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UW Nordic Teams Prepare for Nationals with a Pair of Wins

February 23, 2016
woman cross-country skiing
Elise Sulser, of Casper, finished in the top 10 among both Division I and Division II competitors at last weekend’s University of New Mexico Invitational. (Marshall Saiz Photo)

As the University of Wyoming Nordic ski club prepares for the national meet in Lake Placid, N.Y., March 8-12, the two UW teams continue to dominate the region.

The Cowboys and Cowgirls, the last two weekends, have competed in their own Cowboy Chase, and against Division I opponents in their final United States Collegiate Ski Association (USCSA) qualifier in New Mexico.

At the Pole Mountain Nordic ski trails, the Cowboys swept the top three positions when Mason Vincent, of Laramie; Will Timmons, Anchorage, Alaska; and Casper’s Taylor Vignaroli, went 1-2-3. Ben Noreen, of Ironwood, Mich., placed ninth, and Casper’s Trevor Willoughby came in 13th.

Both the UW men’s and women’s teams captured the Cowboy Chase overall team titles.

For the first time in regional competition, a UW competitor did not place first. Yara Thomas, of Jackson, was the runner-up, while Cody’s Sierra Jech placed fourth. Leann Bentley, from Laramie, placed eighth; Bridget Weiner, from Casper, took ninth; and teammate Britta Schroeter, from Ironwood, Mich., finished 10th.

Despite tough conditions on a cold and windy day that made the course icy, the Pokes and Cowgirls dominated the next day’s 21km race.

Timmons led from the starting gun, while Vincent was the runner-up. Jackson’s Sam Wiswell came in third. Willoughby and Vignaroli were 10th and 11th, respectively.

On the women's side, Jech dominated, winning by more than a minute, while Weiner was the runner-up. Thomas placed third, and Bentley rounded out the top four. Schroeter came in ninth.

The UW teams competed at last weekend’s University of New Mexico Invitational.

“This was a unique race because it had both the NCAA Division I teams and the USCSA Division II teams, all in one race,” says UW co-head Coach Christi Boggs. UW competes in Division II. “It was my idea and I was nervous, but it went well with everyone having a good time.”

The Cowboys competed in the 10km classic, while the women skied a 5km.

Wiswell was the USCSA’s top racer, and actually was not far off the top Division I skiers. Willoughby placed second to his UW teammate, and Noreen was third to help lead the Pokes to first place in the Division II competition.

“At the beginning of the women's race, the conditions were changing drastically from ice to slush, and many teams were struggling with wax or deciding to double pole,” Boggs says. “Skiers were freaking out, and poor choices were made, but the UW women just got out there skied with passion and poise, and absolutely killed it.”

Elise Sulser, of Casper, won the women’s USCSA-sanctioned race, and placed eighth overall behind Division I skiers. Laramie’s Meghan Kent placed 23rd in the NCAA field and was second in the USCSA portion of the competition. She was followed by Weiner and Jech in 29th and 30th, among the Division I skiers, and third and fourth, respectively in the USCSA standings.

In the overall USCSA standings, Thomas was fifth and Schroeter sixth. Victoria Hollingsworth, from Jackson, had her best race of the season in ninth place.

Both UW teams competed in a 5km freestyle race last Sunday.

Wiswell won the USCSA race and was 26th in the NCAA Division I competition. Noreen skied to third place in the USCSA race, with Willoughby seventh.

The women placed several skiers in the Division I race. Sulser was 16th (first in USCSA); Jech 24th (second in USCSA); Kent 27th (third in USCSA), Weiner 28th (fourth in USCSA); and Thomas 29th (fifth in USCSA). Schroeter was seventh in the Division II competition and Bentley ninth.

“It was a fantastic way to end the USCSA season,” Boggs says.

The UW women had the top five overall season winners: Jech took the overall points title; Sulser was the runner-up; Weiner placed third; Thomas fourth; and Kent fifth.

On the men’s side, Wiswell won the overall points title, and teammate Vincent was second. Timmons finished in fifth place.

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