Drawing of Nordic skier skating, Done by alumus Rebecca Watson

University of Wyoming Nordic Skiing

I just wanted to write a brief recap of the week so that everyone could feel like they got to be a part of the excitement.  It was an absolutely incredible Nationals and we couldn’t be more proud of our athletes.

A week before leaving for Nationals our team was struck with what would prove to be our greatest challenge.  All but three athletes contracted the influenza virus.  We worried that we were beat before even leaving but we encouraged the athletes to get lots of rest, drink lots of fluids and get to the doctor at the first sign of fever.  By the time we left, many of the athletes were feeling better but on the van ride, it often sounded more like a sick ward than a group of ultra-fit cross-country skiers.  We arrived in McCall, Idaho on Saturday, March 5th and went out to ski the courses for the first time on Sunday morning.  The site of the Nordic venue was Ponderosa State Park, a trail system famous for hosting world-class nordic races.  It was clear that McCall had had a terrible snow year (a base almost 6ft below normal), as the snow was dirty and littered with everything from moss to ponderosa pine needles.  Immediately after hopping out of the van we realized that we had another big challenge.  We saw a group of athletes, already out on the trails, wearing St. Olaf team jackets.  St. Olaf is a Division I NCAA team that usually does not compete in our nationals.  I looked at Christi and she said, “Things just got a little more interesting!”. 

The first race was held on Tuesday, March 8th.  It was a 1.5 km freestyle sprint.  The course was incredibly technical with one uphill that was so steep that it was fittingly called ‘The Wall’.  During warm-up we accompanied our athletes out to the ‘The Wall’ and tried to give them advice as to the best way to attack it.  Many athletes would climb half way up only to slip and slide back down half the hill.  Such a slip in this short race could be a disaster with qualifying times only seconds apart.  The first round of the sprint is run as an individual start, with one athlete starting every 30 seconds.  The top ten finishers from this individual start then progress on to the mass start final.  The women went first followed shortly after by the men.  Many of our athletes looked strong and most successfully attacked ‘The Wall’; we qualified four women and two men for the final.  In the final each athlete is assigned a lane and required to double pole for a short stretch before breaking into a free skate.  In the women’s race, the cowgirls got a good start, with Kristen and Kari Boroff immediately jockeying for the top three spots.  However, when they hit ‘The Wall’, the girl in front of them fell and took them down with her.  Another Cowgirl, Erika Edgely, shot on by and fell into second position.  It didn’t take long for the Boroff sisters to spring back into action and by the top of the hill they were climbing their way back into the top standings.  By the time they crossed the finish line, the cowgirls had claimed the second, third, sixth and tenth spots allowing them to be the fastest team of the day.  In men’s action, the cowboys qualified two into the final round, Joseph Howdeyshell and Riley Hopeman.  Riley shot out of the start and was immediately in fourth position.  It was clear that his skis were fast and that he was resting behind the top three, waiting for the right time to attack.  Although a bit slower out of the box, Joe began weaving his way up until he had claimed the seventh spot. As the athletes neared the finish line, Riley put on a burst of speed and claimed third position.  These finishes coupled with an 11th place finish by Adam Alspach allowed to the men to finish in second position, beat only by St. Olaf.

The next day, we returned again to Ponderosa Park, this time to compete in a very different race, the mass start 15 km freestyle.  Although cool in the morning it warmed up to near 60 degrees by midday.  In distances this long, and particularly on days this hot, athletes must take at least one if not more feeds during the race.  Each athlete filled up one of more bottles with the electrolyte-containing drink of his or her choice and we made our way to a small downhill on the course where we could hand them their bottles without them even having to break their stride.  The women kicked off the action.  The start was clean and Kristen Boroff immediately got in position to jockey for the win.  She tucked in behind the top St. Olaf skier, Linn Dale of Norway, and drafted behind her through a series of technical ups and downs.  When Kristen got to us for the first feed, she was looking strong and confident and was letting Linn do most of the work.  But after she passed, soon came the second St. Olaf girl and then the first Clarkson girl.  Where was our second girl?  But soon Kari rounded the corner and in hot pursuit were several girls for eastern teams as well as our fourth and fifth girls Erika Edgely and Christine Robinson.  In the second lap, Kristen stayed strong, resting behind Linn Dale and then on the last long uphill Kristen made her move.  She motored by Linn and made her break for the finish.  Kristen emerged from the trees in the lead but Linn would not give up the win easily, it was a sprint to the finish and with one last lunge, Kristen just edged out Linn getting her foot across the line first.  We could hear the announcer say. “This will be a day that Kristen remembers forever.”  and indeed I don’t think Kristen has ever been so glad that she has big feet.  Kristen’s teammates were in hot pursuit with Kari Boroff placing 6th,  Erika Edgely 10th, Christine Robinson 11th, Melissa Gangle 14th and Ava Bell 17th.  However, as a team St. Olaf had had a better day, thus beating our Cowgirls by 8 points and tying the two teams for the all around competition.  Shortly after the Cowgirls finished up, the men were off.  Again from our prime feeding spot we could hear the gun go off, and then we waited … but as the pack rounded the corner we saw the familiar white, brown and gold suite round the corner.  Riley was in the lead.  He was hotly pursued by a pack of about twelve men, one of whom was teammate Joe Howdyshell.  As we gave the cowboys their first feed, they looked confident and strong.  In the second lap, a lead pack of four men began to separate themselves from the rest of the field.  In the pack were our own Cowboys, Joe and Riley, as well as John Erickson of Cornell and Nathan Erlandson of St. Olaf.  As they skied by for the second lap, we agreed that we had never seen such a strong lead pack in a National’s race before.  Any one of the four men could take the win.  On the final uphill, John Erickson of Cornell made a move to separate the pack.  Riley fell back a bit and only Joe was left in the top pack of three.  All three men sprinted to the finish and the final times were separated by only 4 seconds with Cowboy Joe Howdyshell coming in third and teammate Riley Hopeman finishing fourth.  These Cowboys were assisted by their teammates Collin McRann in 12th, Adam Alspach and Joshua Peterson in 17th and 18th.  Ben Miller and Brian Sebade in 26th and 37th respectively. 

