Feb 17, 2014 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorLander Valley High School skiers competed against the best Nordic high school skiers the western U.S. Friday and Saturday at the Soldier Hollow, Utah, race course.
All seven teams from Wyoming were in attendance.
The Wyoming teams kept scores among themselves.
In the boys team standings, Jackson topped the Wyoming contingent with 256 points. Casper Natrona came in second at 208 points. Lander was fourth at 137 points.
The Lander girls were second with 190 points.
Jackson finished first (263 points) and Laramie placed third (164).
"The competition was pretty serious," Lander coach Emily Tilden said. "Many of the teams competing are year-round, ski-specific training organizations," Tilden said. "Most of the competition commits to the sport at an early age, so they have a distinct advantage over kids who start seriously racing in high school."
Tilden liked the change of pace with the different teams in the field.
"Every weekend, we ski against the same kids from the around the state, and having the opportunity to see how we compare with the western region is a great learning experience for our athletes."
The Tigers make it an annual trip to ski at Soldier Hollow.
"Competing at Soldier Hollow is special because it's highly rewarding to compete on the same courses that Olympians raced in 2002," Tilden said.
"It really gives our kids perspective about the difficulty of what they are doing," Tilden said.
"We also have an opportunity to appreciate high school skiing. Many of the club teams comment on the camaraderie and love of the sport that high school skiing instills."
The first day at the meet was classic sprint.
All the skiers race in a qualifying round, and the top 30 racers advance to the quarterfinals.
The qualifying round is a staggered start at 15-second intervals.
The quarterfinals consist of six skiers at a time in different heats.
"There are some different strategies, and you never know what will happen with multiple racers vying for the best line," Tilden said.
On Saturday, the racers compete in distance races.
The oldest boys skated a 15-kilometer race, and the oldest girls were in a 10K.
The 16-and-under racers skied a 5K.
"The weather did just about everything from snow to rain to sun and back again," Tilden said. "We struggled to find kick wax that was suitable, but the kids did the best they could."
"We had some decent results in Utah with our top skiers finishing respectably," Tilden said.
The top result for the Tigers was by Louisa Austin, finishing in 22nd place in the classic sprints and 19th in the 10k state race.
Emily Schimelpfenig finished 35th in the sprints and 54th in the 10k.
Nick Merritt finished 35th the sprints and 65th in the 15km state race.
The Tigers didn't compete this weekend to prepare for the state meet Feb. 21-22 in Cody.
Tilden said the team will focus on tempo and a quick turnover.
"The difference between 10 places can be 10 seconds," Tilden said.
All the Wyoming skiers will be at the state meet.
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