Courtesy of Pete Toye – The indomitable spirit and toughness that defines the Nordic skier was once again on display this past weekend at the 2017 Valdez Invite. The horrific wind conditions of January 6 made that day’s relay race far too dangerous in every way imaginable and had to be cancelled to the great chagrin of all involved. Such is the unpredictable, and at times very threatening, world of Alaska outdoor winter sport. Negotiating the gamut of these weather realities on a daily basis is precisely what compels Nordic skiers to develop a level of mental and physical toughness that is unique to all other sports. It is important to remember that these young athletes race in material about as thick as nylon stockings and are not afforded the comfort, or safety, of the Iditarod style survival wear. The great winds finally subsided enough for Saturday’s main event classic races to commence despite some challenging wind chills and drifting on certain sections of the course. The threats of severe weather for this race made many coaches give their skiers the individual choice of racing or not. Fortunately, the threat of continued violent weather did not come to fruition and the race was on for nearly every skier.
The varsity girls 5.4K race ended with two Bucs in the top 20 in their final Valdez Invite. Senior Rylee Norris was the top finisher of all VHS skiers this day with a very impressive 7th place finish in a field of some of the best high school skiers in Alaska. Top 10 finishes in these varsity events are special performances for Valdez skiers. Senior Taylor Huston had the best classic race of her three year career finishing a very respectable 18th. The varsity boys were led by Junior Ben Swanson who earned a hard fought 16th place finish in the 8.4K event. Just like the varsity girls race, the competition level for the skiers was extremely high with only 50 seconds separating 16th from 10th. Following Swanson, three seniors gave their best efforts of the season to date: James Hancock (28th), Chris Cummins (31st), and Colton Prevost (32nd).
The JV girls, under the tutelage of assistant coach Timi Miner, had quite a successful outing. Senior and 2nd year skier Angie Alfaro led the way with an impressive 3rd place finish followed by four first year skiers. Freshman Grace Keller impressed all with a 5th place finish; sophomore Victoria Korenev skied hard to a 9th place finish; sophomore Rowan Miller finished a respectable 14th place. This team finished 2nd among all JV girl teams. Senior Caitlin Connell was also having a great ski until she broke a binding and could not finish. Senior, and also first time skier, John Banner was the lone Buc JV boy and finished a respectable 20th place in his first and only invite experience.
Teams joining Valdez in this year’s event were Palmer, Colony, Hutchinson, West Valley, Lathrop, and Wasilla. West Valley took home both 1st place team trophies with Lathrop earning both 2nd place awards. The Bucs now enter the heart of their competitive season and will next see action at Government Peak this weekend.
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