulling Pederson in to make his tag. Kirlin was able to close the gap to four seconds where he then tagged to Jacob Peterson. Eliah tagged off to Lewis. During this second leg, the snow conditions completely changed making the course extremely slow. Lewis was able to demonstrate how strong he was by not only regaining the gap but continuing to ski away, coming in with a minute lead. Lewis tagged off to Panzhinsky and the race was over. Panzhinsky skied the fastest time of the day. 200 meters from the finish, Kirlin handed Panzhinsky the Wyoming flag, mounted on the pole that Panzhinsky had broken in his preliminary sprint, and he continued to the finish waving the flag like a world cup champion. Panzhinsky managed to finish just under two minutes in front of the second place team, St. Olaf, sealing the Cowboy’s second national men’s championship!
It was a long week, ending a long season of hard work and dedication. The Wyoming Cowboys and Cowgirls took home their first ever double championship. Now with the season behind them, they look forward to some rest and recovery before setting their goals for the next season!