UW Nordic Skiers Compete in First United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association Race

people Nordic skiing
John Henry Paluszek, left, from Farmington, N.H., and Kaj Taylor, of Palmer, Alaska, navigate the course at the Colorado Mesa University Invitational last weekend. The UW Nordic ski club team members led the Cowboys to first and second place during the two days of competition. (Christi Boggs Photo)

The University of Wyoming women’s and men’s Nordic ski teams both won first place on the first day of the Colorado Mesa University Invitational last weekend, and were third and second, respectively, the following day.

Day one of the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association competition was a classic sprint entailing a qualification time trial followed by elimination rounds. All UW skiers qualified for the elimination round.

Advancing to the semifinals were Krisanna Andrews, a secondary education major from Laramie; Izzy Bergemann, a civil engineering major from Minneapolis, Minn.; Isabella Brown, an architectural engineering major, and Sammy Veauthier, a zoology major, both from Casper; and Eva Smith, a doctoral student in geology and geophysics from Granville, Ohio.

Both Veauthier and Smith easily won their semifinals to advance to the final round. Brown and Andrews were timed “lucky losers.”

“Lucky losers are the fastest of the third- or fourth-place skiers,” co-head Coach Christi Boggs explains. “We time each heat and, while all skiers in first and second automatically advance, the third- and fourth-place skiers have to wait on their times.”

Co-head Coach Rachel Watson says the competition in the final was tight but, by about the midpoint, it was clear that Veauthier was going to win. She was joined by teammate Smith on the podium, who skied to second place.

As a team, the Cowgirls took the win with 13 points over second-place Colorado College’s 24 points. Third place went to the Air Force Academy with 25 points.

On the men’s side, UW’s John Henry Paluszek, a master’s student in botany from Farmington, N.H.; Jamie Peacock, a physiology major from Jackson; Kaj Taylor, a chemical engineering major from Palmer, Alaska; and Matthew Williams, a kinesiology major from Jackson, all qualified for the semifinals.

Paluszek and Taylor were in the same semifinal race but managed to place second and third, respectively, advancing to the finals.

“The final was so aggressive because Kaj and John Henry were competing against four strong skiers from Western Colorado University. When teams have four skiers in a final, it’s common for them to try to block the minority team,” Watson says. “There was a lot of jockeying for position but, at the end of the day, Kaj held a lead the entire race, and John Henry managed to snag second by a lunge. The poise, patience and tactical execution shown by both Cowboys were exemplary.”

As a team, the Cowboys tied for the win with Western Colorado University with 12 points each. Colorado Mesa University took third place with 21 points.

The second day of racing was a 10km skate race. The Cowgirls lost a few key competitors, but Smith skied to a 22-second victory over teammate Veauthier. Brown placed fourth, and Doris Yan, a master’s student in kinesiology from China, placed 10th. Rounding out the team scoring for the Cowgirls was Abby Deng, a physical education major from China.

Overall, the UW women placed third with 23 points and finished behind winner Colorado College’s 13 points and second-place Air Force Academy’s 19 points.

In the men’s distance competition, the Cowboys’ Taylor skied the entire race in the top pack of six skiers and settled for fourth place.

The Cowboys’ scoring team was assisted by Peacock, in 10th place; Williams, in 12th; Spencer Canen, an outdoor recreation and tourism management major from Laramie, 13th; Sean Kraemer, an earth systems science major from Conifer, Colo., 18th; and Leo Li, a physical education major from China, placed 27th.

The Cowboys finished in second place with 26 points behind Western Colorado University’s six points. Colorado State University placed third with 44 points.

“The thing that struck me throughout the weekend was that there is a vast difference in the ages of our athletes -- from freshmen in their teens to Ph.D students in their late 20s -- and yet, they skied as a unified team and found success together,” says UW Assistant Coach Andrew Siegel, an MFA student in creative writing from Bethel, Maine.

Also competing for UW were Luna Jiang, a physical education major; Heidi Shen, a master’s student in sports communication and journalism; Benji Tan, a master’s student in exercise science; Ray Yang, a physical education student; and Andy Zhu, a master’s student in exercise science, all from China; and Korey Mooney, a master’s student in civil engineering from Kalispell, Mont.

UW’s Nordic ski team and the International Nordic Ski Training Program (INSTP) are housed in UW’s Division of Kinesiology and Health. The INSTP is partially supported by the Shanghai University of Sport.

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