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Published February 09, 2022
Not even a seriously revamped lineup, caused by illness among the University of Wyoming Nordic ski teams, could stop the Cowboys and Cowgirls from competing well at last weekend’s Western Colorado University (WCU) invitational in Crested Butte, Colo.
For Saturday’s 21km freestyle race in bitter cold temperatures that hovered below zero, the UW men’s team finished a close second to the host WCU team by just two team points. WCU had a team-low 11 points, while the UW men posted 13 points. Colorado College was a distant third with 35.
With Kaj Taylor, from Anchorage, Alaska, out of the starting lineup, the team “fought as hard as they could to continue their team dominance” in the Rocky Mountain Conference, UW co-head Coach Christi Boggs says.
The Cowboys were led by John Henry Paluszek, from Farmington, N.H., who skied to third place. He was followed closely one place back by Lander’s Silas Goetz. Buffalo’s Nathan Kessler was sixth; Jamison Peacock, from Jackson, was 13th; and Laramie’s Spencer Canen rounded out the Cowboy scorers in 15th place.
Other UW place winners were Ben Romanjenko, from Story, in 17th; Sean Kraemer, of Evergreen, Colo., 19th; and Jackson’s Matthew Williams, 21st.
“The men fought super hard through tough conditions and came very close to taking down Western, despite not having their full team,” Boggs says.
The UW women were represented by just Krisanna Andrews, of Laramie, who had a “stellar race, reaching her first-ever college podium” in third place, Boggs says.
“Krisanna skied with the second-place skier from WCU for an entire lap before her legs cramped,” Boggs adds. “She still managed to hang on to the podium, and we are super proud of her.”
The short-handed Cowgirls were fourth overall with 27 points, with WCU the winner at 16 points.
Sunday’s men’s race was a 5km classic on a World Cup-style course that was “hilly and technical,” Boggs says.
At the halfway point of the race, Paluszek was leading, with Goetz in third and Kessler in sixth place, but only nine seconds out of third place. Boggs says the team was hoping Kessler could pick up a couple of places.
“Nathan did more than that, as he crushed the rest of the race course,” and placed third overall, just two seconds ahead of the previous day’s race winner, Albert Hesse, of WCU, Boggs says.
That gave the Pokes a 1-2-3 podium sweep without a full regular starting lineup competing. The team finished with a perfect low score of 6 points, while WCU had 17 and the United States Air Force Academy came in third with 41 points.
The rest of the UW men also had good results with Peacock in ninth, cracking the top 10 for the first time in his career. Williams was right behind his teammate in 10th; Romanjenko was a close 12th-place finisher; Canen skied to 15th place; and Kraemer had his best collegiate race, finishing 17th.
Andrews once again skied well for the UW women.
“She was setting herself up for another podium finish when she caught an edge and fell,” Boggs says. “She, however, still held on for fourth place, and has been skiing stronger and stronger as the season has progressed.”
The UW women again were fourth with 32 points, and the host teams swept the weekend races with 16 points.
Several UW athletes have qualified for the Collegiate National Championships, which will be held in Lake Placid, N.Y., March 8-12. The men’s qualifiers are Paluszek, Goetz, Kessler and Peacock. Andrews, so far, is the only Cowgirl who has qualified.
The next conference meet is the Colorado State University Invitational in Leadville, Colo., which has a pair of shorter races -- a team sprint and an 8.5km classic.
During Saturday’s collegiate race, the biggest citizen ski race west of the Mississippi was held, featuring a team event for the first time.
The UW Nordic ski team’s coaches and alumni, with a couple of friends, placed first and third during the race. The UW third-place team was composed of entirely all women among the 12 teams that entered the competition. All teams were required to have at least two women competing.
Individually, Andrew Siegel, of Bethel, Maine, was third in the 42km freestyle race; Casper’s Trevor Willoughby placed fifth; and Ella DeWolf, of Laramie, was second in the women’s competition. UW co-head Coach Rachel Watson won the 42km classic race; Eva Smith, of Ohio, was the runner-up in the 21km freestyle; and Ben Noren, of Ironwood, Mich., placed fifth in the event.