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March 13, 2013 — It has happened only one other time since Nordic skiing was brought back 14 years ago as a club sport at the University of Wyoming.
Senior Kyle Bochanski of Fairfax, Vt., was the male overall All-American champion at the 35th annual United States Collegiate Ski Association championships in Sun Valley, Idaho. He was the leading scorer among all national competitors in the various Nordic ski races.
“The overall is the most prestigious award because it truly shows the best all-around skier. The winner must be able to do 1.5-km classic and skate, a 1.5-km sprint and a 15-km distance race,” UW co-head Coach Christi Boggs says.
His efforts helped lead the Cowboys to the national title -- the team’s first since 2010 and fourth overall. The Cowgirls were the national runners-up.
Only Dan Lewis of Jackson, who is now an assistant coach for the Laramie High School Nordic team, accomplished the feat in 2009 for the UW men’s team. Casper’s Jennifer Kinner won back-to-back overall All-American honors in 2003 and 2004 for the Cowgirls’ program.
“It's extremely tough to win the overall because it requires solid performances in all three individual races. Kyle was able to hold it together through all three races,” Boggs says. “Generally, sprinters in track or swimming aren't asked to do the 10,000-meters or be able to do a 100-meter butterfly and then do the 10,000-meter freestyle. Skiing is one of the only sports where the best all-around -- they do this on the World Cup level as well -- has to be able to compete in drastically different events and lengths of races.”
Bochanski won the 1.5-km classic sprint race, was the 8.5-km classic race runner-up, and was part of the second-place 15-km relay distance race.
Six other UW Nordic team members finished among the top 10 in their respective divisions in the overall points race.
Nathan Hough, a Casper junior, was the national runner-up to teammate Bochanski; and Pat Rodgers, a Casper junior, was fifth.
For the Cowgirls, Casper junior Bridget Weiner was the national runner-up; Cody junior Sierra Jech was fifth; Sarah Johnson, a junior from Duluth, Minn., placed seventh; and Britta Schroeter, a freshman from Ironwood, Mich., was ninth.
“Kyle, Nathan, Pat, Bridget, Sierra, Sarah and Britta managed to put together three solid races because of their incredible dedication through the entire last year,” Boggs says.
Rachel Watson, the team’s other co-head coach, said nearly the entire men’s team stayed in Laramie last summer and the women dedicated themselves in the fall in preparation for the winter season. Both teams had grueling running workouts and weekly “breakfast club” roller skiing sessions.
“This year has been by far the most rewarding of my coaching career. While the obvious effect of this was fitness, I think the less obvious impact is psychological. We just spent a lot of time talking and our team became very close,” Watson says. “It's just hard to overemphasize the importance of the journey. It's about 500 hours a year training and only about three of those hours are racing at nationals.”
Watson says it was “just elating to see the payoff” at the final end result last weekend.
“I care little about the hardware but when an athlete is acknowledged for their endless hours in pursuit of a victory, it is indescribably inspiring to be a part of that fleeting moment of glory,” she adds. “However, even as the names were being called on the podium stand, the thing that I looked most forward to was returning to the process, to climbing more mountains and meeting at the crack of dawn for more 'breakfast' roller skiing.”
University of Wyoming senior Kyle Bochanski of Fairfax, Vt., was the male overall All-American champion at last weekend’s 35th annual United States Collegiate Ski Association championships in Sun Valley, Idaho. (Jerry Jech Photo)