Halfway through the season, eight Durango Nordic Ski Club members have qualifying positions on the Rocky Mountain Nordic team that will travel to Junior Nationals in Fairbanks, Alaska, next month.
Skiers earn positions on the team through the best-of-four divisional races. Four races remain for skiers to solidify their position, jump on or fall off the list.
Ten skiers already proved their mettle through top finishes at Senior Nationals in January and therefore prequalified for the Rocky Mountain Nordic team. An additional 44 skiers will be added to the team, and these are the spots up for grabs.
Durangoís prequalifiers are Haakon Sigurslid and Cully Brown, although Brown skis for Vail this year.
Topnotch hopefuls include Rachel Hampton with a first-place finish at Soldier Hollow, Utah, and Charlie Greenberg who has three seconds to his credit.
Other Durango Nordic qualifiers thus far include Hannah Peterson (bests of second and third), Kaylee Blevins and Amy Katz (both with two sixths), Lily Oswald (10th and 12th) and Avra Saslow (10th and 11th).
Durango Nordic skiers still fighting for places include Maggie Wigton and Levi Kurlander.
Nearly anything can happen in the last four races. The next races will be held in Frisco the last weekend of February. Durango Nordic will play host to races March 2-3.
Younger skiers also battle for position on the season-end achievements list in their respective age classes within the Rocky Mountain region. Topnotch Durango achievers here include J5 Wiley Cora, who has yet to lose a race this season, and Katja Freeburn with three golds in four races in the J3 womenís group.
Cora flew to two first-place finishes at a meet in Vail last month. On a course designed to challenge the countryís best skiers, Cora dominated the boys J5 division in the freestyle and classic races.
Among a field of 245 skiers representing teams from Crested Butte, Vail, Aspen, Boulder, Steamboat, Gunnison, Summit County, Sun Valley, Idaho, and the Universities of Colorado, New Mexico, Alaska-Anchorage, Utah, Wyoming, Denver and Montana State, several other Durango skiers also posted impressive results.
In podium performances, Katja Freeburn won the womenís J3 freestyle race and placed a close second to an inspired Eva Rosenboom-Bol from Boulder in the classic race. Freeburn led for most of that race.
In the same category, Marit May placed third in the classic race and fourth in the freestyle. Charlie Greenberg placed third in the classic and second in the freestyle against a tough J2 menís field. Rachel Hampton was third and second, respectively, in the womenís OJ division, finishes that also placed her among the top 23 of some of the best university-level racers in the country. Hannah Peterson finished a strong second in the classic race and fourth in the freestyle. Peterson also competes on the Durango High School cross-country team.
In other top 10 finishes, Kaylee Blevins and Amy Katz both earned fifths in the J1 womenís category, Blevins in the classic and Katz in the freestyle. Blevins was seventh in the freestyle. Dylan Williamson, in the J3 menís freestyle, and Cobe Freeburn, in the menís J4 classic, placed sixth. In their opposite races, Williamson was eighth and Freeburn 11th.
Three other skiers earned ninth-place finishes: Levi Kurlander in the J1 classic, Lily Oswald in the J1 womenís freestyle and Skyler Sands in the J4 womenís free. Kurlander placed 10th in the freestyle. Carter Killen finished 10th in the J4 boys freestyle while Avra Saslow was 10th in the J2 womenís classic. They were 11th and 15th in the other races.
Other Durango Nordic skiers included another DHS cross-country runner, Gordon Giannini, who placed 12th and 13th in the J1 freestyle and classic races, respectively. J2 Maggie Wigton was 13th and 17th, and Stan Ott was 26th and 20th in his J3 races. Abe Ott placed 14th in the J1 freestyle.
Durango Nordic head coach Gary Colliander said even better finishes are likely to come as the season progresses, if history is to repeat. Complete results can be found at fourcornerstiming.com.
Two weeks later, 27 Durango Nordic skiers were among 600 who competed at Soldier Hollow, site of the 2002 Winter Olympics cross-country ski races. Durangoans came away with 28 top-20 finishes and 11 podiums.
Leading Durango again with victories in the J5 freestyle and classic races was Wiley Cora. Ethan Craig placed second and third in those races. Rachel Hampton claimed the womenís OJ championship in the 10K classic while placing second in the freestyle sprint. Kiri May also claimed titles in her J6 races.
Katja Freeburn took two seconds in J3 women. And in what may have been the strongest performance of the weekend, Marit May passed 15 skiers on the second lap of the 3K classic to claim third in the same category. It was a photo finish with Freeburn 0.3 seconds back of winning and May 0.7 behind her. May was 12th in the freestyle.
Charlie Greenburg, who never before made the sprint heats (top 30 in the qualifier) in a big race, walked away with an incredible fourth place in the menís J2 freestyle sprints out of a field of 91. He got a 13th in the classic.
Hannah Peterson placed seventh out of 77 J1 women in the classic. She was 13th in the freestyle sprints. Amy Katz placed 14th and Kaylee Blevins was 21st in the classic.
Dylan Williamson placed ninth in both of his J3 3K races in a field of 58 skiers. Other skiers with top-20 finishes were J5 Ruby May (14th and 10th in the freestyle and classic, respectively), J4 Jordan Taylor (14th and 10th), J3 Camryn Sippy (35th and 14th) and J4 Ceci Compton (18th and 16th).
Cobe Freeburn and Haakon Sigurslid finished 16th and 18th, respectively, in the J4 and J1 classes of the freestyle. They were ill the second day and did not compete in the classic. Paul Knight was 22nd in the J4 freestyle, and Ellie Smith finished 20th in the J4 girlís race.