UW Nordic Ski Team Has Two All-Americans on Second Day of National Competition

Two University of Wyoming Nordic ski team members earned first team All-American honors at the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association (USCSA) National Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y., including a Cowgirl who was the national runner-up in Wednesday’s race.

Annie Miller, from Minneapolis, Minn., gutted out a dramatic finish at the wire to capture second place for the Cowgirls in the 1.3km classic sprint, while Cowboys teammate Kaj Taylor, of Palmer, Alaska, finished fifth later in the day in the men’s competition.

The Cowgirls placed fourth on the day with 42 points, with St. Olaf University, of Northfield, Minn., winning for the second day in a row with a team-low 22 points. The University of Wisconsin-Madison took second with 24 points and Paul Smith’s College, of Paul Smiths, N.Y., was third with 37 points.

After entering the day in second place, the UW women slipped into a tie for third place with Paul Smith’s College with 67 points, just one point behind Wisconsin-Madison. St. Olaf’s has a grip on the national title halfway into the competition with 37 points.

In the men’s competition, the Cowboys placed fifth overall with 50 points. Paul Smith’s won the day with 16 points, followed by Clarkson University, of Potsdam, N.Y., had 21; Western Colorado University (WCU) scored 38; and St. Olaf’s 42.

Clarkson leads the pack after two races with 37 points, followed by Paul Smith’s with 44, WCU is third at 71 and the UW men are in fourth place with 111 points.

The second day of competition featured the classic sprint where all of the skiers compete in a qualifier race, with the top 30 athletes moving onto five quarterfinal elimination rounds of six competitors. The top two in each heat and the next two third or fourth place fastest times -- “lucky losers” -- head to a pair of semifinals of six competitors each. From there, the top two in each heat and the “lucky losers” qualify for the “A” final, with the remaining racers heading to the “B” final.

“The conditions were extremely challenging with rain that varied from a drizzle to hard,” UW co-head Coach Christi Boggs says. “This makes the skiing difficult, as standing water grabs skis and stops them completely, throwing the skiers forward with extreme force. There were very few heats that did not involve some kind of hard crash.”

The Cowgirls put eight competitors on the start line, and seven of them went into the quarterfinals. Most of them finished between 20th-30th place, but Miller qualified fourth and Sammy Veauthier, of Casper, took 12th.

Miller skied well in the quarter and semifinals, and then, in the “A” final, “she raged,” Boggs says.

Miller was skiing in third place at the top of the long downhill and around to the stadium finish line by about 40 feet when she looked up and saw how close she was to catching the second-place racer.

“Annie decided to go for it, and she did,” Boggs says. “About five feet from the finish line, she overtook the second-place skier. It was an incredible finish.”

Despite some incredible skiing, Krisanna Andrews, of Laramie; Shayla Babits, of Lander; Izzy Brown, from Casper; and Wren Hybertson, of Boulder, Colo., were not quite able to get into the semifinals, Boggs says.

“Sammy was moving up into a qualifying spot when she took a hard fall in the lake that was on the trail at the bottom of the steep downhill. She just missed the semifinals,” Boggs adds.

The UW Cowboys also made noise in the early rounds.

“Three of our men made the quarterfinals round, which we thought was great because that was skiing up considerably from their rankings,” Boggs says.

Jamie Peacock, from Jackson, and Eliot Kramer, of St. Paul, Minn., skied hard, but Kramer crashed in the extremely challenging conditions and Peacock was just edged out for one of the “lucky loser” spots.

Taylor sailed through to the semifinals and then competed competitively to get into the “A” final, skiing to a hard-fought fifth-place finish. This was his best podium finish in a national championship sprint race in his four years of competing for the Pokes.

“The entire 1.3km loop was lined with parents, supporters and teammates screaming as Kaj and Annie advanced through the heats. I feel that that was part of their success,” Boggs says. “Also, these conditions make for very difficult waxing, but co-head Coach Rachel Watson and Bryan Overcast were an amazing duo on kick wax and glide wax. They were supported by Andrew Siegel, Eric Dye and Izzy Bergemann.”

All cross-country skiers have Thursday off, with action picking up Friday with a 15km classic race. The national championships conclude Saturday with the women’s and men’s freestyle team sprint.

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