After having a day of rest on Thursday.  The Pokes came back ready to fight for the win in the 8.5 km individual start classic race.  Today the men started the action.  After several days of high temperatures during the day and low temperatures at night, the course was basically a ice-skating rink.  The men would have to navigate down steep hills and around sharp corners on rock-hard, nearly transparent snow.  To add to the difficultly of the day, classic skis had to be kick waxed with several layers of ultra-sticky klister.  Riley was one of the first athletes out of the gate but he did follow a very strong athlete, Sam Morse of Clarkson.  Riley shot out of the gate and skied technically well and hard for the first few kilometers.  However, on the big uphill, several kilometers from the finish, Riley was down to Sam by 4 seconds.  Upon getting this split, Riley shifted into another gear and started ripping up the uphill and by the time Riley finished he held the leading time, beating Sam by 22 seconds.  Now Riley had to wait, wait to see if his time would hold up as other athletes crossed the finish line.  Teammate Joe Howdyshell finished hard and slid into third position behind Riley and Sam.  Soon after came Nathan Erlandson of St. Olaf, just barely taking over the third spot and pushing Joe into fourth place.  But still, so far, Riley had posted the fastest time of the day.  Teamate Adam Alspach finished, turning in a strong performance.  Shortly after Adam crossed the line, Olliver Garrison of St. Olaf emerged from the trees and was ragging toward the finish.  We all held our breath; would he beat Riley’s time?  He ripped through the finish line and we waited for the time to register.  And finally, his time came in at 22:20.7, nearly 20 seconds slower than Riley’s winning time of 22:03.7!  After all the finishers were in and final results were out, the Final Cowboy Finishes were Joe Howdyshell in 5th place, Adam Alspach in 11th place, Collin McRann and Ben Miller in 15th and 16th positions and Joshua Peterson and Brian Sebade in 30th and 37th.  These fantastic performances from the Cowboys allowed them to finish second as a team, only five points behind St. Olaf and hotly pursued by Clarkson only three points back.  By the time the women’s classic action began, snow temperatures had warmed up to 0ºC and the snow was turning into sloppy slush.  The first woman out of the gate was our own Erika Edgely; she was followed shortly by the Boroff sisters and Melissa Gangle.  Later out of the gate for the Cowgirls were Christine Robinson and Ava Bell.  The cowgirls all skied hard through the first couple of kilometers of the race and hit the large uphill ready to start tearing up the course.  It was clear, after climbing up the first stretch of the long uphill that our team was the only team that had excellent kick wax!  Everyone of the women ripped up the hill and at the midway split, the cowgirls had 2nd, 3rd, 7th and 11th.position but this would not be enough to beat the strong St. Olaf women.  We gave each cowgirl a split and told them that their wax was better than anyone’s.  They ragged up the hill, skiing better than any other team and all we could do was hope!  After all the competitors had passed, we returned to the start/finish area to some deliriously happy Cowgirls.  They had gained time in the last couple kilometers and Kristen and Kari Boroff, Erika Edgely and Melissa Gangle had finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th allowing us to steal the victory in another day of competition!

The final day of competition was a relay event.  Teams of three athletes each complete a 5 km course, tagging off to one another between legs.  The first two athletes use the classic stride and the third competitor uses the faster freestyle technique.  The morning was cool and we (the coaches) arrived by 6 am to begin testing klister.  Our job was complicated by the fact that it started to rain causing the tracks and the glister to freeze.  The athletes were tired, the intensity of the week beginning to wear on them.  The women knew that if they could beat St. Olaf in the relay, they would win the all-around.  Although we insisted that it didn’t matter which team won, that we were so proud of them for winning two of the three individual races, I know they were still nervous.  The races began with the women’s relay and Kari Boroff skiing the opening classic leg.  She motored very quickly around the fast, 5 km course and came in with the lead.  She handed off to teammate Erika Edgely with the other teams in hot pursuit.  Erika skied an excellent leg, but St. Olaf’s Linn Dale, who had won the previous day’s classic race by over a minute, was like a tornado that went ripping by to take the lead.  By the time the second hand-off took place, the St. Olaf women were more than a minute ahead.  Kristen Boroff skied the final leg for the Cowgirls and she ripped around the course in a blistering time and proudly let her teammates to a strong second place finish.  In the men’s relay, Joe Howdyshell led off for the team.  He immediately settled into the pace of the top three teams, and when he made the hand-off to Adam Alspach, the team was in second position.  Adam skied a strong second leg, jockeying with Clarkson for second place.  Finally Adam handed off to Riley and the team was in third.  Riley skied a hard race to bring his team to a strong third place finish, beat only by St. Olaf and Clarkson. 

Both the men and the women were second in the all around and we could not be more proud of our athletes.

They Rock Our World!

For more information contact: uwski@yahoo.com

University of Wyoming

UW Club Sports

University of Wyoming
Nordic Ski Club
Christi Boggs
Dept. 3274
1000 E. University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071

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Last Updated: March 15, 2005

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