Steamboat Springs The big events like the Junior National Championships and the Junior World Championships had come and gone. For the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic combined skiers, the pressure was off as they traveled earlier this spring to Canada for the Canadian National Championships. That low-pressure situation proved to be key.
“This was basically no consequences,” said Karl Denney, a Nordic combined coach with the club. “It was just the last time they’ll ski this season and they got to square off against some good jumpers. They put themselves to the test and saw what they could do with the pressure taken off.”
They did quite well.
In Nordic combined, Annika Belshaw shined particularly bright. She’s typically a bit more of a jumper than she is a skier, but a uncharacteristically poor jump left her in chase mode during the cross-country ski race, and she responded. She went from the very back of the pack, sixth place, to second place. Canadian skier Taylor Henrich ran away to win the event, but Belshaw blew away two of the remaining five skiers, then edged out two more to earn her spot on the podium.
“She’s not the strongest skate skier, but when you put her in a pack behind other girls, she turns it on,” Denney said. “That was awesome to see.”
Another highlight included Steamboat’s Vargas brothers, Koby, now living and training in Park City, and Elijah, still in Steamboat.
Elijah had the edge between the two after the jump, in seventh place with Koby in ninth. Elijah caught up in the ski race, however, eventually beating his younger brother to the finish line to win by seven seconds. Koby Vargas finished fifth and Elijah Vargas sixth.
“They were neck and neck through the whole race and to the finish line,” Denney said. “It was cool to see them come in right next to each other.”
Adam Loomis won that event, jumping to first place, then racing to finish there, as well. His younger brother, Ben Loomis, was second, 1 minute, 58 seconds back. Nathaniel Mah of Canada was third.
Brenden Andrews was ninth, Bennett Gamber 10th and Niklas Malacinski 14th.
“For Niklas, that was his first 10-kilometer race,” Denney said. “He was a young guy getting experience, and it was great to see.”
Steamboat also had strong results in special jumping events. There, Belshaw was seventh off the normal hill. Malacinski was second and Gamber fourth in their age group. Decker Dean was sixth, Brenden Andrews 13th, Elijah Vargas 15th and Koby Vargas 19th in their division.
Off the large hill, Dean was eighth overall, Koby Vargas 11th and Malacinski 13th. Belshaw was sixth.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9