Lander leads the pack at home slopes

By: Shawn O’Brate

LANDER – This weekend marked the return of Nordic Skiing at the Beaver Creek mountain, home of the Lander Valley (LVHS) Tigers and Lady Tigers’ ski team. Some of the best competition in the entire state made the trek to Fremont County including Jackson Hole, Sheridan, Casper and Laramie. 

The race not only marked another week for the LVHS Nordic Ski team and their season but it also acted as a dual Junior National Qualifier as well. 

Lander’s first day on the slopes went well and saw two LVHS boys in the top four of the men’s under 18 category (MU18) of the 5K freestyle, including Bennett Hutchison’s first place finish with a time of 15:22.45. Diego Lobatos, who has really filled in his skis as of late, finished fourth with a time of 15:41.32. 

Lander’s Bennett Hutchison placed first in the under 18 age group in the USSA NRL Junior National Qualifier Saturday morning at Beaver Creek. (p/c Carl Cote)

After the MU18 races the Varsity Boys controlled their own destiny, with Lander Valley’s Mack White pushing himself to the limit and finishing third with a time of 16:52.64. The only skiers ahead of him were Natrona High School’s Kalel Brubaker (16:03.93) and Jackson High School’s Lucas Wilmot (16:32.12). 

As far as the girls go, on Friday the female’s under 16 (FU16) group saw the Lander’s surging Ameya Eddy, one of the best female skiers in the state, finish second in the 5K freestyle event with a time of 17:20.42. Eddy’s time only fell short of first place by under six seconds as Jackson’s Abby Murphy finished in 17:14.89. 

Twyla Beason (19:30.84) and Elizabeth Whiting (20:44.71) also finished in the top-six of the FU16 grouping. 

In the FU18 division of skiers it was Lander’s Anika Wilmot who showed out, putting up a time of 18:37.53 which would garner a third-place finish in the class. Shayla Babits (19:04.37) and Emily Anderson (21:02.12) also competed in the FU18 race, finishing sixth and eighth respectively. 

Finally, the FU20 division only held two skiers but one of them, Kaylynn Sandall, was from LVHS and she finished first in the race with a time of 18:11.95. 

With most of the LVHS girls competing in the earlier races the varsity girls race was a little more barren regarding Lady Tiger skiers. Divya Forbis (21:38.44) and Meesha Prine (21:55.92) did compete though and both finished in the top-twelve. 

Lander’s Emily Anderson cruised down the course at Beaver Creek during her 3rd place finish in the Junior Nationals Qualifier Saturday. (p/c Carl Cote)

The next day, Saturday, was back to normal as far as races were concerned with just two divisions: varsity girls and varsity boys. 

The boys’ race was won by Jackson’s Wilmot with a time of 16:15.05, followed closely behind Lander’s Hutchison who finished with a time of 16:31.59. Tigers’ skiers Otus Beason (16:56.43) and Lobatos (17:04.15) finished sixth and eighth respectively. 

Meanwhile, the girls’ race came down to a one-second difference between Jackson’s Aurora Stiles (18:44.02) and Lander’s Eddy (18:45.15). Babits (19:50.62) and Anderson (20:09.00) finished fourth and fifth respectively, to give the Lady Tigers three out of the top five skiers on Saturday. 

Overall, the Lander girls left the weekend on top of the team score totals (216 points) ahead of defending champions Jackson High School (206) as well as Kelly Walsh (166), Laramie (97), Cody (89), Natrona County (61), Sheridan (40) and Pinedale (22). 

Lander’s Otus Beason placed 4th amongst U18 competitors Saturday morning in the Junior Nationals Qualifying race. (p/c Carl Cote)

On the boys’ side, Jackson came out on top with 232 points but LVHS was close behind with 209. Kelly Walsh (178) rounded out the top three followed by Laramie (171), Natrona County (110), Sheridan (27), Cody (3) and Pinedale (0).

Needless to say this weekend was a huge success for LVHS Nordic Ski head coach Norm Cessna and his team of highly skilled skiers who have a legitimate chance at dethroning Jackson High School at the end of this year. 

Up next for the Tigers and Lady Tigers’ ski team, they have a week off before traveling to Casper on January 27th and 28th.